The three golden balls. The emblem of St. Nicholas, who is said
to have given three purses of gold to three virgin sisters to enable
them to marry.
As the cognisance of the Medici family they probably represent three
golden pills—a punning device on the name. Be this, however, as it
may, it is from the Lombard family (the first great moneylenders in
England) that the sign has been appropriated by pawnbrokers. (See
Mugello for another account.)
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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