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One of Venice’s most venerable jewelers is notoriously hard to find. Tucked behind silk-curtained windows on a stone-paved walkway near Piazza San Marco sits Casa Codognato, which has occupied the same space since Simeone Codognato first set up shop in 1866. His son Attilio inherited the store in 1897, and soon gained a reputation for creating idiosyncratic memento mori pieces, featuring skulls and snakes, from unexpected combinations of precious metals and stones. The jewels became a hallowed mark of ultra-exclusivity, worn by women like Maria Callas and Coco Chanel. But males have also been customers, most notably Sir Elton, Ernest Hemingway, and Richard Burton.

The founder’s great grandson (who, like his son, is named Attilio) currently oversees the collection. And now for the first time ever, a selection of 50 iconic works from the house and Codognato’s personal collection is on display in a non-museum setting. The exhibition marks the 150th anniversary of the jewelry house. The goods can be viewed at San Francisco’s Serge Sorokko Gallery through January 7.

”Pieces similar to some worn and owned by celebrity/famous clients are on display, but none are attached to celebrities,” the gallery’s David Nash has informed