Basics of Heraldry

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Metals, Colours and Stains

The basic colour palette: 

The two metals are silver and gold (white and yellow)

The colours are red, blue, black, green, purple and sky blue.

Three stains are also used at times - Murrey, Sanguine and Tennee (which has the same root as "tawny" and strictly applies to an orangy brown colour, although sometimes the actual shade used may be more orange or brown depending upon the object being depicted.)

Other colours can be found occasionally in heraldry, most often to make a more realistic image. For example brown is sometimes used for the trunk of a tree, purple for grapes etc. When a charge is coloured in such a naturalistic way, it is termed "proper".

The colours are represented by different patterns of hatching when shown in black and white. The hatchings are often carved into stone representations of arms.

Silver = White =Argent Gold = Yellow = Or Red = Gules Blue = Azure Black = Sable Green = Vert
Purple = Purpure (rare) Sky Blue = Bleu Celeste (rare)   Orangy Brown = Tennee (rare) Blood Red = Sanguine (rare) Mulberry = Murrey (rare)  



In addition to the colours, there are two types of fur which are commonly used to fill areas of the shield. The first, ermine, is a representation of the coat of a stoat in winter colouring - white with a black tail. Other colour varieties of ermine are purely graphical inventions. The second type of fur used, was that of a squirrel, with a blue/grey back and white underbelly. Various different ways of cutting and stitching the skins together result in the varieties of vair and potent patterns. Furs are considered to be neutral in terms of colour, so that charges of any tincture may be placed on them, although good contrast is still a prerogative.

Ermine Ermines or Counter Ermine Erminois Pean Vair Counter Vair
Vair-en-pale Vair-en-point Potent Counter Potent Potent-en-pale Potent-en-point

Divisions of the Field

The shield is often divided up into two or more areas along standard lines. Each area can then be coloured in a different manner to "difference" it from a similar shield, or for purposes of "marshalling" - combining coats-of-arms to produce a new one. Some of the divisions shown below are much less common than others.

Party per pale Party per fess Party per bend Party per bend sinister Party per cross or quarterly Party per saltire
Paly Barry Bendy Bendy sinister Chequy Lozengy
Paly pily Barry pily Bendy pily Bendy pily sinister Quarterly of nine Lozengy bendwise
Tierced per pale Tierced per fess Embrassee a dexter Embrassee a sinister Party per chevron Per chevron reversed
Lozenge throughout Lozenge throughout,


Gyronny Gyronny of 12 Chevronny Chevronny reversed
Party per pile Party per pile arched Party per pile reversed Party per pile reversed arched Party per pile bendwise Party per pile bendwise sinister
Party per fess, upper part per pale Party per fess, lower part per pale Party per pale, first part per fess Party per pale, second part per fess Party per pall or tierced per pairle Party per pall reversed or tierced per pairle reversed


Lines of Division

The lines dividing the shield are usually straight. Many additional variations can be created by using undulating lines. These lines may also be used on the edges of the ordinaries. The most common versions are shown below:

Engrailed Invected Wavy Nebuly Indented Dancetty
Embattled Embattled Counter-Embattled Bretessed Dovetailed Potenty Urdy
Raguly Raguly Counter-Raguly Rayonnee Sapine = Fir trees Sapiny = Fir twig Cotised
Wavy crested          


Basics of Heraldry