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Dictionary of Vexillology: Appendix III

Tinctures

Last modified: 2014-08-09 by rob raeside
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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In vexillology there is only one definition per colour but in practice various different shades will be encountered for the primary tinctures and these are used at the discretion of the designer. They can range from very dark or deep to very light or pale shades. The different shades might also have typical names, but to avoid confusion they should preferably be designated in terms of a standard colour code (see also 'international colour code').

Proper
The term used in heraldry when a charge or figure is shown in its natural shape and colours, as opposed to those that are stylised, with the tinctures sometimes given as Terry – the colour of earth, Aqua – the colour of water, Carnation – the colour of flesh and/or cendrée – ashen grey.

Free State Province arms
Arms of Free State Province, South Africa (fotw)

Enamels
A term that does not generally appear in English heraldry, but which is sometimes used to describe the basic heraldic colours when not referring to metals, mixed tinctures and/or furs – but see ‘colour 1)’ and ‘tincture’ below.

tincture tincture tincture tincture tincture
From left: Gules, Azure, Vert, Purpure and Sable

Tinctures
The term used to describe those colours (including metals, mixed tinctures, and furs) that are used in heraldic blazoning, and which are sometimes seen in vexillology: these are (with names derived from Norman-French) Gules - red. Azure - blue, Vert - green, Purpure - purple, Sable - black, Brunatre – brown, Tenne – orange, Or – gold/yellow and Argent – silver/white – see ‘enamels’, ‘metals’, ‘mixed tincture’. ‘proper’ and ‘shades of tinctures’ in ‘appendix III’ (also ‘colour 1)’). Plus the furs Ermine, Potent and Vair – see ‘furs’ in ‘appendix III’ (also ‘hatching 1)’ in the main text).

tincture tincture tincture tincture tincture tincture tincture tincture tincture  tincture tincture tincture

Please note that there are a number of variations not covered above, and we suggest that a suitable glossary or dictionary of heraldry be consulted if further details are required.

Mixed Tinctures
There are also two mixed tinctures - sometimes called auxiliary colours - which are not encountered as often as the primaries. They are orange (or tenne), a mixture of red and the metal yellow; and brown (or brunatre), a mixture of red and blue – see ‘tinctures’.

tincture tincture

Shades of Tincture
English heraldry, generally speaking, recognizes only one shade per colour, however, in practice and in Continental European heraldry, various different shades will be encountered for the primary tinctures. For example: Gules may be divided into Murrey or Amaranth (dark red) or Sanguine (blood red), whilst Azure could also appear as Bleu Celeste (sky blue) - see ‘tinctures’ in ‘appendix III:’ (also ‘international colour code’).

tincture tincture tincture tincture
From left: Gules and Murrey; Azure and Bleu Celeste

Please note that there are a number of variations not covered above, and we suggest that a suitable glossary or dictionary of heraldry be consulted if further details are required.

Metals
Heraldry and vexillology also use the metals gold and silver ('or' and 'argent'), which are generally (but not invariably) represented in flags by the colours yellow and white (see also ‘argent’ and ‘or’). Please note however that metal thread, gold/silver leaf or metallic paint may also be used.

[colour example] [colour example]

Furs
Furs are used mainly in heraldry but are also occasionally encountered in vexillology. The three most common furs - their names also derived from Norman French - are: ermine (depicted by black spots on white), vair (supposedly squirrel fur and depicted as shield shaped pieces in blue and white) and potent (crutch shaped pieces in blue and white). Five less common furs are derivatives from the more common kinds such as ermines, erminois, counter-vair, vair en point and counter-potent.

tincture tincture tincture

Please note that the variations (of more common patterns) mentioned above are beyond the scope of this work, and we suggest, therefore, that a suitable glossary or dictionary of heraldry be consulted if further details are required.


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