Authentic Coats of Arms & Treasures

November 2016

Creating A Motto For Your Coat Of Arms


In a previous post, we talked about all of the options you have when choosing an animal (or body part, plant, or inanimate object) to form the basis of your family crest. As you may or may not know, the family crest is just one element of a coat of arms design, typically located near the top above the helm.

Today, we’d like to talk about another important element of your coat arms: the motto. As we’ve mentioned previously, coats of arms were traditionally commissioned so that a particular individual would have a symbol to represent his family name. Coats of arms were also a way to identify soldiers in the field of battle, and a symbol around which troops pledged to a particular family could organize.

In light of this last purpose, it’s very important to have a motto on your coat of arms. The motto on your coat of arms can be seen as the icing on the cake; a few words that tie together and elevate all the symbolism that you’ve worked so hard to create throughout the other elements.

The idea of choosing a motto can be a little intimidating though, especially if you’re not a writer and don’t consider yourself particularly eloquent. That’s why Fine Legacy has put together this brief guide to creating a motto for your coat of arms. Keep reading to learn more about the function of a motto, what it should convey, and how to choose the right one for your family.


What Is The Purpose Of The Motto?

At its most basic, the motto on a coat of arms is meant to articulate the motivation or intention of the person bearing them. Keep in mind that this could be the patriarch of a family or a knight in his service. Mottos can be a play on words, or, more commonly, a latin phrase that describes the life philosophy of the family.

Choosing Your Coat Of Arms Motto

Although Fine Legacy is dedicated to helping people create authentic coats of arms, we realize that we’re no longer living in medieval times. This means that you need not feel so restricted when it comes to choosing a family motto. Although many family mottoes are written in Latin, this isn’t necessary if you don’t feel that level of formality represents your family. You also don’t need to listen to other coats of arms creators who may tell you that there’s one certain motto for everyone who shares your surname. Your coat of arms is a unique design for you, and your motto should be too.

Examples Of Mottoes

  • Irritate not the lion
  • Virtue is the only nobility
  • He who conquers endures
  • Think and thank
  • Victory is in truth
  • Yield not to misfortunes
  • A tree is recognized by its fruit
  • Brave in difficulties
  • Faith is stronger than fortune
  • Always faithful/strong/nimble/ready
  • By reason not force
  • All things for the good
  • After clouds, sunshine
  • Courage without fear

Choosing a motto is part of our coat of arms creation process. Contact us to learn more!

The Meanings Of Various Family Crest Animals


Coat of arms symbols and meanings are a very important part of the heraldic process. As we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, coats of arms and family crests aren’t exactly the same thing, although the terms are often used interchangeably in the common vernacular. In fact, the crest is only one element–albeit an essential one–that makes up a traditional coat of arms.

A family crest typically sits atop the helm or helmet in a coat of arms (if they’re included) and is very often some time of animal. If you’re planning your coat of arms design, you may be thinking about including an animal for your own crest and wondering which animal bears the right type of meaning for your purposes.

To help with this process, we’ve decided to list out some of the animals that have historically appeared on family crests, along with their traditional meanings. Also, it’s worth noting that in the heraldic world, it’s proper to refer to your family crest animal as a “beast.” Kind of fun, right?

Common Family Crest Beasts And Their Meanings

Boar (Wild Pig) Indicates ferocity, a fighter to the death
Dragon Indicates a valiant defender of the weak
Horse Indicates readiness for duty
Peacock Indicates pride and beauty
Dove Indicates a dedication to peace and love
Wolf Indicates perseverance in adversity
Snake Indicates renewal, fertility, and wisdom
Fish Indicates bravery, royalty, and science
Dog Indicates fidelity, courage, and loyalty
Leopard Indicates endurance and valiance


Other Things That Can Serve As A Family Crest

Remember that choosing a heraldic charge for your family crest need not be limited to the animal kingdom, though there are many different birds, beasts, fish, reptiles, and creatures of the sea to choose from. If you don’t feel that a beast can accurately represent  your family values, you might want to consider some of the other coat of arms symbols and meanings below.

Human Figures – In some traditional family crests, the beast was replaced with the depiction of a certain human (usually religious in nature) or a human body part. These included the Virgin Mary, the Figure of Justice, a Mermaid, Neptune or Triton, or an Angel or Cherub. When it comes to including body parts, pretty much anything is fair game so long as it’s meaningful in some way. The head, hands, arms, feet, teeth, tongue, heart, breast, beard, and testicles were all popular body parts to depict on family crests!

