The two main devices (symbols) in the Leon blazon are the saltire engrailed and lion. The three main tinctures (colors) are vert, or and sable .
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” 1The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P36. 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 2A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Vert. More fanciful heralds liked to associate it with the planet venus and the precious stone emerald 3Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 27. More strangely, there is some evidence that the term prasin was anciently used, being the Greek for the vegetable we call the Leek!
The bright yellow colour frequently found in coats of arms is known to heralds as Or, or sometimes simply as Gold.4Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 27. 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 5A Complete Guide to Heraldry, A.C. Fox-Davies, Bonanza (re-print of 1909 Edition), New York, 1978, P85. The yellow colour is often associated with the Sun, and the zodiacal sign of Leo.6Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P53.
Sable, the deep black so often found in Heraldry is believed to named from an animal of the marten family know in the middle ages as a Sabellinœ and noted for its very black fur 7A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Sable. In engravings, when colors cannot be shown it is represented as closely spaced horizontal and vertical lines, and appropriately is thus the darkest form of hatching, as this method is known 8Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 26. Although it may seem a sombre tone, and does indeed sometimes denote grief, it is more commonly said to represent Constancy 9The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P35.
The saltire, whilst frequently associated with Scotland is actually a widely used and popular ordinary found throughout all of British Heraldry, perhaps because of its cross-like form 10Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 42. In order to allow for clear differences between similar arms, heralds designed a series of decorative edges, not all of them are appropriate for the saltire (because of the interior angles) but those are suitable can be very effective artistically. The pattern engrailed works well here. It is a series of scalloped indentations with the points facing outwards – and should not be confused with invected, which has the points facing inwards! Wade believes that both of these indented forms represent “earth or land”, and one perhaps can indeed see the furrowed earth embodied in them.
The art of heraldry would be significantly poorer if we were without the lion in all its forms. Most general works on Heraldry devote at least one chapter solely to this magnificent creature and its multifarious depictions 11A Complete Guide to Heraldry, A.C. Fox-Davies, Bonanza (re-print of 1909 Edition), New York, 1978, P172 12Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 63 13Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P140. Some of the earliest known examples of heraldry, dating right back to the knighting of Geoffrey of Anjou in 1127, where he is shown with six such beasts upon his shield 14A Treatise on Heraldry, J. Woodward, W & A.K Johnston, Edinburgh & London, 1896, P45 .The great authority on heraldic symbology, Wade, points out the high place that the lion holds in heraldry, “as the emblem of deathless courage” 15The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P60, a sentiment echoed equally today.