The four main devices (symbols) in the Brakyn blazon are the hawk, marlet, lozenge and mullet. The three main tinctures (colors) are azure, gules and sable .
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 1. 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” 2.
Red in heraldry is given the name Gules, sometimes said to be the “martyr’s colour”3. The colour is also associated with Mars, the red planet, and the zodiacal sign Aries 4. Later heralds of a more poetical nature would sometimes refer to the colour as ruby, after the precious stone.5.
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 6. 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 7. Although it may seem a sombre tone, and does indeed sometimes denote grief, it is more commonly said to represent Constancy 8.
Birds of great variety occur throughout heraldry, at least in name 9. The falcon is a bird long associated with hunting and we need look no further than a liking for this pursuit for its presence on many early coats of arms. 10 We also find many of the accessories used in falconry depicted on arms, and a surprising number of terms from the art of falconry have found use in modern English idioms and the interested reader is recommended to search out the origins of the phrases hoodwinked and “cadging” a lift.
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.
For easy recognition of the items on a coat of arms, and hence the quick identification of the owner, bold simple shapes are best. Hence, simple geometric shapes are often used for this purpose 13xz`, and the lozenge Is a typical example of this, and can appear in any of the main heraldic tinctures. It can appear on its own, voided (with the background visible through the middle), and can also be conjoined, whereby adjacent lozenges touch point-to-point. 14 Guillim groups the lozenge with all square shapes as being symbolic of “verity, probity, constancy and equity”. 15