The Grammar of Heraldry/Chapter 3

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265860The Grammar of Heraldry — TincturesJohn Edwin Cussans


Shields and their charges are further distinguished by various colours, called in Heraldry tinctures, which comprise Metals, Colours, and Furs; viz.—

Heraldic term. Abbrev.
gold, Or, or, Fig. 25.
Silver, Argent, arg., Fig. 26.
Heraldic term. Abbrev.
Red, Gules, gu., Fig 27.
Blue, Azure, az., Fig. 28.
Black, Sable, sa., Fig. 29.
Green, Vert, vert, Fig. 30
Purple, Purpure, purp., Fig. 31

The metals and colours are represented, in engravings and on seals, in the following manner:—

Or.—Plain, powdered with dots. Fig. 25.
Argent.—Plain. Fig. 26.
Gules.—Perpendicular lines. Fig. 27.
Azure.—Horizontal. Fig. 28.
Sable.—Horizontal and perpendicular lines crossed. Fig. 29.
Vert.—Diagonal lines drawn from dexter to sinister. Fig. 30.

Purpure.—Diagonal lines drawn from sinister to dexter.

In addition to these tinctures, Tenne (orange) and Sanguine (murrey) are sometimes included, though they are very seldom, if ever, used in English heraldry. The former is represented by diagonal lines, drawn from the sinister to the dexter, crossed by perpendicular lines; and the latter by diagonal lines crossing each other.

The earliest example in which tinctures are represented by lines occurs in the seals attached to the death-warrant of Charles I.


Ermine.—Argent, powdered with sable 'spots.' Fig. 32.

Ermines.—Sable, powdered with argent 'spots.' Fig. 33.

Erminois.—Or, powdered with sable 'spots.' Fig. 34.

Erminites.—The same as ermine, with a red hair on each side of the black 'spots' or tails.

Pean.—Sable, powdered with or spots. Fig. 35.

Vair is formed by a number of small bells, or shields, of one tincture, arranged in horizontal lines, in such a manner that the bases of those in the upper line are opposite to others, of another tincture, below. Fig. 36.

Countervair, the same as vair, except that the bells, placed base to base, are of the same tincture. Fig. 37.

Potent is formed of figures resembling crutch-heads, arranged in the same manner as vair.[1] Fig. 38.

Conterpotent.—Potent, arranged similarly to countervair. Fig. 39.

The furs vair, countervair, potent, and counterpotent, are always to be blazoned argent and azure, unless otherwise specified. If the field were or, and the bells gules, it would be blazoned as vairy, or, and gules.

  1. 'So eld she was, that she ne went
    A foote, but it were by potent' (crutch).