Gold Sequin

Share this page:

When one thinks of gold sequins nowadays, it is immediately assumed to be shiny circular rounds of a metallic material sewn on clothes and head-scarves. However, prior to its use as a decorative element, the sequin was originally a type of gold coin (one of the most popular and lasting ones, in fact) that was issued as a standard form of currency in the Republic of Venice. Then at the height of its power and glory, known throughout the whole of the West as the Serenissima – Venice issued a gold coin composed of 3.5 grams of gold at .986 to .997 fineness; known as the zecchino from which the word 'sequin' derives. [1] The sequin was a very popular Venetian coin minted in 1284 under the rule of the Doge Giovanni Dandolo (1280 – 1289). Then known as the ducato due to the fact that it bore the image of the doge on the obverse side of the coin, it became the standard currency of Venice, not only due to the ease in making it (gold of such fineness was relatively soft and mints left a lasting and aesthetically pleasing impression on it), but due to its value. [2] The sequin became a highly popular coin that would remain virtually unchanged for over 500 years since its production – a reputation solely unique to the Venetian sequin alone. [3]

The sequin, or ducat (Italian ducato) as it was then called (referring to the Doge, or Duke), was de facto currency for all trade and transactions in Venice and throughout the whole of Europe, even going so far so to spawn fractions of varying denominations made with silver or gold. It was only later referred to as a sequin from around 1543, when Venice also began minting silver ducats, and a need to differentiate the gold one from the silver one arose. The name zecchino became the new moniker for the gold ducat, derived from the Venetian mint, known as the zecca. [4] The popularity of the coin went beyond the borders of the Venetian Republic, and since they were primarily a nation which valued trade and commerce, the use of the sequin for various transactions became commonplace along with the use of the lesser denominations minted in silver.

The most startling aspect of the ducat or sequin is its relatively unchanged standard form, with only the obverse and reverse design of the coin being changed after the election of another Doge, while the obverse maintained its standard legend of 'Sit tibi, Christe, datus || quem tu Regis, iste ducatus' (Christ, let this duchy that you rule be given to you, a reference to Matt. 22: 19 – 21), a legend that became the motto of all Venetian currency since the time of its first usage by Roger II of Sicily's mint in 1140. Because Venice had its run of numerable Doges, the sequin came in a vast proliferation of faces, which is of great value to collectors who are even daunted by the task of collecting every known sequin from bearing the face of each of the Doges of Venice from the time of its first issue (1140 – 1284, Doges Roger II and Giovanni Dandolo) to its last (1796, Doge Ludovico Manin). Due to the number of sequins issued since its first run, it came to be used in many Eastern European countries as ornaments due to its highly aesthetically pleasing appearance and was sewn on clothes and headdresses (by then a considerably 'common' and 'ancient' custom) – a practice that would also remain to this day in the use of sequins. [5]

Now, sequins or ducats are still produced by the Venetian mint using old patterns for both bullion and numismatic purposes. [6] The value of the sequin / ducat is still somewhat of a mystery to many historians as there is no written record of its exact worth in other denominations, although Webster did imply in 1913 that it was equivalent to 'nine shillings and four pence', roughly two dollars at the time. The sequin or ducat remained a highly popular coin even after the reign of the final Doge of Venice was through, with many imitations being made (i. e. the basilikon of Byzantium) owing to its common nature, great worth, and relative popularity.

Gold Sequin - References:


Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for ©

Note - this site provides general information about gold, silver, coins and bullion. None of the contents of this web site should be seen as financial or investment advice.

Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy | GDPR