The Layman's Guide to Elven Heraldry
The Layman's Guide to Elven Heraldry is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.
The crests of the Elven Houses are as informative as they are ornate. With proper study, a student of Elven heraldry can gain vast amounts of knowledge about a particular individual with only a glance at his personal crest.
Crests are most commonly displayed in pennants, signet-rings, shields, and livery, but elves are extremely inventive in finding new ways to display their crests, as they take appropriate pride in their insignia.
There are four kinds of crests in Elven heraldry: simple crests, family crests, personal crests, and royal crests.
A simple crest is the crest of a specific House. Any citizen of the House's domain may display the House's simple crest at will.
A family crest is a modified version of the simple crest that is passed down from person to person. Except for the addition of the flourish and the change of the statement, the family crest is identical to a House's simple crest.
A personal crest can always be traced to a specific individual, unless it has been used without that person's permission. All of the capital cities have laws about displaying someone else's personal crest without permission.
A royal House crest is a specific kind of personal crest. Rather than varying with the individual, the crest remains the same from generation to generation along the ruling bloodline of each House, and the current leader's crest is distinguished by the jewels.
Parts of an Elven Crest
The Frame (composed of the arch and the vale)
The frame is the circular border surrounding a crest; the arch refers to the top half, while the vale refers to the bottom half. When used in a personal crest, the frame is silver if the elf is male, or gold if the elf is female. Family crests incorporate both gold and silver in a twining pattern, while simple crests have frames colored as appropriate to the gender of the House's founder.
During the time of the Elven Empire, the arch was divided into seven sections with spaces between the sections, which symbolized seven separate Houses coming together in one Empire. These days, this is known as an imperial frame, and the rarer variation of the five-sectioned frame (symbolically excluding the Faendryl and the Ashrim) is perversely called a unified frame. Modern crests use a solid arch instead, although there are those who still break the arch in their crests to demonstrate their political beliefs.
The field refers to the filled circle of color inside the frame, which is always the same for any given House. The field contains the designator, signifier, statement, flourish, and any jewels.
The designator is the symbol depicted at the center of a simple crest -- the symbol of the House itself. In a personal crest, the designator fills the upper half of the frame.
The signifier is the symbol indicating a specific person in a personal crest. Except in royal crests, the signifier is always set below the designator; in a royal crest, the signifier is a crown, and the signifier is set above the designator.
The statement is a brief line of elven runes running across the center of the crest and dividing arch from vale in the frame. A simple crest's statement (if a statement is included) is always the motto of the House, while a family crest's statement is the motto of the family. A personal crest's statement may be static or may change at individual decision.
The flourish is composed of one or more lines curving down counterclockwise from the top of the arch into the field. A given flourish is passed along from mother to daughter and from father to son, although a wife may adopt her husband's flourish or a husband may adopt his wife's flourish at will. Flourishes may incorporate any of wide variety of motifs, such as vines, knotwork, arrowheads, or sheaves of grain, which usually refer in some fashion to a family's traditional vocation.
The Maternal and Paternal Flank
Maternal and paternal flanks appear only in personal crests. The maternal flank is a depiction of the mother's signifier to the outer left of the vale, while the paternal flank is a depiction of the father's signifier to the outer right of the vale.
The Flanking Flourish
Flanking flourishes only appear if a person does not wish to display the paternal or maternal flank for some reason. The flanking flourish is a repetition of the flourish pattern, placed in such a way that it will balance the existant flourish. If neither maternal nor paternal signifiers are displayed, the two flanking flourishes are sometimes referred to as a "mantle of shame" -- typically, only bastards or those with dishonored parents display flanking flourishes, and only orphans or those who have been disinherited display two flanking flourishes.
A jewel is a small oval of color placed just inside the top of the arch in a personal crest. If there is more than one jewel in the crest, the jewels are placed side by side, but no more than five jewels may be displayed. Jewels may not be displayed in a crest unless they are awarded, and jewels may only be awarded by an elven monarch's designated representative. Jewels may be streaked, barred, spotted, speckled, or starred, as well as being rimmed with another color; as a result, there are hundreds of different jewels recognized among students of elven heraldry. Each House has a specific jewel that may be awarded only by the current ruler, and the crest of the current ruler is distinguished by five repetitions of the royal jewel. Permission for others to display the royal jewel is awarded only by the current ruler, and it is given only to those who save the monarch's life or complete a task of similar importance for the monarch.
Modern Simple Elven Crests:
Designator: a green oak leaf
Royal jewel: topaz (yellow)
Statement: "Our roots run deep."
Designator: a peacock
Field: dark sapphire blue
Royal jewel: diamond (white)
Statement: "Knowledge is the key to eternity."
Designator: a silver harp
Field: dark amethyst
Royal jewel: amethyst (purple)
Statement: "The singers of the melody to which all things are harmony."
Designator: a black rose
Field: jade green
Royal jewel: black pearl (black)
Statement: "Elegance and discretion are the essence of civilization."
