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Tinctures
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Composition Tinctures Charges Blazon Beasts of Charge Heraldic Beasts Design Structure Interpretation Crests Supporters

The Six tinctures of heraldry

Tinctures exampleThe main rules of blazon relate to the use of tincture. This generic term covers both metals - Or (gold/yellow) and Argent (silver/white) - and colors - Gules (red), Azure (blue), Sable (black) and Vert (green).  The first five can be found everywhere and are very common on the arms of all periods and all regions. The sixth, Vert, is less common, for  reasons that have never been fully explained. There is also a seventh tincture, found even less frequently: Purpure (purple) not really regarded as a real heraldic tincture.

These heraldic tinctures are absolute, conceptual. almost immaterial: the tones do not matter. For instance Gules can be vermilion, cerise, carmine, garnet red, etc.; what counts is the idea of red and not the material and chromatic representation of that tincture. The same applies to Azure, Sable and Vert, and even to Or and Argent, which can be rendered by yellow and white (as is commonly the case) or by gold and silver. For instance, on the arm of the King of France, Azure semy of Fleurs-de-lis Or, the Azure can be sky blue or ultramarine and the fleurs-de-lis lemon yellow, orange yellow or gold, it really does not matter. The artist is free to translate Azure and Or as he sees fit, depending on the material he is working on, the techniques he is using and his own aesthetic sense. In the course of time the same arms can therefore be represented in very different tones.

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