Plants – When it comes to including symbols that aren’t human or animal, trees, fruit, crops, and flowers were commonly used. Take a look at some of their meanings below:

Acorn Indicates independence and strength
Berries Indicate liberality, felicity, and peace
Cypress Tree Indicates death and eternal life
Fleur-de-lis (lily) Indicates light, hope, and joy
Grapevine Indicates strength and friendship

Inanimate Objects – Don’t worry if the meanings of these flora and fauna aren’t the coat of arms symbols you’re looking for. It’s also completely possible to create a family crest using inanimate objects as well! Some possibilities for this category include an anchor (symbolizing salvation and hope), an anvil (symbolizing honor), a book (symbolizing learning and knowledge), and a castle (symbolizing spiritual strength, vigilance, home, and safety).


Understanding The Elements Of A Coat Of Arms


If you’ve spent any amount of time researching what it takes to create a coat of arms, you might be wondering why the timelines from reputable companies such as Fine Legacy are so extensive. After all, can’t you just march down to the mall and buy a coat of arms for your last name from the cardigan-wearing guy at the kiosk? Why should you have to wait several weeks, participating in meetings, phone calls, and revisions, just to create a coat of arms with us?

There are a couple of things that might surprise you about the process of creating a coat of arms. First, the design of your coat of arms isn’t decided by your last name. While the family history associated with your surname will certainly help you make decisions about what to include in your document, a coat of arms has always and will forever be a way to identify an individual. You can draw a sense of pride or even imitate elements of the coat of arms your father used, but ultimately, your coat of arms cannot be and will not be exactly the same. (This is what the guy at the mall kiosk just doesn’t understand, because he’s not really interested in accuracy. Just making the sale.)

The second reason that creating a coat of arms is a more involved process than you might have expected is that there are a lot of elements to design! Let’s take a look at some of the basic elements of a coat of arms as well as some of the things that can be optional depending on your personal tastes.


Essential Elements Of A Coat Of Arms

  1. Shield – In medieval times, coats of arms were always painted on a knight’s shield to help identify him as well as the family for whom he was fighting at the time. Since shields are no longer a part of our modern attire, the shield is now represented in the coat of arms. The placement and colors depicted in the shield tell a story about the origin of its owner.
  2. Crest – As we detailed in a previous post about family crests and their meanings, the crest is typically located right under the motto and on top of the helm/helmet, if included. The crest is considered to be a three-dimensional symbol that marks an achievement of the owner of the coat of arms. Crests are most typically animals, religious symbols, or flora. Crests are not unique to a family or individual, which is why common symbols appear over and over throughout coat of arms history.
  3. Motto – The motto is entirely the invention of whoever commissioned the coat of arms. This means it can be any phrase or series of words that holds meaning for you or your family. The motto is always located in a banner at the very top of the coat of arms.
  4. Supporters – These are two elements–usually animals or people–that adorn either side of your chosen shield. As their name suggests, these elements provide visual support for the entire coat of arms design, and usually help tell the story of how the coat of arms came to be.

Additional Elements Of A Coat Of Arms

While the above-mentioned elements can typically be found in every coat of arms, there are other elements that only appear at the discretion of the designer or commissioner.

  1. Helm/Helmet – As you might imagine for a symbol that was created for knights, coats of arms often include a medieval helmet of some sort. The helmet style may vary with the bearer’s (or in this case, commissioner’s) rank, the century being represented, or the artist’s preference. When a helmet is included, the crest is typically placed on top of it.
  2. Wreath/Torse – This element looks a lot like ribbon or colored rope, and usually consists of the primary coat of arms color and metal. The wreath or torse serves two purposes in your coat of arms: masking the empty space between helm and crest, and holding the mantling in place.
  3. Mantle/Mantling – According to some heraldry experts, the mantle or mantling is said to represent the cloth that traditionally hung from the wreath on a knight’s armor and was used to protect the head and neck. In modern coat of arms designs, the mantling often looks more like leaves or ivy and is primarily used to add color and complexity.

Things You Need Before You Can Create A Coat Of Arms


We’re so glad you’ve found Fine Legacy in your search to learn more about creating a crest and coat of arms for your family. If you’re reading our blog, it’s probably because you’re hoping to learn more about the process for creating a coat of arms and exactly what you can expect from Fine Legacy during this historical adventure.

It’s important to us that you know we strive to uphold the strongest corporate ethics and customer services standards in the business. There are lots of websites out there that claim they will let you create a coat of arms “in minutes” for “next to nothing,” but we caution you against throwing in your lot with these inexperienced outfits. Just like medieval knights had to be careful when pledging their allegiance to a noble family and agreeing to wear their emblems, you must be careful when choosing a company to help you create a coat of arms. The wrong decision could leave you with less money and a bad taste in your mouth.

