Heraldry is an Art which
can take years to master. The purpose of this page is to outline the basic terms
and rules as they relate to our products. For those who wish to study in greater
depth there are links at the bottom of this page.
The term Heraldry is believed to come
from the German words heer- meaning host or army and
held-champion. The first roles of Arms appear the mid 13th
century. The practice was probably inspired by early tribal
/political emblems, such as cult figures in ancient Egypt and the
military flags-Vexilions, of the Roman Legion.
As the art of
warfare progressed in it's use of armor it became difficult to
tell an enemy from an ally on the battlefield. Warriors
began to put personal symbols on their shields instead of ones
representing groups. The designs needed to be bold and brightly
colored to distinguish individuals at a distance as vision
through helmets was limited.
Soon it became
commonplace to wear an open sided garment called a surcoat
over ones armor with a emblem unique to each knight - the origin of
the term Coat of Arms.
Originally devices could be chosen without restriction. But as
the practice spread throughout Europe the need arose to
record/limit their use so that no two knights used the same
design. Eventually the right to bear arms could only be granted
by the king and approved by the college of heralds.
RULES OF TINCTURE:
The colors used in Heraldry were limited by medieval technology.
Arms/Devices are subject to rules concerning the placement of
colors, known as "tinctures", on the background-"field" and are
restricted to the following;
Two "metals" were used, Gold-"Ore" , represented by a shade of
yellow and Silver-"Argent" depicted as white. In most cases one
is not allowed to be displayed on top of or touching the other.
Five colors known as "Tinctures" are generally used: Red =
"Gules", Green =
"Vert", Blue ="Azure",
Purple = "Purpur" and Black
was called "Sable".
The normal rule is;
no tincture can be placed on top of another tincture and may only
be placed next to another if the combination shows a distinct
contrast. Usually tinctures are used to contrast metals or furs.
Two Fur patterns were utilized in heraldic art. Ermine,
generally displayed as a white - argent field with a repeating
black - sable motif representing the animals tails.
This practice recalls early periods when pelts were attached to
the covers of shields. The other pattern, less commonly used, is "Vair",
believed to mimic squirrel skins sewn together. Usually it is shown
as a white-argent field with a bell/shield shape in blue/azure
spaced evenly across the surface.
Both furs can
occasionally use different tinctures but must observe the
rules regarding contrast and metals versus tinctures.
In Heraldry the way the shield - field is divided would be called
an "Ordinary". There are many more ways to section a field than
we can show here. Below are some of those more commonly used that
we consider basic.
Here is a selection of Ordinaries that we consider complex and
must charge an additional fee to produce.
Some Heraldic Devices include a border as well as Ordinaries.
Here are some of the better known ones.
Arms often display symbols known as "charges". These could
represent; tools of an occupation, animals,
plants, buildings, crosses and other religious items, etc.
Some objects had meanings relating to the birth order called
"cadency" and others were simply shapes. Below are a few simpler
Many animal charges were used in the art of heraldry, the
creatures chosen were as often fantasy/mythological as real.
Sometimes they were real but never seen by the artist so
wouldn't be recognized by modern eyes.
Animal charges are described by the pose in which they were shown
such as "rampant"- rearing up in a combative stance or "passant"-
a more docile pose. The direction they faced was noted in their
description; "dexter" means to face to their right and "sinister"
to face to their left.
The system for
describing a device is known as blazoning. It is believed that
the term comes from the German word- blazen-to blow a
horn. Display of arms were often accompanied by the sound of a
horn- "calling to arms". In heraldry to "blazon" means to
write a description of a device while to "emblazon" refers
to an artistic representation of arms.
The rules regarding the way a device is blazoned are very
specific . In a "simplified" way
the order is as follows:
Listed first is the
color/tincture of the background/ordinary- if the
ordinary is more than one color then the upper right/dexter (
left as you view it) tincture is listed after the
ordinary/division name, followed by the next color.
Second the border
style if any is listed with the color/s (upper left first).
Next the charge/s
are listed, preference given to how close they are to the outside
edges and height ( the names of the positions on a shield factor
in but will not be discussed here) followed by their color/s.
Finally the charge/s
placed in the center is/are named with the tincture/s
listed last. Simple (wink).
|As an example this device would be blazoned in the following way:
Ore in fess Gules two mullet of 6 in chief (top) and one in base
As stated only the basics of
heraldry are covered. For those interested in
more on the subject here are some good links:
of Coats of Arms
Studies in Heraldry
Heraldica Site Map