There is a subtle distinction between aglets, which are generally functional, and aiguillettes, which are generally decorative. The latter usually appear at the end of decorative cords, such as bolo ties, and the identically named aiguillettes of military dress uniforms.
Aglets today are most often made of plastic; they also have been made of metal, glass, and stone. Many were highly ornamental and made of precious metals, such as silver. Before the invention of buttons, they were used on the ends of ribbons to fasten clothing together. Sometimes they were formed into small figures. Shakespeare calls this type of figure an "aglet baby" in The Taming of the Shrew.Home-made aglets can be fashioned out of adhesive tape, wax, resin, glue, thread, heat shrink or metal tubing, and by simply knotting or melting the end of a lace or cord. For a time during the Great Depression, aglets were made out of paper and glue.
The word aglet (or aiglet) comes from Old French aguillette (or aiguillette), which is the diminutive of aguille (or aiguille), meaning needle. This in turn comes from acus, Latin for needle. An aglet is like a small needle at the end of a cord.