The four main devices (symbols) in the Bish blazon are the rose, key, chevron and bendlet. The four main tinctures (colors) are or, gules, argent and sable.
The bright yellow colour frequently found in coats of arms is known to heralds as Or, or sometimes simply as Gold.1. 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 2. The yellow colour is often associated with the Sun, and the zodiacal sign of Leo.3.
The bold red colour on a heraldic shield is known as gules. It has a long history within heraldry, it is known that one of those who besieged the scottish castle of Carlaverock in 1300 was the French knight Euremions de la Brette who had as his arms a simple red shield.4. The word gules is thought to come from the Arabic gule, or “red rose” 5. Later writers associated it with the precious stone ruby and the metal iron 6, perhaps because of the red glow of iron in the heat of the blacksmith’s forge.
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) 7. In a sketch or drawing it is represented by plain, unmarked paper 8.
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 9. 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 10. Although it may seem a sombre tone, and does indeed sometimes denote grief, it is more commonly said to represent Constancy 11.
Natural objects abound in heraldry, and one category that gives especial delight are the many flowers and flowering plants that frequently occur 12. The rose is also of this type, being drawn, at least a little, realistically and often to very pleasing effect. It has long been present in English heraldry, and as a badge and symbol played an enormous in English history throughout the conflict between rival dynasties known as the War of the Roses. In addition to these familial uses, Wade suggests that red roses signify “beauty and grace” and the white represents “love and faith”. 13
Although we expect to find fierce creatures and fearsome weapons depicted in a coat of arms this is not always the case – sometimes simple household objects are used 14. The key is a typical example of this. Sometimes these objects were chosen for the familiarity they would have for the obsever, helping them identify the owner, and sometimes they were used because of some association with the owner, or a similarity to the family name. 15 In other cases, Wade suggests that their appearance can be taken to indicate “guardianship and dominion”. 116
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 17, or additional cross-pieces used to strengthen the shield and painted a different colour.18. It has also acquired the meaning of “Protection… granted… to one who has achieved some notable enterprise” 19, possibly becuase of its resemblance to the roof truss of a house.