Designator: a golden wyvern
Royal jewel: blazestar (red)
Statement: "For honor, pride, and glory."
Ancient Simple Elven Crests:
Before the destruction of House Ashrim, these were its heraldric designations, which are still used and honored by the other elves when remembering the House.
Designator: an aquamarine wavecrest
Royal jewel: emerald (green)
Statement: "Masters of the sea."
House Faendryl is an unusual case because the house has not one, but three different sets of heraldric designations: the ancient crest, the disgraced crest and the modern crest. The ancient crest was used by the Faendryl before Maelshyve, but, after Maelshyve, the other elven Houses replaced the former Faendryl crest in almost all places where it appeared with a new crest as part of the disgrace of their exile, although few among the Faendryl would recognize it or admit its existence. When the Faendryl left Rhoska-Tor to found New Ta'Faendryl, they chose a new crest, but none of the other Elven Houses officially recognize its existence.
When someone refers to the Faendryl crest, it is usually a reference to the ancient crest instead of the crest of New Ta'Faendryl.
Ancient designator: a grey tower
Ancient field: scarlet
Ancient royal jewel: heliodor (orange)
Ancient statement: "Seven Houses, one will."
Disgraced designator: a ruined black keep
Disgraced field: scarlet
Disgraced royal jewel: None. After Maelshyve, all jewels awarded by the Faendryl empire were considered to be brands of shame instead of honor, and they were discarded from existing crests.
Disgraced statement: It is questionable whether the Faendryl can really be said to have had a disgraced statement, given how reluctantly the Faendryl used the disgraced crest. Heraldric records of the era, however, list a quote from Cestimir Xisuthros Faendryl, Patriarch XXXV, as the disgraced Faendryl statement: "Respect our obedience and our power, if neither our leadership nor our intentions, and we will go in peace."
Modern designator: a scarlet pentacle
Modern field: grey
Modern royal jewel: None. The Faendryl abandoned this heraldric custom.
Modern statement: "Our discipline rules all worlds." Rather than crossing the frame, the Faendryl statement runs beneath it. The silver frame of the modern Faendryl crest is always unbroken.
Any strongwilled, hardworking elf can hope to earn at least one jewel in his lifetime, for virtually every practice and pasttime approved of by elven society is overseen at some level by a royal representative, though many of those levels are painfully far away from the common elf's day-to-day routine. An act worthy of receiving a jewel is considered to be a once-in-a-lifetime achievement.
Only the royal jewels are in solid hues; all other jewels are streaked, barred, spotted, speckled, or starred with another color. Although hundreds of recognized jewels exist, they fall into specific categories by color.
The primary hue of the jewel itself will indicate from which House the jewel came.
|Ancient House Faendryl (no longer recognized)||Orange/Heliodor|
The rim of the jewel is set apart with a slim black line on both sides, so that its hue can be distinguished from the field and the jewel if it should match either one. There are several broad categories of jewel-worthy actions; each of these is distinguished by a different color, so that, while one elf may not recognize the specific award designated by another elf's jewel, he will at least know the general category.
|Gold||acts of leadership|
|Orange||research and discovery|
|Yellow||achievement in sport|
|Black||indicates that the jewel was awarded posthumously|
Gathering Information from a Personal Crest
Looking at the example crest...
1) The frame is golden, so this is a woman's crest.
2) The field is sky blue and the designator is a peacock, so the woman is from House Illistim.
3) The woman's family flourish is five sinuous silver lines. A dedicated student of heraldry could look this up to determine her family. As flourishes go, it is not very informative, unfortunately.
4) The signifier of the woman's mother is a violet dragonstalk blossom.
5) The signifier of the woman's father is a blue crow flying toward a dark crimson moon.
6) The woman's personal signifier is a vertical silver gauntlet.
7) The woman has received a jewel for achievement in sport from a representative of House Vaalor -- quite an accomplishment, for an Illistim elf!
8) Anyone who reads elven would know the woman's statement.
Thus, as many as eight pieces of information may be gathered from just one glance at a passerby's shield.
While hardly preparing you for a career as a chronicler or herald, this document should have provided you with an awareness of the complexities of elven heraldry. Further research for the developing student should be personally undertaken: to seek out those who have received jewels in order to discover their sources, to research various family flourishes and their origins, and to traverse museums and archives in search of records of famous crests of the past. Heraldry is not an art undertaken while seated at a desk, for it is a living, constantly changing thing of exquisite intricacy.
Kielanathia Maraellynde, Scholar of House Illistim
Crest: Encompassed in a gold imperial frame, a peacock set above a crossed silver scroll and violet pansy blossom upon a field of sapphire blue, accented with a flourish of silver haon twigs; flanked to the left with a sleeping dark blue panther, flanked to the right with three crossed rapiers, and honored with a white-rimmed blue-banded amethyst and an orange-rimmed silver-starred diamond.