The two main devices (symbols) in the Maltravers blazon are the label and fret. The three main tinctures (colors) are ermine, sable and or .
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 1 It has a long association with royalty and the nobility in general and hence represents “Dignity” wherever it is found 2. The ermine pattern is white with, typically, a three dots and a dart grouping representing the tail of the furred creature.3. The ermine spot is sometimes found alone as a special charge on the shield.
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 4. 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 5. Although it may seem a sombre tone, and does indeed sometimes denote grief, it is more commonly said to represent Constancy 6.
The bright yellow colour frequently found in coats of arms is known to heralds as Or, or sometimes simply as Gold.7. 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 8. The yellow colour is often associated with the Sun, and the zodiacal sign of Leo.9.
The label holds a special place in heraldry, originlly being a temporary mark, used by the oldest son while his father was still alive. In appearance it is a horizontal bar near the top of the shield from which descend 3 or 5 “points” or small rectangles descending from the bar. 10 In more recent use it has come to used as charge in its own right 11 and may have additional charges on each point, which can create a pleasing visual effect.
The fret is a striking charge, often occupying the whole of the field and being two instersecting diagonal lines interlaced with the outline of a square. 12 It is believed to be derived from the image of a fishing net, which it does indeed resemble, and hence Wade believes that it should signify persuasion, although other writers regard it separately as the “the heraldic true lovers knot” 13