The three main devices (symbols) in the Marley blazon are the bars wavy, dolphin and martlet. The three main tinctures (colors) are sable, argent and or .
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 1A 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 2Boutell’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 3The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P35.
Argent is the heraldic metal Silver and is usually shown as very pure white. It is also known more poetically as pearl, moon (or luna) 4Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P53. In a sketch or drawing it is represented by plain, unmarked paper 5A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1847, P11.
The bright yellow colour frequently found in coats of arms is known to heralds as Or, or sometimes simply as Gold.6Boutell’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 7A 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.8Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P53.
The bar is a thin, horizontal stripe across the centre of the shield, usually in groups of two or three (any more and there would be confusion with barry, a treatment of horizontal lines of alternating colours). It is also possible to place decorative edges along bars, typically these are smaller than those found on the major ordinaries like the fess and pale, but have the same design and share the same meanings. The decorative edge pattern Wavy, is a typical example of this. For obvious reasons it is associated with both water and the sea 9The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P40. Indeed, a roundel with alternating bars of azure and argent (blue and white) is known by the shorthand term fountain, representing water at the bottom of a well 10A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Water. Other colours have also been used and the result can be very pleasing to the eye.
In the days before television and the internet it was a rare heraldic artist that had ever seen a dolphin for real, so we should not be surprised that the heraldic representation is not instantly recognisable. Despite this, we should not forget that these artists considered the dolphin to be the king of fish, playing the same role as the lion in the animal kingdom. 11A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Dolphin For reasons not immediately clear, Wade suggests that the dolphin was regarded as an “affectionate fish, fond of music”. 12The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P83
The martlett is by far the most common bird to appear in British Heraldry, perhaps only equalled by the eagle, however it is not a species ever to be found in an ornithologists handbook! The word itself is though to have come from the French word merlette, the female blackbird and itself a similar type of charge used in French Heraldry. 13A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Martlet. Over time the image has become quite stylised, without visible legs or distinctive feathers. Wade suggests that this representation arises from “the appearance of the bird of paradise to ancient travellers” 14The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P79. Other bird species may be named in coats of arms (cornish chough is a frequent example) but in actual execution their appearance is often indistinguishable from the martlet.