Sparkling sequins give a luminous quality to whatever they adorn: they’re luxurious and glamorous.

It’s no surprise then to discover the historical meaning of sequin is ‘a small gold coin’, either Italian or Turkish.

The word starts with the Arabic sikkah ‘a minting die’. A minting or coin die is a type of mould – it contains the inverse of the image to be struck onto the coin. Prior to being minted, coins were made individually and engraved by hand.

From sikkah the word moves to the Italian zecca ‘a mint’, then to zecchino, a Venetian gold coin, and finally to the 17th century French sequin. By the 19th century the coins were no longer in use and the word sequin came to mean a bauble or spangle. Of course, coins have been used throughout the centuries to decorate garments and accessories.


(image: Chanel artisans at work on a hand-painted, hand-embroidered cape from the Spring 2014 couture show. The cape took 450 hours to complete. Glamour/Getty )