Where Did Playing Card Suits Come From?
Like many other casino games out there, playing cards have a long and storied history spread across thousands of years and across many different continents.
But before you start pulling out your notebooks and wondering if this will be on the quiz, we’re not getting into all that…today at least. We are, however, going to focus on one specific part of playing cards, and maybe their most recognizable trait: their suits!
“Suits”, in this case, refers to the symbols that adorn each card: hearts, clubs, spades, and diamonds. You’ve seen them a million times, no matter what your favorite casino card games are, but have you ever wondered exactly how we settled on that particular combination of shapes?
Let’s go back a long long while, to France in the late 1400’s. Playing cards had made their way around the world by this point, with each region having their own variation of symbols and deck sizes – German playing cards, for example, used symbols like bells and acorns, while Italian decks used cups and swords.
Two French card game enthusiasts, Etienne Vignoles and Etienne Chavalier (no relation), developed their own deck of cards to accompany a game they were creating called Piquet. Their deck mostly built upon what had come before them, but with a few tweaks: 52 cards instead of the then-typical 37, for example, and their Piquet deck was the first one to actually include queens. (Can you imagine?)
In a sense of social awareness, the two men chose their symbols based upon the various classes and commonly-seen aspects of French society of the time. The diamonds are meant to be money, the most obvious one; hearts symbolize the virtue and courage of the clergy; clubs are the walking stick of the commoners, and the spade actually had its origins as a sword – and as you can imagine, there were plenty of swords to go around. Adding to the fun was the card art on the Kings, symbolizing different rulers from throughout history – Julius Caesar, Louis XII, and so on.
These would eventually be replaced with the standardized designs you know and love now as they made their way around the world, and eventually the French style of playing cards would come to be the most popular deck around for casinos, casual players, and many more – heck, we use them right here in our own Detroit casino some six hundred years later! How’s that for longevity?