Sequins are disk-shaped beads used for decorative purposes. They are available in a wide variety of colors and geometrical shapes. Sequins are commonly used on clothing, jewelry, bags and other accessories. Large sequins, fastened only at the top, have been used on billboards and other signage, particularly prior to the development of lighted and neon signs. Signs made with sequins were called schmaltz, as were the sequins themselves in that context.
Although coins are still used as sequins in some cultures, modern sequins tend to be made of plastic. They may also be referred to as spangles, paillettes, or diamantes. Paillettes themselves are commonly very large and flat. Sequins may be stitched flat to the fabric, so that they do not move, and are less likely to fall off; or they may be stitched at only one point, so that they dangle and move easily, to catch more light. Some sequins are made with facets, to increase their reflective ability.
Coins known as sequins were used for centuries throughout the Mediterranean, especially near the Persian Gulf. The Venetian gold zecchin first appeared in 1284. In 1478, Turkey introduced a monetary unit called the sequin. In 1535, Malta did so. Both the Turkish and the Maltese coins were gold.
In the cultures where these sequins circulated, the custom of stitching sequins and similar coins to women's clothing, particularly headdresses, face veils, and over the bosom and hips, originally arose as a way to display (and store) the family's wealth. It was this ancient custom that led to the use of sequined fabric and trims in modern fashion, and expanded the definition of sequin beyond coins to include this particular type of decoration.