Ermine (heraldry)

Ermine (heraldry)

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Ermine is a heraldic
Heraldry
Heraldry is the profession, study, or art of creating, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol, as exercised by an officer of arms. Heraldry comes from Anglo-Norman herald, from the Germanic compound harja-waldaz, "army commander"...

 fur representing the winter coat of the stoat
Ermine
Ermine has several uses:* A common name for the stoat * The white fur and black tail end of this animal, which is historically worn by and associated with royalty and high officials...

 (white with a black tail). Many skins would be sewn together to make a luxurious garment, producing a pattern of small black spots on a white field. The conventional representation of the tails (commonly called ermine spots) is part of the tincture
Tincture (heraldry)
In heraldry, tinctures are the colours used to emblazon a coat of arms. These can be divided into several categories including light tinctures called metals, dark tinctures called colours, nonstandard colours called stains, furs, and "proper". A charge tinctured proper is coloured as it would be...

 itself, rather than a pattern of charges, though the ermine spot is also used as a single charge
Charge (heraldry)
In heraldry, a charge is any emblem or device occupying the field of an escutcheon . This may be a geometric design or a symbolic representation of a person, animal, plant, object or other device...

 (often as a mark of cadency
Cadency
In heraldry, cadency is any systematic way of distinguishing similar coats of arms belonging to members of the same family. Cadency is necessary in heraldic systems in which a given design may be owned by only one person at once...

). The ermine spot has had a wide variety of shapes over the centuries; its most usual representation has three tufts at the end (bottom), converges to a point at the root (top), and is attached by three studs.

On a bend ermine, the tails follow the line of the bend. In the arms of William John Uncles, the field ermine is cut into bendlike strips by the three bendlets azure, so the ermine tails are (unusually) depicted bendwise.

Ermines is the reverse of ermine – a field sable semé of ermine-spots argent. It is sometimes called counter-ermine (cf. French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 contre-hermine and German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 Gegenhermelin).

Erminois is ermine with a field Or instead of argent, and pean is the reverse of erminois (i.e. Or spots on a field sable).

Erminites is supposed to be the "same as ermine, except that the two lateral hairs of each spot are red." James Parker mentions it, as does Pimbley, though by the former's admission this is of doubtful existence. Arthur Charles Fox-Davies describes it as a "silly [invention] of former heraldic writers, not of former heralds."

Other combinations of tinctures
Tincture (heraldry)
In heraldry, tinctures are the colours used to emblazon a coat of arms. These can be divided into several categories including light tinctures called metals, dark tinctures called colours, nonstandard colours called stains, furs, and "proper". A charge tinctured proper is coloured as it would be...

are explicitly stated, as in "gules ermined argent" (red with white ermine spots).