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Heraldry Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Question: Do coats of arms belong to family names?

No, heraldic achievements or coats of arms are awarded to individuals, not to families. In most countries they traditionally functioned as a form of inheritable property — if you didn’t inherit the family manor, you probably didn’t inherit the right to bear those arms either. Many countries which still have a semi-functioning form of monarchy, such as the United Kingdom and its commonwealth have laws protecting the use of coats of arms, so abuse of those rights can result in legal action. In the United States and other republics which do not have heraldic authorities, things become much less organized; in the United States, coats of arms can be protected under trademark laws if used in business, but anyone may assume arms.

Of course the most popular use of coat of arms in the United States is as a form of folk art based upon family genealogies, where families might display the arms of their ancestors both for decorative purposes and as a way of feeling closer to the past.

Question: Can I get a coat of arms?

If you have ancestors from one of the nations which still issue coats of arms, then you can apply to the heraldic authority there to apply. In the case of the United Kingdom, several thousand dollars will get you an official grant of arms, which will be recorded in the rolls of the College of Arms and be emblazoned by their professional heraldic artists. Click the links below to visit their website:

Question: What are the pantone numbers for the colors used in heraldry?

The colors used in heraldry are not fixed and may vary considerably from coat-of-arms to coat-of-arms. This is one reason why ancient arms utilized a very small number of colors, as use of additional colors would have served only to create confusion. See the article on tincture for more information.

Question: Can you design a coat of arms for me or my company?

If you are an American citizen, I would be more than happy to. Due to legal considerations outside the United States (see above), citizens of nations with heraldic authorities need to seek arms through those authorities. Please click here for more information.