What is Heraldry?

   coat of arms. This term comes from the custom of embroidering the emblem of a knight on the surcoat which he wore over his armor.
Heraldry is the study of designs used to distinguish individual families and to authenticate official documents. The word also refers to the art of reproducing these designs in picture form. A heraldic design is called a
   Originally, the symbols used on coats of arms were individually selected, and represented a quality or incident in the life of the owner. But confusion soon developed because of the duplication of designs. This led to the need for heralds, who supervised the selection of colors and symbols. The systematic study of heraldic symbols to distinguish families began during the Crusades in the 1200's.
   A complete coat of arms consists of a shield, crest, and motto. The shield, or escutcheon, is the basic element. A helmet, or supporters, or both may be added. Accessories include the wreath, mantling and scroll. The wreath represents a device used to cover the point where the crest was attached to the knight's helmet. The mantling originally protected the knight from the direct rays of the sun and also protected the helmet from stains and rust.
   A blazon is the technical description of coats of arms, using proper heraldic language. The terms used in heraldry have an exact meaning in order to avoid con-fusion when giving a verbal description.