The three main devices (symbols) in the St. Hillary blazon are the saltire, chief and leopards’ faces jessant-de-lis. 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 1. 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 2. Although it may seem a sombre tone, and does indeed sometimes denote grief, it is more commonly said to represent Constancy 3.
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) 4. In a sketch or drawing it is represented by plain, unmarked paper 5.
The bright yellow colour frequently found in coats of arms is known to heralds as Or, or sometimes simply as Gold.6. 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 7. The yellow colour is often associated with the Sun, and the zodiacal sign of Leo.8.
The saltire is one the major ordinaries, large charges that occupy the whole of the field 9. Arguably one of the best uses of this device is that of the St. Andrews Cross, a white saltire on a blue background found on the Scottish flag. The saltire is obviously closely related to the Cross, and Wade in his work on Heraldic Symbology suggests additionally that it alludes to “Resolution”, whilst Guillim, an even more ancient writer, somewhat fancifully argues that it is awarded to those who have succesfully scaled the walls of towns! 10
The chief is an area across the top of the field 11. It appears in many different forms and can itself be charged with other charges and ordinaries, 12, being treated almost as if it were a completely separate area. In its simplest form it can be clearly identified. Early examples include the award by Henry III of England to the knight Robert de MORTEYN BRETON of Ermine, a chief gules.
The singular device, known as the leopard’s face jessant-de-lys is striking, if perhaps a little gruesome. It is believed that this began as a face decorated with a fleur-de-lys but eventually came to be represented as a face with lower part of the symbol coming from the mouth and the upper part behind the head 13. The Wade quotes a story from Newton (“Display of Heraldry”) to suggest that it was a symbol conferred by Edward III to recognised victory in his French campaigns – the English Lion swallowing the French Lily! 14