The four main devices (symbols) in the Jobson blazon are the eagle, paly, escallop and chevron. The three main tinctures (colors) are azure, or and ermine .
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 bright yellow colour frequently found in coats of arms is known to heralds as Or, or sometimes simply as Gold.3. 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 4. The yellow colour is often associated with the Sun, and the zodiacal sign of Leo.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.
Where the lion is undisputed king of the animals, the eagle undoubtedly plays the same role in the realm of the birds, its use in this form dating back to at least the Roman period 9. They tend to be illustrated in quite some detail, especially in continental European arms, and have almost as wide variety of postures and accessories as the lion, well illustrated in the reference 10 as well as being just the eagle’s head or eagle’s leg. The symbology of the eagle is deep and complex, Wade devotes several pages to the subject 11, but suffice it say that it has long been associated with Empire and those held in high honour – any armiger would be pleased to have any form of Eagle upon their arms!
Play is what is known as a treatment, a regular patterning, usually over the whole background of the shield. The word comes from the pale, the major vertical stripe that appears on some shields, paly is obvious its little cousin, consisting of, typically, 6 or more vertical stripes, alternately coloured 12. The stripes can be any combination of the heraldic tinctures, an early example is that of GURNEY, being simply paly of six, or and argent. Paly can be combined with other effects, such as decorative edges on each stripe, or overlaid with other treatments such as bendy, and these can be very effective and pleasing to the eye 13.
The escallopoccurs often in arms, represented as the outside of the shell, sometimes “fluted” of a different colour 14. 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 15. 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” 16.