Originally it was a cipher or design made of a single letter – often used by potters and then by people sealing documents with a seal ring and wax. It became a design or mark consisting of two or more letters intertwined. The letters that are interlaced may be either all the letters of a name or the initial letters of the given names and surname originally of a person, now more commonly those of a company. Many early Greek and Roman coins bear the monograms of rulers or towns, but the most famous monogram is the sacred monogram – formed by the conjunction of the first two Greek letters of CRISTOS (Christ), usually with the a (alpha) and w (omega) of the Apocalypse on each side.
Monogramming has been an attractive way of conveying ownership and sense of pride and fashion since the idea of monograms exploded in the Middle Ages. Originally (and particularly in the Victorian era) embroidered monograms were placed on towels, and handkerchiefs, but now they appear on everything – the two most famous and commonly seen monograms of the present day being the Yves St Laurent and Luis Vuitton ones, which appear on everything from luggage to aeroplane tails! Early European Royal Monogram photograph by Jan Egil Kristiansen, used under a creative commons attribution licence