One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
An alloy formerly used for coinage, containing gold or silver with a predominating amount of copper or other base metal.
- ‘The falling value of the Scottish currency derived in part from the practice of mixing silver with alloy to produce the base metal billon.’
- ‘By the 17th century the Polish influence was nearly complete, with a range of denominations from small billon coins to large gold multiple ducats.’
- ‘Large quantities of billon coins were produced in the Roman era, many with a silver wash, and in mediaeval times throughout Europe.’
- ‘Our coin of Valerian II is clearly billon of the type used in the first years of the reign.’
- ‘Numismatists of the 19th century, realizing the problems caused by the gaps in their knowledge, invented an arbitrary scale to refer to the bronze and billon coins of the period.’
Early 18th century: from French, literally ‘bronze or copper money’, in Old French ‘ingot’, from bille (see billet).
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