The two main devices (symbols) in the Board blazon are the marlets and escutheon. The three main tinctures (colors) are gules, azure and argent .
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.1. The word gules is thought to come from the Arabic gule, or “red rose” 2. Later writers associated it with the precious stone ruby and the metal iron 3, perhaps because of the red glow of iron in the heat of the blacksmith’s forge.
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 4. 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” 5.
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) 6. In a sketch or drawing it is represented by plain, unmarked paper 7.
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. 8. 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” 9. 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.
The escutcheon simply represents smaller shield shapes included within the shield, and its close relative, the inescutcheon is just a larger version occupying most of the field. 10 There is no particular significance that can accorded to the escutcheon itself, but attention should be paid to the colour and devices that are borne upon it. The escutcheon may also be added to an existing coat of arms either as recognition of some additional honour (an escutcheon of augmentation”) or in the case where arms that are already quartered are to be combined an escutcheon with the new arms may be placed overall (an ”escutcheon of pretence”). 11