The three main devices (symbols) in the Betz blazon are the lamb, dog and martlet. The two main tinctures (colors) are sable and or.
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.
The bright yellow colour frequently found in coats of arms is known to heralds as Or, or sometimes simply as Gold.4. Along with, argent, or silver it forms the two “metals” of heraldry – one of the guidelines of heraldic design is that silver objects should not be placed upon gold fields and vice versa 5. The yellow colour is often associated with the Sun, and the zodiacal sign of Leo.6.
The lamb may refer either to the young of the sheep, in which case it is shown entirely in profile, or to the paschal or holy lamb, which turns to face the viewer and has both a halo and a flag on a pole. The flag may be charged with additional items. 7 Its significance is obviously religious in nature, “befitting one a brave, resolute spirit”, according to Guillim. 8
Dogs of all breeds are common in heraldry and are largely depicted in a realistic fashion for that species. The obviously have a role as “man’s best friend” and can demonstrate a passion for the pursuit of hunting, but may also occur as a play on words with the family name. 9 Wade suggests that all dogs, of whatever breed should be taken as tokens of their “courage, vigilancy, and loyal fidelity”. 10
The martlett is by far the most common bird to appear in British Heraldry, perhaps only equalled by the eagle, however it is not a species ever to be found in an ornithologists handbook! The word itself is though to have come from the French word merlette, the female blackbird and itself a similar type of charge used in French Heraldry. 11. Over time the image has become quite stylised, without visible legs or distinctive feathers. Wade suggests that this representation arises from “the appearance of the bird of paradise to ancient travellers” 12. Other bird species may be named in coats of arms (cornish chough is a frequent example) but in actual execution their appearance is often indistinguishable from the martlet.