Articles > Armory


by: Daniel de Lincoln (Tim McDaniel)

© 1998, Timothy McDaniel, Reprinted with permission of the author.

Some heraldic authorities say that there are three classes of tinctures in armory: metals, colors, and furs. In armory, "fur" means something ermined (e.g., ermine) or vairy (e.g., vair). (There are others that are much rarer.) These authorities say that the "rule of tincture" is no metal on metal, no color on color, and no fur on fur. However, they say that metal or color on fur may be fine, for example. (E.g, Rothery, Concise Encyclopedia of Heraldry, (Zagreb: Bracken Books, 1985), p. xviii.)

In SCA usage, furs are not necessarily neutral with respect to the rule of tincture. Ermined furs are primarily their background tincture. Therefore, the SCA treats ermined tinctures as being of the same class as their background color. For example, ermine is argent with sable ermine spots, so ermine is treated like argent, as a metal. Counter-ermine is sable with argent ermine spots, so it's treated like sable, a color. So no Or on ermine, and no gules on counter-ermine.

Vair and vairy are half metal and half color. The SCA treats all half metal / half color charges or fields as neutral. They can have either metal or color on them or under them, as long as there is some contrast. For example, you can't put an argent charge on a vair field, because the white charge will blend in with the white sections of the vair. (Using a thick black outline around the charge doesn't help.) A gules charge on vair is fine.

Firs aren't neutral either. When they're "proper", they have green needles and a brown trunk, just like any other tree.

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