In heraldry, Or (from the French word for gold) is the tincture of gold and, together with argent (silver), belongs to the class of light tinctures called "metals". In engravings and line drawings, it is hatched using a field of evenly spaced dots. It is very frequently depicted as yellow, though gold leaf was used in many illuminated manuscripts and more extravagant rolls of arms.
The word "gold" is occasionally used in place of Or in blazon, sometimes to prevent repetition of the word Or in a blazon, or because this substitution was in fashion when the blazon was first written down, or when it is preferred by the officer of arms. The use of "gold" for or (and "silver" for argent) was a short-lived fashion amongst certain heraldic writers in the mid-20th century who attempted to "demystify" and popularise the subject of heraldry.
Or is frequently spelled with a capital letter (e.g. Gules, a fess Or) so as not to confuse it with the conjunction or. However, this is incorrect heraldic usage and is not met with in standard reference works such as Burke's General Armory, 1884 and Debrett's Peerage. A correctly stated blazon should eliminate any possible confusion between the tincture or and the conjunction "or", certainly for the reader with a basic competence in heraldry.
Sometimes, the different tinctures are said to be connected with special meanings or virtues, and represent certain elements and precious stones. Even if this is an idea mostly disregarded by serious heraldists throughout the centuries, it may be of anecdotal interest to see what they are, since the information is so often sought after. Many sources give different meanings, but or is usually said to represent the following:
- Of jewels, the topaz
- Of heavenly bodies, the Sun
- Of metals, gold
- Of virtues, Faith or obedience and gentility
- Woodcock, Thomas; Robinson, John Martin (1988). The Oxford Guide to Heraldry. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 54. ISBN 0-19-211658-4.
- Blazon Capitalization
- Woodcock, Thomas; Robinson, John Martin (1988). The Oxford Guide to Heraldry. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 53. ISBN 0-19-211658-4.
- See the table in Woodcock & Robinson (1988), p. 54, compiled from G. Leigh's Accedence of Armory (1562) and Sir John Ferne's The Glory of Generositie (1586).
- Woodcock & Robinson (1988), p. 54, attributed to Johannes de Bado Aureo.
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- Woodcock, Thomas and John Martin Robinson (1988). The Oxford Guide to Heraldry. Oxford: University Press. ISBN 0-19-211658-4