The three main devices (symbols) in the Cramer blazon are the fleur-de-lis, chief indented and canton. The three main tinctures (colors) are or, azure and ermine .
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.
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.
Ermine is a very ancient pattern, and distinctive to observe. It was borne alone by John de Monfort, the Earl of Richmond and Duke of Brittany in the late 14th century 6 It has a long association with royalty and the nobility in general and hence represents “Dignity” wherever it is found 7. The ermine pattern is white with, typically, a three dots and a dart grouping representing the tail of the furred creature.8. The ermine spot is sometimes found alone as a special charge on the shield.
The fleur-de-lys (“flower of the lily”) has a long and noble history and was a symbol associated with the royalty of France even before heraldry became widespread. 9. The Lily flower is said to represent “Purity, or whiteness of soul”10 and sometimes associated with the Virgin Mary. The fleur-de-lys is also used as a small “badge”, known as a mark of cadency to show that the holder is the sixth son of the present holder of the arms 11
The chief is a separate area across the top of the field 12. It is normally marked by a straight line of partition, but for artistic effect, and for clarity of difference between coats of arms, heralds have developed a series of decorative patterns to be used along the edge. An line drawn indented, i.e. in a saw-tooth pattern might be taken for dancettee, but in this case the individual “teeth” are much smaller. An early author, Guilllim seeks to associate this decoration with fire 13, and one can see the resemblance to flames. The visual effect is quite striking, an good example being the arms of DUNHAM (Lincolnshire), which are Azure, a chief indented or.
“The canton stands very high among honourable bearings”, according to Wade, a noted symbologist 14. The canton is a square shape, normally occupying the dexter chief of the shield. An early example is SUTTON, Bishop of Lincoln in the 13th century, who bore “argent a canton sable”. It occupies less space than a quarter and hence is sometimes added to an existing shield to difference branches of the same family, or, when a charge is added to it, to indicate some honour has been recieved 15. Wade remarks, that, in common with all square features can be associated with the virtue of“constancy”.