The three main devices (symbols) in the Atlow blazon are the chevron, carpenter’s square and owl. The three main tinctures (colors) are sable, argent and azure .
Sable, the deep black so often found in Heraldry is believed to named from an animal of the marten family know in the middle ages as a Sabellinœ and noted for its very black fur 1. In engravings, when colors cannot be shown it is represented as closely spaced horizontal and vertical lines, and appropriately is thus the darkest form of hatching, as this method is known 2. Although it may seem a sombre tone, and does indeed sometimes denote grief, it is more commonly said to represent Constancy 3.
Argent is the heraldic metal Silver and is usually shown as very pure white. It is also known more poetically as pearl, moon (or luna) 4. In a sketch or drawing it is represented by plain, unmarked paper 5.
The bright, strong blue color in Heraldry is known in English as azure, and similarly in other European languages – azul in Spanish, azurro in Italian and azur in French. The word has its roots in the Arabic word lazura, also the source of the name of the precious stone lapis lazuli 6. Despite this, those heralds who liked to associate colours with jewels chose instead to describe blue as Sapphire. According to Wade, the use of this colour symbolises “Loyalty and Truth” 7.
The chevron is one the major shapes used upon a shield, known as ordinaries. The inverted ‘V’ of the chevron is perhaps thought to have originated to represent a military scarf folded on the shield 8, or additional cross-pieces used to strengthen the shield and painted a different colour.9. It has also acquired the meaning of “Protection… granted… to one who has achieved some notable enterprise” 10, possibly becuase of its resemblance to the roof truss of a house.
It is important that a coat of arms be easily recognised and so everyday objects were frequently used as clearly identifiable charges – tools 11 being a common and important example of these, of which the carpenters square is typical. Some of these tools are rather obscure to modern eyes, who of us nowadays would recognise a hemp-break 12, let alone know what to use it for! The carpenter’s square is perhaps still somewhat recognisable to us today. Wade believes that it could represent someone “who would desire to conform … to the laws of right and equity”. 13
Birds of great variety occur throughout heraldry, at least in name 14. The owl has long been associated with heraldry and is depicted in a clearly recognised aspect, always with its face to the viewer. 15 It comes as no surprise that previous generations of heraldic writers ascribed to it the traits of “vigilance and acute wit”. 16