The four main devices (symbols) in the Monmouth blazon are the bars gemel, lion saliant, cinquefoil and griffin. The three main tinctures (colors) are azure, or and gules .
Azure is the heraldic colour blue, usually quite a deep, dark shade of the colour (there is a lighter blue that sometimes occurs, known as celestial azure). If colour printing is not available then it can be represented by closely spaced horizontal lines in a scheme known as “hatching” 1. The word is thought to originate from the Arabic lazura and it represents the colour of the eastern sky. It is also said to be the colour associated by the Catholic Church with the Virgin Mary and hence of particular significance 2.
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” 3. 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 4. In drawings without colour it is usually represented by many small dots, or by the letter ‘O’ 5.
Red in heraldry is given the name Gules, sometimes said to be the “martyr’s colour”6. The colour is also associated with Mars, the red planet, and the zodiacal sign Aries 7. Later heralds of a more poetical nature would sometimes refer to the colour as ruby, after the precious stone.8.
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. Gemel simply means “doubled” 9, so whatever it is applied to appears twice, slightly reduced in size to occupy a similar amount of space to the original. This is different from having “two” of something, and indeed it is possible to have, for example two bars gemel, in which there are two, clearly separated pairs of bars.
There can be no animal more clearly associated with Heraldry than the lion, majestic King of the Beasts. Originally it appeared only in one pose, erect, on one paw, with the others raised 10 but such was the popularity of this figure, and the need to distinguish arms from each other, that it soon came to be shown in an enormous range of forms 11. The lion saliant is an example of these modified form, and any family would be proud to have such a noble creature displayed on their arms.
Natural objects abound in heraldry, and one category that gives especial delight are the many flowers and flowering plants that frequently occur 12. The cinquefoil is also of this type, being drawn, at least a little, realistically and often to very pleasing effect. It is shown as five-petalled flower, each petal quite rounded but with a distinct tip. It is sometimes pierced with a hole in the centre and usually appears on its own, without any leaves. 13 It has no fixed colour but can appear in any of the available heraldic tinctures.