Queen Isabella of Spain pawned the crown jewels to finance Columbus’s voyage to America. The word “pawn” originates from the Latin word “patinum” which means cloth or clothing. The French word "pan" refers to a skirt or blouse. In the early centuries, the principle assets people had were their clothes, and they borrowed money by pawning their clothing.
The universal symbol of pawnbroking is three gold balls and is one of the most easily recognized in the world. The Medici families in Italy, along with the Lombards in England, were moneylenders in Europe. Legend has it that one of the Medicis in the employ of Emperor Charles the Great fought a giant and slew him with three sacks of rocks. The three balls or globes later became part of their family crest, and ultimately, the sign of pawnbroking.