|The brightly colored designs you may see on a shield,
banner, clothing, or personal items are part of heraldry in the SCA. In the broadest
sense, heraldry encompasses everything that heralds do, from making announcements to
helping people devise their own cognizances. These cognizances, sometimes miscalled
coat-of-arms, are personal insignia that distinguishes one person from another. The ones
that you see are most likely registered in someone's name, so it is not permissible to
copy any of those and use it on your shield, banner, or personal items.
A "device" is the term used for any heraldic emblem registered to an
individual. When a person becomes an "armiger," the heraldic device is called
"arms." An armiger is a person who has been awarded arms by the Crown.
Heraldry uses a limited set of clear, bold "tinctures." The
colors are: azure (blue), gules (red), sable (back), purpure (purple), and vert (green).
The metals are: Or (gold or yellow) and argent (silver or white). There are also furs
which combine the two types of tinctures in a complex repetitive design.
Since it is easier to see things which contrast with their
backgrounds, the rules of heraldry state that colors must be placed on metals and metals
must be placed on colors. This guarantees that charges do not blend on the field.
"Charges" are stylized versions of everyday objects, beasts,
and birds. Charges can be used in multiples or in combination with other charges. They can
be placed directly on the field or layered upon another charge. The combination of field,
charge, and tinctures results in the final, unique device.
Your device must be different from all other registered devices,
including such familiar heraldry from the modern world as the logos for NutraSweet® and
the Royal Dutch/Shell Oil Company.