Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Heraldry à la mode

Sometime last year, I bought an eagle crest military hat pin from Ebay (see photo below). I love interesting accessory pieces like this that have a story behind them; they always make for really great conversation starters.

Initially, I wanted it because I thought it would look cool on my hats and blazers but I realized there was more to it than just a cool design so I was inspired to research the history and meaning behind this art style known as heraldry.

Heraldry is "the practice of designing, displaying, describing, and recording coats of arms and badges." It is generally believed that heraldry began as a means of distinguishing the participants in a battle since the soldier's faces were hidden behind iron and steel armors.

photo courtesy teachnet.ie

European armorial bearings first came into being during the Middle Ages but tribal, national and family emblems were in existence long before this time.

The number of heraldic symbols, or charges, has significantly developed over time and this makes it impossible for me to list all of them here. The definition of a charge is "any figure or device represented on the field of an escutcheon (sheild)"

Charges can be separated into two broad categories, animate and inanimate. Animate charges are beasts, birds, fish, insects, reptiles, humans, monsters and mythical creatures. Two of the most well known animal charges are the eagle and the lion.

photos courtesy heraldicclipart.com and dclips.fundraw.com

Inanimate charges include crosses, various military objects, nautical objects, crowns, trees, plants and flowers. Two well known inanimate charges are the battle axe and the fleur-de-lis.

photos courtesy library.nd.edu and smartershoppingonline.com

All charges have special individual meanings behind them that referred to things such as the personal qualities of a soldier or a description of various situations encountered during battle.

The colours commonly used in heraldry are gold, silver/white, red, blue, green, black, purple. Orange and maroon are also used occasionally. Each of these colours also has a special meaning such as peace, hope, military strength and sovereignty.

photo courtesy sairafblog.com

Today, heraldic art is widely used for decoration in fashion but it is also still used for traditional purposes on national, provincial and state coat of arms as well as logos for various government, academic, corporate and sporting institutions.

Below are some great, affordable items that feature decorative heraldic-style elements.

(Note: click on the name of item to go to the product page)

Military Pin
Price: US$4.80

Crest Drop Earrings

Price: US$9.99

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