Today's royal families pale in comparison to the Italian House of Medici in terms of both influence and wealth. The Florentine family amassed a fortune in the textile industry, ultimately opening the most prosperous bank in Europe in the 15th century. The family produced four popes and eventually established a line of dukes. ''Gems of the Medici'' at the Houston Museum of Natural Science exhibits some of the art sponsored by the family and paid for with their incomparable wealth. Engravers, goldsmiths, silversmiths, gem carvers and antiquarians all sold their wares to the family over the course of three centuries, and the resulting collection of treasure may be the finest in the world. Among the most famous works on display is a carnelian known as the Seal of Nero that was once owned by Lorenzo the Magnificent. The small necklace itself appears in a noted painting by Botticelli of a woman believed to be Lorenzo's mother.
Oct. 26-March 31, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., 2012