The Sign Carver

EST 1994
The Sign carver

Custom Hand-Crafted Shield Heraldry

Custom Hand-Crafted Shield Heraldry

The Timeless Symbolism of Shields in Heraldry

The shield is one of the most iconic and enduring symbols in heraldry, serving as the canvas upon which coats of arms are displayed. Throughout history, shields have been used as a means of identification, protection in battle, and as a visual representation of noble or knightly status.

But beyond their practical purposes, shields hold deep symbolism and meaning within the realm of heraldry, reflecting the rich traditions, values, and history associated with this ancient art form.


The origins of using shields in heraldry can be traced back to medieval times when knights would adorn their shields with distinctive charges, or symbols, to identify themselves in battle and tournaments. These charges could be animals, objects, or abstract designs, and were chosen to represent various qualities or attributes that the knight possessed or aspired to possess. Over time, this practice evolved into a sophisticated system of designing, displaying, and describing coats of arms, with the shield as the focal point.

One of the key aspects of the shield in heraldry is its shape and design. Shields can come in various shapes, such as rectangular, circular, or oval, and can be divided into sections or “quarters” to display different charges or colors. The shape and design of the shield can carry symbolic meaning, with different shapes associated with specific regions, ranks, or time periods. For example, a “heater” or “kite” shaped shield is often associated with medieval European heraldry, while a “targe” or “round” shield is more commonly associated with Scottish heraldry.

van der riet family coat of arms

The colors and patterns used on the shield are also of great significance in heraldry. These colors, known as “tinctures,” are often used to convey meaning and symbolism. The most commonly used tinctures are known as “metals” and “colors.” Metals include gold (or), which symbolizes generosity, and silver (argent), which symbolizes peace and sincerity. Colors include red (gules), which symbolizes bravery and strength, blue (azure), which symbolizes truth and loyalty, and green (vert), which symbolizes hope and joy, among others. The arrangement and combination of these tinctures on the shield can convey complex meanings, representing the various virtues, qualities, and aspirations associated with the individual or family.

Bronze Coat of arms

Another significant aspect of the shield in heraldry is its use of charges, or symbols, which are depicted on the shield to represent specific meanings. Charges can be animals, objects, or abstract designs, and their selection is often based on family traditions, historical significance, or personal preferences. For example, a lion charge may represent courage and strength, a fleur-de-lis charge may represent purity and royalty, or a cross charge may represent faith and devotion. The use of charges on the shield allows for endless creativity and customization, making each coat of arms unique and personal to the individual or family.

The shield in heraldry also embodies the concept of inheritance and lineage. Coats of arms are often passed down through generations, serving as a precious family heirloom that carries the history, values, and traditions of the family. Shields can be modified or augmented over time to reflect the achievements, alliances, or changes within the family, preserving the legacy and heritage for future generations to cherish.

Fourie family Coat of arms

In addition to their historical significance, shields in heraldry continue to be used in modern times, representing the enduring appeal and relevance of this ancient art form. Coats of arms featuring shields are still used in various contexts, such as in official heraldic authorities, military and government emblems, corporate logos, and personal branding. The symbolism and meaning associated with shields in heraldry transcend time and culture, making them a timeless and powerful symbol of identity, heritage, and tradition.

lee family crest in wood

Elevate your Family or business with a custom hand-carved shield

At The Sign Carver, we specialize in creating custom hand-crafted shields that are not only functional but also works of art that tell a story.

With our expertise in custom design, we can bring your vision to life and create a shield that is truly unique and meaningful to you.

Elevate your family or business with a personalized shield from The Sign Carver, a symbol of pride, & legacy that will stand the test of time.


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The Sign Carver, with 30 years of artisanal expertise, specializes in crafting exquisite Coats of Arms that adorn wine farms, university residences, schools, and cherished family homes.

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Our meticulously hand-carved wooden creations, or alternatively cast in cement, resin, or bronze, embody the essence of quality, craftsmanship, and charm.