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Dictionary of Vexillology: Appendix III

Tincture and Metals

Last modified: 2006-08-12 by phil nelson
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').

The primary colours used in heraldry and vexillology (included those used as metals and furs) are called tincture and consist of the following: red, blue, green, purple, black, yellow and white. They are also known by their heraldic names (derived from Norman-French), which are mainly used in heraldry, but which can also be encountered in vexillology. These are gules, azure, vert, or, purpure, sable, or and argent respectively.
Shades of Tincture
Generally speaking, heraldry recognises only one shade per colour, but in practice various different shades will be encountered for the primary tinctures. These can range from dark or deep to light, especially in blue and green (see also international colour code).
Mixed Tincture
There are also two mixed tinctures, 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.
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.
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.