Heraldry - Components and Rules - Shield and Lozenge - Tinctures


Tinctures are the colors, metals, and furs used in heraldry, though the depiction of charges in their natural colors or "proper" are also regarded as tinctures, the latter distinct from any color that such a depiction might approximate. Heraldry is essentially a system of identification, so the most important convention of heraldry is the rule of tincture. To provide for contrast and visibility, metals (generally lighter tinctures) must never be placed on metals, and colors (generally darker tinctures) must never be placed on colors. Where a charge overlies a partition of the field, the rule does not apply. There are other exceptions – the most famous being the arms of the kingdom of Jerusalem, consisting of gold crosses on a silver field.

The names used in English blazon for the colors and metals come mainly from French and include Or (gold), argent (silver), azure (blue), gules (red), sable (black), vert (green), and purpure (purple). A number of other colors (such as bleu-celeste and the stains sanguine, tenné and murrey) are occasionally found, typically for special purposes.

Certain patterns called furs can appear in a coat of arms, though they are (rather arbitrarily) defined as tinctures, not patterns. The two common furs are ermine and vair. Ermine represents the winter coat of the stoat, which is white with a black tail. Vair represents a kind of squirrel with a blue-gray back and white belly. Sewn together, it forms a pattern of alternating blue and white shapes.

Heraldic charges can be displayed in their natural colors. Many natural items such as plants and animals are described as proper in this case. Proper charges are very frequent as crests and supporters. Overuse of the tincture "proper" is viewed as decadent or bad practice.

Read more about this topic:  Heraldry, Components and Rules, Shield and Lozenge

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