Tinctures of Heraldry

Heraldic tinctures are the colors of heraldry ~ what they mean, the gemstones assigned to each color, the hatch marks that symbolize each color. Everyone one is individual and had a significance that was consistent from family to family.

Within the tincturing of heraldry you’ll find ~

  • Introduction
  • Traditional Colors
  • Newer Colors
  • Hatching Symbols
  • Proper Colors
  • Table of colors, meanings, gems, planets, hatching patterns
  • Fur, Feather, Butterfly Colors

These hues of heraldry are the colors used on the various parts of a coat-of-arms, crest, badge, flag, or other articles to make each area distinct and, sometimes, for symbolic meanings.

The Traditional Tincturing of Heraldry

Those originally emblazoned on arms ~

  • Or, Gold/Yellow
  • Argent, Silver/White
  • Azure, Blue
  • Jules, Red
  • Purpure, Purple
  • Sable, Black
  • Verd, Green

Most heraldic tincture names are of Norman French origin ~

  • Azure ~ from the Arabic lazward, meaning lapis lazuli.
  • Sable ~ the fur of the sable marten.
  • Gules ~ may be from the French gueules, which is thought to refer to animal's red throats.

Newer Colors in Heraldry

As time passed and more colorants and dyes became available, so newer colors could be added to the heraldry. Horsemen wanted their horse to be grey, brown, or tan, not just white or black. Mariners wanted sky blue and ocean blue, not just azure. People wanted blood to look like blood, not bright red.

  • Aquamarine
  • Ash ~ similar to cendrée
  • Bleu Celeste [ciel, celeste] ~ sky blue
  • Bronze
  • Buff metal
  • Carnation ~ European human skin color
  • Cendrée ~ dark grey
  • Copper metal
  • Crimson
  • De Piedra ~ Spanish for stone, a grey color
  • Horizon Blue
  • Murrey ~ mulberry
  • Ochre
  • Platinum
  • Red Ochre
  • Rose
  • Sanguine ~ blood red
  • Silver Grey
  • Tenne ~ orange or tan

Wikipedia’s information about hatching systems includes, near the bottom of the page, Color Charts of heraldic colors.

Hatching Symbols

When etching developed as an art form hatching designs were used to designate the seven basic colors. This is a monochromatic description with illustrations, rather than with words. The hatching patterns are shown in the table below.

Proper Colors

This isn’t Victorian propriety! When charges in a blazon are depicted in the colors they occur in naturally, these are called ‘proper’. Proper is the color something would be the most like.

But there are some limitations of convenience and tradition. A parrot is depicted in green, not the array of colors you see on a real one. Though mythological, dragons are always green.During the Victorian Era, it became popular to use excessive ‘proper’ colors. Too many ‘proper’ charges detract from the overall design. They also lessen the basic spirit or heraldry, which calls for clear, bold, unmistakable designs.

In the late Medieval and early Renaissance periods gemstones and the ‘classical’ planets were added to the colors and their meanings.

Tinctures, their colors, gemstones, planets, hatching designs, and meanings ~

Color
Tincture Name
Gems
Planet
Hatching Design
Meaning
Gold or
Yellow
Or

Topaz Sun
Under-
standing,
Respect,
Virtue,
Majesty,
Generous
Silver
or White
ArgentPearlMoon
Clean,
Wisdom,
Innocent,
Chastity,
Joy,
Peace
BlueAzureSapphireJupiter
Fidelity,
Steadfast,
Strength,
Loyalty
RedJulesRubyMars
Eagerness
to serve
ones country,
warrior,
martyr
PurplePurpureAmethystMercury
Majesty,
Justice,
Sovereignty
BlackSableDiamondSaturn
Mourning,
Constancy
GreenVerdEmeraldVenus
Freedom,
Beauty,
Joy,
Health,
Hope,
Loyalty
in Love
Orange
or Tan
TenneJacinthLunar Node
Dragon’s Head
noneWorthwhile
Ambition
Sanguine
or Murrey
Blood RedSardonyxLunar Node
Dragon’s Tail
noneVictorious,
Patient
in Battle


Furs, Feathers, and Butterflies

Furs, feathers, butterflies and fish scales are classified within the tinctures, but are placed on a separate page to find them more easily.

The rule of tincture has had influences far beyond heraldry. You’ll find it’s use on flags, in the webpage design designating what color font should be placed on what color background, license plates, and traffic signs.


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