"quality of being brilliant," 1755, from brilliant + -ance. The figurative sense (of wit, intelligence, etc.) is from 1779. Distinguished from brilliancy in that the latter usually is applied to things measurable in degrees.
"sparkling with light or luster," 1680s, from French brilliant "sparkling, shining" present participle of briller "to shine" (16c.), from Italian brillare "sparkle, whirl," perhaps from Vulgar Latin *berillare "to shine like a beryl," from berillus "beryl, precious stone," from Latin beryllus (see beryl).
The figurative sense of "distinguished by admirable qualities" is from 1848. Of diamonds from 1680s in reference to a flat-topped cut invented 17c. by Venetian cutter Vincenzo Peruzzi. Related: Brilliantly; brilliantness.
word-forming element attached to verbs to form abstract nouns of process or fact (convergence from converge), or of state or quality (absence from absent); ultimately from Latin -antia and -entia, which depended on the vowel in the stem word, from PIE *-nt-, adjectival suffix.
Latin present-participle endings for verbs stems in -a- were distinguished from those in -i- and -e-. Hence Modern English protestant, opponent, obedient from Latin protestare, opponere, obedire.
As Old French evolved from Latin, these were leveled to -ance, but later French borrowings from Latin (some of them subsequently passed to English) used the appropriate Latin form of the ending, as did words borrowed by English directly from Latin (diligence,absence).
English thus inherited a confused mass of words from French (crescent/croissant), and further confused it since c. 1500 by restoring -ence selectively in some forms of these words to conform with Latin. Thus dependant, but independence, etc.