The four main devices (symbols) in the Hemphill blazon are the escallop, star, chevron and greyhound. The three main tinctures (colors) are or, gules and azure .
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.
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 7. 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” 8.
The escallopoccurs often in arms, represented as the outside of the shell, sometimes “fluted” of a different colour 9. It has been part of heraldic tradition almost from the beginning of the art, Henry III of England awarded Gules, 3 escallopes argent to Herbert de CHAMBERLEYNE in the 13th century, and it is present in the heraldry of almost all countries 10. It is believed that they were adopted as badges of those going to the Holy Land and can be found in the arms of many a crusading family. Hence Wade’s suggested association of the scallop with those that “complete long journeys to far countries” 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”. 14More modern arms might use the term star explicitly to refer to the celestial object, in which case it is usually known as a blazing star 15
The chevron is one the major shapes used upon a shield, known as ordinaries. The inverted ‘V’ of the chevron is perhaps thought to have originated to represent a military scarf folded on the shield 16, or additional cross-pieces used to strengthen the shield and painted a different colour.17. It has also acquired the meaning of “Protection… granted… to one who has achieved some notable enterprise” 18, possibly becuase of its resemblance to the roof truss of a house.