FROM THE ART OF HERALDRY (Carl-Alexander von Volborth, Blandford Press, Dorset, 1987, p. 218) for those who have not been Granted Armorial Bearings by an entity authorized to do so, they wish to design their own armorial bearings (in concert with the College).

In countries in which armorial bearings can be freely assumed (this excludes England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain and South Africa) the following points should be taken into consideration.

  • Make sure that the design is unique and does not infringe upon the rights of others. A coat of arms is personal property, and to have the same or a similar name as an armiger does not mean that one is necessarily related to him and entitled to his arms or a version thereof. If your father’s brother, for instance, assumed a coat of arms, this does not mean that you are entitled to use it, unless he made the necessary provisions. If one cannot prove genealogically to descend from an armiger in the male line, he cannot use his arms.
  • Try to keep the design as simple as possible. Arms are still meant to be means of identification and representation and should be easily recognized and remembered. Crowded designs do not answer to this condition.
  • Respect the ethnic background of your family and try to keep the new arms in the style of the country of your origin. If you are, for example, an American citizen, having a German or a French name, don’t use the heraldic style and charges which are characteristic for British or Italian heraldry.
  • Do not use badges of Orders of Chivalry as charges for your arms. This can be misleading. Should you be a member of such an order, you can show this outside the actual coat of arms.
  • Do not use coronets, crowns or any other object that may have a particular meaning in the heraldry of the historical noblesse.
  • Do not use supporters, they have a particular significance in heraldry and should not be assumed. Avoid everything that could be interpreted as misleading.
  • In your choice of charges you might search for symbols which express perhaps an occupation or profession that was or is characteristic for members of your family, for a pun on your name (canting arms) or for something relating to the place of origin of your family. There are innumerable possibilities to create a meaningful coat of arms. As for the tinctures you could use your favourite colour combination (preferably limited to one colour and one metal ) or the colours of your home town or country. Charges like the rod of Aesculapius for physicians or the Caduceus for merchants for example have been used only too often and are not very original. Try to avoid heraldic platitudes in a new design. A sailor does not have to use a whole ship. Oars, a sail, a boat or a rudder would do the trick, and artisans could use the tools of their trade, preferably in their medieval form. Show the elements on the shield from the most recognizable angle; a hand seen from the side is meaningless, but palm outwards with space between the fingers is instantly identified.
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