Modern Heraldry Symbols

Modern heraldry uses many of the heraldic symbols from all the way back in Medieval times. Some are elegant, some give us a chuckle, but all have an older meaning behind them.

This Irish coin with a heraldic swan was designed to commemorate their entry into the European Union

Image courtesy Wikipedia

The Diana, Princess of Wales Coat-of-Arms is a wonderful, modern coat-of-arms, prominently displaying the Spencer ‘bee’ symbol and a cadence label signifying the oldest child.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

The scallop shell has a lot of history behind its use in heraldry.

As you walk along a seashore, a little shell catches your eye. You stoop and pick it up. It’s kind of pretty and the shape is alluring. Depending on your location, the shell may be white, pale yellow edged with burgundy, brown spotted, pink, black, or swirling shades of iridescence.

Shells have so many uses. First decorative, secondly for utility. Straight from the beach, we use them as soap dishes and ashtrays. With some creativity, we glue them on picture frames and lamps. We also use them as inlays for jewelry and musical instruments.

In the Victorian Era, Japan opened up for trade. A family in London’s East End imported and sold trinket boxes, covered in shells. The company name was Shell.

Image courtesy Debarj on Ebay

As times changed they evolved into Shell Oil Company, carrying their name forward and adopting the scallop shell as their logo.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

A second reason for Shell Oil’s name ~ an early financier in Shell could trace his ancestry back to the Graham family. On the family crest were three scallop shells.

Image courtesy All Family Crests

Everything on a family crest, or coat-of-arms, has a reason behind it. Way back when, a Graham went on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James. It’s located at Santiago de Compestela in Galicia, Spain, considered the third most important holy town in Christendom.

A Graham in his ancestry had been on pilgrimage to the shrine St. James.

While there, pilgrims would pick up a scallop shell from the shores of Galicia as a souvenir and a passport. Worn as a cap badge, the shell proved they had been to the shrine. It also told bandits and authorities they traveled in peace, on pilgrimage.

The scallop also served as a modest spoon of small capacity. When begging for food, the scallop on their headgear proclaimed they wouldn’t eat much. And when they got home, they had bragging rights, with the shell to prove their tale and pilgrimage were true.

Thus the three scallop shells in the Graham family crest.

Other Modern Heraldry Uses

Mardi Gras Umbrellas, with their Maltese Cross charges, add frivolity and fun to heraldic symbols.

A One-Way Street Sign in Austria, using an heraldic arrow

Image courtesy Stock Exchange, Thispe

Border crossing huts and barricades are often painted from top to bottom with chevrons.

Speaking of Chevrons, the gardens at Penhurst, England, are renowned for their Heraldry Garden, which features several heraldic charges perched atop chevron posts

Image courtesy Stock Exchange, Shirley B

This is a modern Chevron pointing on Wong Way Street

Image courtesy Stock Exchange, Shirley B

While a bilingual roadside in Scotland uses chevrons and a modern ship

Image courtesy Wikipedia

This Swedish roadsign displays the arms of St. John, which the Swedes use to designate a cultural site

Image courtesy Wikipedia

Traffic cones are used universally, with repeating bars of the heraldic shield

Image 946672 courtesy Stock Exchange, Dan Shirley

Lacoste polo shirts have an heraldic alligator for their logo

Image courtesy Wikipedia

A YMCA banner in Bayern displays a upside down triangle

Photo: Stefan Wagner,"

Caberdancer Graphics designed this Heraldry Banner

Image courtesy Caberdancer Graphics

Flying Heraldry displays 33 examples of modern heraldry banners.

Their Graphic Design Department designs a variety of projects, both serious and humorous.

The Newsroom blogs of June 25 & 26, 2007, features Caberdancer and their hilarious Clan MacBubba.

Canada Dry Ginger Ale displays a crown and shield.

Image 535108 courtesy Wikipedia

The Buick logo has 3 shields. David Buick, of Scottish ancestry, began building Buicks in 1902.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

Smith Brothers coughdrops and those renowned brothers.

Handbill image courtesy Wikipedia

The Smith brothers developed one of the first packages with trademark branding.‘Trade’ appeared under William’s picture and ‘Mark’ was under the picture of Andrew. The brothers came to be called Trade, for industriously serious William and Mark for Andrew. Andrew’s nickname grew into ‘Easy Mark’. As a well-to-do bachelor, friends and others often hit him up for money. He readily gave to those in need, giving us the label of an ‘easy mark’.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

There’s plenty more Famous Scotsmen & Their Deeds, both in Scotland and North America.

That silly, yet dignified flamingo bird ~

Image courtesy Stock Exchange,
photographer Bill Davenport

Though shown with humor, darting across the road, this caution sign also draws on an older flamingo heraldry symbol. The Bahama coat-of-arms also shows the flamingo being used as a symbol of modern heraldry.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

The Readers Digest winged horse and waves is another example of modern heraldry. With both founders, husband and wife, of Scottish ancestry, it’s small wonder their logo displays heraldic symbols.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

For more about Lila and DeWitt Wallace, the January 18, 2008, blog tells of their publishing success.

Dow Chemical was founded by Herbert Dow. Dow has had it’s good and it’s bad ~ the Vietnam Era Napalm and breast implants but also Saran Wrap, Ziploc bags, and Scrubbing Bubbles, to name a few.

The lozenge harkens back to Herbert’s Scottish heritage

Image courtesy Wikipedia

Here’s another humorous application of an older heraldic symbol. If you’ve ever been in the midst of crab migration, you’ll understand this crab crossing sign. Photographed in Okinawa, it recalls the original crab symbol of heraldry.

Image 457690 courtesy Stock Exchange

Ships around the world use Naval Signal Flags

Image 904044 courtesy Stock Exchange by Thad Zajdowicz

National flags, military insignia, doodads, heraldic knots, Mardi Gras umbrellas, oil company logos, and sports teams all use heraldry with modern applications. As time permits these uses in modern heraldry will be added.

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