The four main devices (symbols) in the Briggs blazon are the pheon, bend, cinquefoil and crescent. The two main tinctures (colors) are or and gules.
Or is the heraldic metal Gold, often shown as a bold, bright yellow colour. It is said to show “Generosity and elevation of the mind” 1. Later heralds, of a more poetic nature liked to refer to it as Topaz, after the gemstone, and, for obvious reasons associated it with the Sun 2. In drawings without colour it is usually represented by many small dots, or by the letter ‘O’ 3.
Red in heraldry is given the name Gules, sometimes said to be the “martyr’s colour”4. The colour is also associated with Mars, the red planet, and the zodiacal sign Aries 5. Later heralds of a more poetical nature would sometimes refer to the colour as ruby, after the precious stone.6.
Given the martial nature of the origins of Heraldry, in the identification of knights and men-at-arms it can come as no surprise that mediaeval weaponry of all types are frequently to be found in a coat of arms 7. The pheon is a specific type of arrow head with barbs and darts and hence quite distinctive in appearance. 8 Like the other symbols related to arrows, Wade suggests the symbolism is that of “readiness for military service”. 9
The bend is a distinctive part of the shield, frequently occuring and clearly visible from a distance – it is a broad band running from top left to bottom right 10. Indeed, so important is the bend that it was the subject of one of the earliest cases before the English Court of Chivalry; the famous case of 1390, Scrope vs Grosvenor had to decide which family were the rightful owners of Azure, a bend or (A blue shield, with yellow bend). 11. The bend is held in high honour and may signify “defence or protection” and often borne by those of high military rank 12.
Natural objects abound in heraldry, and one category that gives especial delight are the many flowers and flowering plants that frequently occur 13. The cinquefoil is also of this type, being drawn, at least a little, realistically and often to very pleasing effect. It is shown as five-petalled flower, each petal quite rounded but with a distinct tip. It is sometimes pierced with a hole in the centre and usually appears on its own, without any leaves. 14 It has no fixed colour but can appear in any of the available heraldic tinctures.