Here at Fine Legacy, we’ve mapped out an in-depth process for creating a coat of arms so that your satisfaction is guaranteed every step of the way. Keep reading to discover what we’ll expect from you when you start to create a coat of arms with Fine Legacy.

Creating A New Coat Of Arms Vs. Completing An Existing Document

First, let’s talk about the two different ways we help families create a coat of arms. We service both clients who have an existing coat of arms but want to update or complete it, as well as clients who have no known coat of arms but would like to create an heirloom piece for their family.

Things You’ll Need To Begin Creating Your Coat Of Arms

Regardless of whether you’re finishing/revising a coat of arms or starting from scratch, there are some things we’d like you to think about before the process begins.

  1. Family Documents – Creating a coat of arms is a significant undertaking upon the parts of both the artist and the family member who commissions it. Here at Fine Legacy, we’re very concerned with historical accuracy and making sure that we honor the ancient tradition of heraldry. That’s why we may request family documents that support claims of lineage, such as birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, and photographs.
  2. Heraldic Preferences – While many elements of your coat of arms are decided by the history of your family, that’s not to say that you can take creative license with some of the symbols. If you have heraldic preferences about what to include or not include in the coat of arms, we’ll need it in writing early on in the process.
  3. Family Motto – One of the most important parts of creating a coat of arms is identifying and preserving a family motto. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you’ve no doubt heard their fictional family mottos repeated over and over, almost like mantras. If your family already has a motto, we can include it when creating your coat of arms, or, if you’d like to branch out, you can create a new family motto that’s all your own. Either way we’ll need to know what it is before your coat of arms will be complete!

Fine Legacy Is Your Full-Service Partner In Creating A Coat Of Arms

Remember, this list of things you’ll need before you can start creating a coat of arms isn’t set in stone. While knowing all of the answers up front may speed up the process, we understand that you may be unsure about how to find some of these things or make some of these decisions. Not to worry! Fine Legacy is your full-service partner in creating a coat of arms. That’s why we’re very hands on throughout the entire process, offering personal consultations and plenty of chances for revision.

Contact us today to get started!

How To Properly Use Your Coat Of Arms


Fine Legacy is on a mission to help people create a coat of arms for their family. We aim to achieve the best possible customer service satisfaction, which not only means educating people about what a coat of arms really is, but also walking them through the step-by-step process of choosing elements for their unique coat of arms commission.

People are often surprised that creating a coat of arms with Fine Legacy is such an in-depth process. Unlike the people selling coats of arms at the mall or via online DIY creation tools, we’re dedicated to helping people understand both the history and purpose of coats of arms, helping them to create a legacy that can be a point of pride for their family members.

Part of that is educating people on how they can properly use their coats of arms after they’re created. You might be surprised to learn that there are rules of etiquette governing this sort of thing!

Using Your Coat Of Arms Isn’t As Simple As You May Think

Creating a coat of arms continues a centuries-old tradition and should not be taken lightly. The same goes for using your coat of arms, which heraldic etiquette dictates should never occur in a casual manner. There are also some restrictions on which family members can wield the coat of arms, which however outdated, are still worthy of note.


Ways You MAY Use Your Coat Of Arms

  • It is appropriate to use the coat of arms created through Fine Legacy in the following ways:
  • Engraved or embossed on wedding invitations, birth and death announcements, or other formal familial correspondence IF the father’s family bears the coat of arms and his name appears on the documents.
  • Engraved or embossed on place cards or menu cards for a formal dinner hosted by the family who owns the crest.
  • Engraved on large pieces of silver servingware.
  • Painted (or these days, printed), framed and hung on the wall for decoration.
  • A lozenge (diamond-shaped version of the shield) may be engraved or emblazoned on a woman’s personal possessions such as a handkerchief, dressing-table accessories, or writing paper (the coat of arms would traditionally belong to her father or husband).

Ways You MAY NOT Use Your Coat Of Arms

There are few hard and fast rules about what you can’t do with your coat of arms, especially in these modern times, but rest assured, if you make a faux pas, purists won’t hesitate to tell you about it. Although there’s no such thing as the “coat of arms police” the best rule of thumb is to only use your coat of arms in formal situations that involve your family directly.

Want to get starting creating your own coat of arms? Contact Fine Legacy today. We’ll let you know all the documentation and information that’s needed for the design process to begin. Also, don’t forget that we have a full selection of formal “treasures” on which your coat of arms can be beautifully displayed. These include works of art, timepieces, and signet rings.

Does Every Surname Have A Family Crest?


