Heraldic Primer #01


May 12, 2013 by phicks2012

I love Heraldry. As a result, and because very few people really know a lot about it, I’ve decided to include in my blog some basic information about how heraldic “coat of arms” were put together back in the early days.

Bear in mind that a lot of this information is based upon what is done by the SCA College of Arms, but those rules are heavily based upon period medieval practices. Bear also in mind that despite what you might hear, there are really no “family coats of arms”. Armory is actually the property of individual members of families — generally in the past (though not always) tranferred/willed from the father to the eldest son. However, in the SCA we can have individual armory registered, and that’s how I got interested in the subject.

Nowadays there are a number of heraldic tinctures (colors) used that were pretty much never used in early heraldry. Blue celeste, sanguine, murrey, and others rarely if ever appear until much later, so our first lesson is “The Heraldic Tinctures”.

Take a color wheel containing the primary and secondary colors, and scratch out orange. Add black and white, and there you have it. The Heraldic tinctures are the two “metals” (the light tinctures) “argent” (white/silver) and “Or” (yellow/gold), and the five “colors” (the dark tinctures) “sable” (black), “gules” (red), “vert” (green), “azure” (blue), and “purpure” (purple).

Shield Argent Shield Azure Shield Gules Shield Or Shield Purpure Shield Sable Shield Vert









When designing arms, contrast is essential in order for the design to be recognizable from a distance, so just as traffic signs and most advertising uses white or yellow lettering when the background color is dark, or dark lettering when the background color is white or yellow, this is also true of heraldry. This is why choice of tincture is important. From a distance, you have to be able to tell what it is.

But enough for Now!

One thought on “Heraldic Primer #01

  1. Mandy Martin says:

    All hail the Goddess of Heraldry! 😉

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May 2013


I am an active, outgoing person interested in all sorts of things and all sorts of people! I'm constantly discovering new interests, and expect that to continue right into the grave!

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