The three main devices (symbols) in the Dicton blazon are the antelope, leopard’s face and bend. The three main tinctures (colors) are gules, argent and vert .
Red in heraldry is given the name Gules, sometimes said to be the “martyr’s colour”1. The colour is also associated with Mars, the red planet, and the zodiacal sign Aries 2. Later heralds of a more poetical nature would sometimes refer to the colour as ruby, after the precious stone.3.
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) 4. In a sketch or drawing it is represented by plain, unmarked paper 5.
The deep green colour that is so often observed in heraldry is more properly known as vert. According to Wade, the use of this colour signifies “Hope and Joy”, but may also represent, rather delightfully, “Loyalty in Love” 6. It has other names also, the French call it sinople, perhaps after a town in Asia Minor from where the best green die materials could be found 7. More fanciful heralds liked to associate it with the planet venus and the precious stone emerald 8. More strangely, there is some evidence that the term prasin was anciently used, being the Greek for the vegetable we call the Leek!
The ibex or antelope was drawn by heraldic artists in rather more fearsome aspect than its real-life appearance, with large horns, mane and a long tail. 9 These days we regard the ibex as being a member of the goat family rather than an antelope, but in the middle ages there were was no real distinction between these animals. They could adopt many of the poses of the lion, such as rampant and statant. 10
The leopard’s face (sometimes, incorrectly referred to as a leopard’s head occurs very frequently in heraldry 11. Early heraldic artists tended to treat lions and leopards as the same animal, but during the development of British Heraldry the heads of the two creatures have adopted separate, and more realistic forms. Wade would have us associate leopards with warriors, especially those who overcome ”hazardous things by force and courage” 12
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 13. 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). 14. The bend is held in high honour and may signify “defence or protection” and often borne by those of high military rank 15.