The four main devices (symbols) in the Etienne blazon are the billet, estoile, buglehorn and bezant. The three main tinctures (colors) are azure, gules and or .
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.
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.3. The word gules is thought to come from the Arabic gule, or “red rose” 4. Later writers associated it with the precious stone ruby and the metal iron 5, perhaps because of the red glow of iron in the heat of the blacksmith’s forge.
The bright yellow colour frequently found in coats of arms is known to heralds as Or, or sometimes simply as Gold.6. Along with, argent, or silver it forms the two “metals” of heraldry – one of the guidelines of heraldic design is that silver objects should not be placed upon gold fields and vice versa 7. The yellow colour is often associated with the Sun, and the zodiacal sign of Leo.8.
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 9xz`, and the billet is a typical example of this, and can appear in any of the main heraldic tinctures. In form it is a simple rectangle though sometimes has a slightly rounded or ragged appearance to reflect one possible origin as a block of wood cut by an axe. 10. Wade groups the billet with the other square charges as symbols of “honesty and constancy”. 11
There were of course many widely recognised symbols that existed long before the advent of heraldry and it should be no surprise that some of these were adopted as charge in coats of arms 12. The estoile is a typical example, reflecting the stars in the sky and represented with six wavy points, often with a little shading to give it some depth. 13. The ancient writer Guillim assigns these symbols as the emblems of God’s goodness”. 14
The hunting horn, or bugle horn has a distinctive shape, being curved almost into a semi-circle, it can be decorated with bands of a different colour and typically hangs from a string, also coloured. 15. Apart from its obvious reference to the pursuit of hunting, it has also been used in allusion to the name of the holderr (HUNTER of Hunterston) and Woowward suggests it is also associated with those who have rights or obligations to the forest. 16