Crest colours

The use, wearing and display of Crests and feathers
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Simon Parker
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Crest colours

Post by Simon Parker » Fri Jan 13, 2017 1:42 am

What colours would be used in the torse of a crest of the type commonly worn by members of Scottish clans for arms described as follows -
Gules, three bears' heads erased Argent muzzled Azure.
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Simon

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J Duncan of Sketraw
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Re: Crest colours

Post by J Duncan of Sketraw » Fri Jan 13, 2017 2:41 am

This looks like the Arms of Galbraith.
The torse would be Argent and Gules (white and red)
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Simon Parker
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Re: Crest colours

Post by Simon Parker » Fri Jan 13, 2017 3:50 am

Thanks John. Indeed Galbraith arms. I am reviewing the crest that the clan uses as some of our crest designs are incorrect using a red muzzle instead of an azure muzzle. I wanted to make sure the other elements were correct so that we can remove the images of our crests with the incorrect colours.
In the case of argent most Galbraith arms just say the bear is argent, however of the nine arms in the Ordinary of Arms V.2, two are described as pale argent. In that case would argent in the Galbraith arms most likely be pale silver rather than white?

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Chris Green
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Re: Crest colours

Post by Chris Green » Fri Jan 13, 2017 4:53 pm

Simon Parker wrote:
Fri Jan 13, 2017 3:50 am
Thanks John. Indeed Galbraith arms. I am reviewing the crest that the clan uses as some of our crest designs are incorrect using a red muzzle instead of an azure muzzle. I wanted to make sure the other elements were correct so that we can remove the images of our crests with the incorrect colours.
In the case of argent most Galbraith arms just say the bear is argent, however of the nine arms in the Ordinary of Arms V.2, two are described as pale argent. In that case would argent in the Galbraith arms most likely be pale silver rather than white?
Could you provide the complete blazon? "Pale" is usually only used to refer to the vertical ordinary, or charges aligned over each other "in pale". I cannot immediately imagine why anyone should describe a charge as "pale argent". White is white, it can't be pale white. For that matter it couldn't be pale azure (as that would approximate to bleu celeste) or pale sable or any other heraldic tincture. The blazon for my own arms seems to refer to pale gold, but is in fact simply part of the description of the three martlets "in pale gold". The only use of pale to describe the colour of an heraldic animal that I can think of would be "a pale horse proper" to describe the steed of one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.
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Simon Parker
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Re: Crest colours

Post by Simon Parker » Sat Jan 14, 2017 12:53 am

I can see that I may have misread them. The two blazons are :-
- Gules; a pale argent between two bear's head couped in chief of the second muzzled azure adn charged with one in base of the field muzzled silver.
- Gules; three bears' heads erased Argent muzzled Azure, a cresent in chief per pale of the second and Or for difference, all within a bordure indented of the last charged with three mulletts of the third.

In the case of argent, articles I have read indicate that it can be either white or silver. If that is correct how can one tell what colour was actually used?

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Re: Crest colours

Post by Chris Green » Sat Jan 14, 2017 7:13 am

Simon Parker wrote:
Sat Jan 14, 2017 12:53 am
I can see that I may have misread them. The two blazons are :-
- Gules; a pale argent between two bear's head couped in chief of the second muzzled azure adn charged with one in base of the field muzzled silver.
- Gules; three bears' heads erased Argent muzzled Azure, a cresent in chief per pale of the second and Or for difference, all within a bordure indented of the last charged with three mulletts of the third.

In the case of argent, articles I have read indicate that it can be either white or silver. If that is correct how can one tell what colour was actually used?
So, as I suspected, the "pale" you referred to was in fact nothing to do with the tincture.

Argent can normally be depicted either as white or silver depending on the preference of the armiger or the artist. You will have noted however that in your first blazon the bears are specifically muzzled "silver". While I can see why the armiger (or Lord Lyon's office) might have made that distinction, many a traditionalist might argue that there is no such tincture as "silver" and depict the muzzles as white anyway if their palettes lacked silver pigment.

I should perhaps add that in some continental European heraldry I have seen both white and silver used boldly in some emblazonments. Whether the blazon made a distinction I cannot immediately recall, but artists clearly distinguished between the white of a snowy mountain top and the silver of a charge that would naturally be silver-coloured.

PS: Your second example also provides a good argument for heralds not using "of the first", "of the second", "of the last" etc. It is very confusing. "a crescent in chief per pale of the second and Or for difference" really?!
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Re: Crest colours

Post by Simon Parker » Sat Jan 14, 2017 8:02 am

Thanks Chris,
When it comes to the preference of the artist or armiger, does that refer only to the copy submitted to the LL or College, or does it many any artist at any time can choose to depict argent as white or silver as they may wish to do at that time? For instance, does that mean with a crest it's up to the Clan whether it colours the bear's head white or silver?
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Simon

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Chris Green
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Re: Crest colours

Post by Chris Green » Sat Jan 14, 2017 12:21 pm

When it comes to tinctures, each heraldic artist is free to interpret the blazon as (s)he likes (subject only to the will/whim of the armiger). There are no correct Pantone shades for heraldic tinctures, merely conventions. For example heraldic convention says that gules should not be too dark or it becomes sanguine, nor should it be too light, as then it might be seen as pink (which is only really acceptable in heraldry as the "proper" skin colour of a "white" man or woman). Vert should not be too blue or too yellow (I have an emblazonment of my arms - done by an artist at the College of Arms - where the vert is sea-green and not very nice).

If you consider how heraldic artists would have worked in medieval times when they were painting real shields to be used in combat, the chances were that they would only have access to a very limited range of colours. When painting for decorative purposes however the range of materials might be greater.

In my local church there are two large 17th century hatchments, both of which have acres of gray paint. These were clearly originally painted silver, using real silver in the pigment or perhaps silver foil. But silver tarnishes, as those of us (un)fortunate enough to own silverware know only too well. Over a period of a century or so the bright silver on these shields turned black, and if foil, flaked off too. Someone had the bright idea of doing them up, but being neither heraldically knowledgeable, nor having access to the blazons, merely replaced the old discloured silver with gray paint as it was a near match. Disaster! I have tried to explain the problem to people in charge at the church but am told that "these are historic artefacts and not to be messed about with!". The fact that they were messed about with a century or more ago seems to be irrelevant.

So argent may be white or silver, but if the artist uses the latter (s)he should bear in mind the environment in which it will be displayed. In a book or a painting to hang indoors silver would be fine. For outdoor or long-term display thought needs to be given to guarding against discolouration.
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