The Art of the Skull: Museum Store highlights the beauty of the human skeleton

One of the most photographed pieces in the museum’s collections is the “jaw dropping” crystal quartz skull in the exhibit Gemstone Carvings: Masterworks by Harold Van Pelt.  The hollow, life-sized skull with articulated jaw, was carved from a single block of rare izoklakeite quartz.


Harold van Pelt’s quartz skull.

Our fascination with human skulls spans cultures and eras. From the Neolithic plaster-covered skulls of Jericho, the ornate Buddhist kapala skull cups, European vanitas morality paintings, Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos festivals, and all the way up to modern works of art from people like Damien Hirst, the skull represents our views about mortality and humanity.


Vanitas Still Life. 1648, Jan Jansz. Treck.


Click photo to open ShopHMNS Instagram.

The European Enlightenment period led to an interest in natural history, anatomy, and archaeology, and gentlemen’s cabinets of curiosities often included a collection of skulls, both animal and human. While these early wunderkammer were more about collecting the unusual and “wonderful” rather than scholarly study, they were the precursor to our modern natural history museums.


Click photo to see product in the Museum Store.


Click photo to open ShopHMNS Instagram.

Here in the Museum Store, we’re still fascinated with collecting skull art and imagery. One of our favorite items is the intricately beaded skull necklaces from local artist team Brassthread. Inspired by Huichol beadwork and Dia de los Muertos folk art, the tiny handmade skull is painstakingly set with miniscule beads in an intricate pattern.


While not an original Van Pelt carving, this labradorite skull was hand carved in Madagascar from a solid block of labradorite, and flashes light and rich colors from different angles.



Reminiscent of momento mori and Victorian headstone carvings, f. is for frank’s cast pewter skull ring is the work of Texas sculptors Shoshannah Frank and Casey Melton.


Our newest artist is Ashley Lyons of New Orlean’s Porter Lyons. Her Voodoo collection pays homage to the history and customs behind the religion that was so much a part of New Orleans Creole culture. Her Baron Samedi earrings reference the loa who is the spirit of both death and resurrection.


There is beauty and art in science, as shown by x-ray artist Hugh Turvey. Turvey uses industrial x-rays to photograph not just skeletons, but also the “bones” of everyday objects. Designer Michael Revil Madjus also captures the beauty of the human skull with his x-ray pillow.


We love to see the natural world transformed into art, so even if skulls and skeletons aren’t your thing, we have intriguing items from a wide range of artists and designers, both in store and online at And 100% of store proceeds benefits the museum and its educational programming. #ChillsAtHMNS

Handpicked gems meet gold vermeil at Tummino’s Trunk Show


Native Texan Mirta Tummino discovered her talent for jewelry design while working for a Fortune 500 company in Chicago. Her part-time design and metalsmithing studies at the Lillstreet Art Center quickly became a passion when she started selling her one-of-a-kind designs in Chicago area boutiques.

MT multi lariat

Lariat necklace, multiple gems.

As demand grew, Mirta was able to fulfill her true calling and become a full-time artist. Moving back to her native Houston opened new opportunities for her collection and she soon realized her colorful gemstone jewels were a perfect fit for the museum with the world’s finest gem and mineral collection.


Handpicking her stones, Mirta complements classic gems like aquamarine, labradorite, and blue topaz with the less common kyanite, Russian amazonite, and black opal. Each stone is delicately wire-wrapped in sterling or gold vermeil to create an intricately precise bezel.

MT amazonite

Amazonite necklace.

Mirta will make an artist appearance Friday, Aug. 7, from 10 to 4 p.m at the Houston Museum of Natural Science Museum Store. The entire Mirta Tummino collection will be 20% off the day of the show, plus membership discounts.


Feel good about looking great knowing that 100% of museum store and trunk show proceeds benefits HMNS’ educational programs.

Trunk Show features Masterson’s coveted glass art jewelry


Houstonian Mariquita Masterson has always had the eye of an artist. Thirty years ago, Mariquita was commissioned to design a glass table setting for an art gala. Working with the glass blower, she became fascinated with the chunks and shards of colorful glass and imagined the pieces set as jewelry. Fast forward three decades, and Mariquita’s hand-blown jewels have become a coveted status symbol within the Texas social scene.


Extending her artistic skills beyond her jewelry line, Mariquita has designed a stained glass window for the chapel at Houston’s non-profit Amazing Place adult wellness center and created an iconic necklace for the Absolut Artists advertising campaign.

ABSOLUT ARTIST Mariquita Masterson

While Mariquita’s designs are immediately recognizable, each piece of glass is one-of-a-kind as they are blown and slumped by hand from recycled materials. The glass is then hand set in custom sterling silver or gold vermeil settings.mariquita masterson ring grp

The incredible color selection of Mariquita Masterson’s glass will be on display July 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. All pieces will be 20% off the day of the show in addition to member discounts.


Feel good about looking great knowing that 100% of Museum Store and Trunk Show proceeds benefits HMNS’ educational programs.

Sparkle Exclusive: 3rd Annual HMNS Summer Trunk Show starts Friday

Our third annual Summer Trunk Shows kicks off Friday, July 17. This year, we are featuring local artists Rebecca Lankford, Mariquita Masterson, and Mirta Tummino. As always, the featured artist’s design will be 20 percent off the day of their show, on top of museum membership discounts! You can feel good about looking great knowing that 100 percent of Museum Store proceeds benefit the educational mission of the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Rebecca Lankford
July 17 | 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Favorite local designer Rebecca Lankford is back! With hand cast metals, fine leathers, and a casual take on gems like raw diamonds and South Sea pearls, her luxe boho looks are perfect for layering. Rebecca’s 14-year partnership with the HMNS store means you’ll find unique designs that aren’t available anywhere else in the city, including her exclusive collection she created with gemstones picked by our buyers at market.

rebecca lankford peach brace

Peach brace by Rebecca Lankford.

rebecca lankford turq ear

Turqoise earrings by Rebecca Lankford.

Mariquita Masterson
July 24 | 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Mariquita’s blown glass jewels have been a staple of fashionable Houstonians for 30 years, and it all began while Mariquita was working with a glass blower designing a table setting for a museum gala here in Houston. When she saw the chunks of crystal ready to go into the furnace, she thought they would be beautiful set as jewelry. So she got out a drill and made her start. We are proud to be one of a very limited group of stores chosen to showcase her luminous designs.

mariquita masterson gold leaf

Gold leaf necklace by Mariquita Masterson.

mariquita masterson white grp

White blown glass beads jewelry assortment by Mariquita Masterson.

Mirta Tummino
August 7 | 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Leaving corporate America behind, native Texan Mirta Tummino realized her true calling when she began designing jewelry. With an eye for color, Mirta combines unusual gemstones to create her signature wire-wrapped designs. Her distinct style includes bezel settings made of gemstones, tassels, and convertible lariats for a refined, romantic look.

mirta tummino moonstone neck

Moonstone necklace by Mirta Tummino.

mirta tummino apatite neck

Apatite necklace by Mirta Tummino.