Family crest and coat of arms are often used interchangeably in the world of genealogy artifacts, but the truth is that this isn’t quite correct. As we detailed in a past post about the difference in meanings behind family crests and coats of arms, they are not two separate things but rather one is an essential element of the other. Most coats of arms include a “crest” above the helm, often an animal or some other symbol that’s important to the family.

What Is A Family Crest, Anyway?


Also, the term “family crest” isn’t quite accurate either. While crests are an essential elements of the coat of arms associated with a particular family, it’s common for many different surnames to choose similar crests. The crest is just one symbolic element of the coat of arms, and not necessarily unique to one family. So it’s just a “crest,” not a “family crest.”

Now that we’ve got that little bit of semantic confusion out of the way, let’s try to answer what we think the real question is here. That is, “Does every surname have its own coat of arms?” You see, when most people first contact Fine Legacy, they’re interested in recreating a coat of arms that they feel belongs to their name. They’re seeking unity and a sense of respect for their family lineage. While these are noble causes, it’s important to remember that coats of arms were historically bestowed upon individuals, not surnames. That means that two men sharing a last name could march under the banner of two very different coats of arms. It’s interesting to note, however, that even though coats of arms could vary between surnames, the crest included in each one tends to be passed down through generations.

Does My Family Have A Coat Of Arms?

It should be clear now that the answer to this question is a resounding, “maybe.” While it’s very possible that someone in your family has already gone through the trouble of researching past coats of arms used by your family, the truth is this may not have happened in centuries. Also, while it’s not what you’ll hear from the guy selling coats of arms at the mall kiosk, there’s no such thing as just ONE coat of arms for a surname. So even if your name is Brown, it’s completely possible that there are multiple coats of arms and family crests associated with your surname.

If You Don’t Like Your Family Crest Or Coat Of Arms, We Can Change It!

All of this somewhat confusing information is simply to let you know that if you can’t find a crest or coat of arms for your family tree, Fine Legacy can help you create one. Since the dawn of the practice, coats of arms have always been commissioned which means you’re completely free to tell us what elements you want in your crest or coat of arms, and we’ll design it!

Find out the unique sense of pride and belonging that can come from creating a symbol that represents your historical roots, as well as where you hope to lead your family some day. Contact Fine Legacy today.

3 Reasons To Find Your Family Crest This Holiday Season


The holiday season is upon us, which means that many people have already begun making their shopping lists and checking them twice. First, you have to decide which friends and family members will be receiving gifts from you this year. Then, you’ll have to decide which gift will bring them the most joy.

At Fine Legacy, we’d like to invite you to think outside the Big Box stores this year. Sure, it’s really easy to hop online, grab a few of the “safe” gifts that people give their Mom, Dad, Uncle, Ant, or Cousin this time of year, punch in your credit card number (springing for the professional wrapping, of course), and call it a day. But think of how much more joy you could spread by finding your family crest and giving a meaningful present that your loved ones will treasure forever?

Many Gifts Are Temporary, Your Family Crest Is Forever

These days, everyone seems to be clamoring for flashy technology and sexy devices. These gifts are expensive and quite amazing, but their luster doesn’t last very long. Not to mention that they’re almost completely devoid of any significant meaning. Unless you just really have a thing for planned obsolescence. Unlike these gifts, which quickly lose their value as well as their appeal, finding your family crest will be a meaningful adventure. At its end, you’ll have a family heirloom that can be passed down through the generations, just like the original family crests from medieval times.

Inspiring The True Sentiment Of The Season

Though it has been completely taken over by consumerism as of late, one could argue that the true meaning of the season–gratitude, generosity, love for family–is perfectly supported by the act of finding your family crest. Here are just a few things that our clients tell us they often experience during and after the process of finding their family crest.

When You Find Your Family Crest You Will…


Remember Where You Came From

The most important element of finding your family crest revolves around understanding your lineage. This means diving deep into your family tree, discovering where your ancestors came from and what they did there. After all, if they never found a way to make it out of the Middle Ages, you and those you love probably wouldn’t exist!

Spark Interesting Conversations

Politics, religion, your niece’s newest tattoo, none of these things make for good conversation around the holiday dinner table. However, when you find your family crest with help from Fine Legacy, you’ll have a conversation piece that everyone can get excited about!

Meaningful Fine Art For Your Home

Sure, you could go to Target and grab a piece of commercially-produced “art” for your living room, but when you find your family crest, it’s an opportunity to decorate your home with something much more meaningful.

We hope this post has inspired you to find your own family crest in anticipation of the holidays. Reconnect over something valuable and meaningful instead of wasting your money on another present that will be obsolete before its warranty expires. Contact Fine Legacy today!

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