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Heraldic Jewelery

Heraldic engravers of signet rings.

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Why is the Coat of Arms so called?

In the Middle Ages the metal armour of the knights and noblemen had to be protected from the heat , so the metal armour was covered by a padded linen coat called a surcoat. The charges of armorial devices were embodied on these surcoats, hence the name 'coat of arms'.

What is an achievement?

In Heraldry the word achievement does not mean that something has been accomplished, it is the name given to a completed display of arms.

The achievement is composed of firstly The Shield, this is the most important item as the special design called a charge is painted upon it. Some achievements or coats of arms only consist of the shield. The Helmet rests on the shield, the type of helmet denotes the rank of the owner. The Mantling is the swirling drapery around the helmet, this material protected the knights head and neck from the sun and was particularly popular in Palestine during the Crusades. The Wreath or Torso was usually made of a twist of material often silk which kept both the mantling and The Crest in position, these Crests were particularly popular at the time with the knights during tournaments. The Supporters generally belonged to Royal or ducal coats of arms, they can be both animals and people. The Compartment where the supporters stand is usually earth or water. The Motto Not all achievements have a motto, if they do it is usually in the form of a scroll.

European Heraldry

European regional differences in heraldry tended to become more emphasised as medieval civilisations gave way to the growth of nationalism and the evolution of strong centralised monarchies which took upon themselves the control of armorial bearings and appointed their own heraldic authorities.

Holland and Switzerland stood unrivalled in there widespread use of heraldry, Burgher arms which date from the late Middle Ages are characterised by the absence of helmets.

Italian heraldry reflects its troubled history, with successive German, French, Spanish and Austrian invaders all living their mark but despite these foreign interventions, Italian heraldry has developed certain characteristics distinct to itself, in particular the use of almond-shaped horsehead-shaped shields. Central Italian heraldry has been much influenced by the church, by incorporating papal insignia into their arms, most notably the papal tiara and the cross keys.

Hungarian heraldry is closely akin to that of Austria and Germany, Poland separates itself from the rest of Europe by virtue of its pre-heraldic runic signs which were later absorbed by heraldry and came to constitute its principal feature.

In France the French revolution of 1789 saw the abolition of heraldry, which was replaced some fifteen years later by a new Imperial Heraldry. This was predictably characterised by weapons and items of war reflecting Napoleonic campaigns.

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