A balance is a weighing instrument, consisting of a lever arm with two pans. Though often used in medieval commerce, it’s best known as one of the attributes of the Roman goddess Justitia (Justice), and is thus a symbol of justice and fairness.
Sometimes the balance is loosely termed “a set of scales”, though in strict fact the scales are simply the balance arm and pans alone; since scales have been registered as charges in their own right, it’s best to use the correct term.
Two forms of the balance are found in Society armory. The form found in medieval armory is the “hand balance” or “hanging balance”, with a handle to chief; it’s found in the allusive arms (Latin iustus, “just”) of di Iusti, mid-15th C. [Triv 180]. As the period form of the charge, the hanging balance is now considered the default balance for Society armory, although it’s often blazoned explicitly.
Standing balance (Disallowed)
Society armory also has the “standing balance” on a pedestal, a modern symbol of the legal profession. This form is always specified in blazon. With no examples from period, either as an artifact or in period armory, the standing balance is no longer permitted for Society use.
Marcus Parvus Constantinopolitanus bears: Gules, three standing balances argent.
Conrad Tolbert Regnault bears: Azure, a sword proper supporting on its point a pair of scales Or.
Theodore Barrister bears: Vert, a hanging balance and a chief Or.
An athanor is a high-temperature furnace, specifically designed to heat alchemical vessels at constant temperatures for long periods. It is therefore frequently shown with a flask (such as a retort) atop it, which fact is always blazoned. (Without the flask, the athanor is indistinguishable from a tower.)
Though a period artifact, we have no examples of the athanor in period heraldry; the illustration is from a 1545 translation of the writings of Geber [Singer 739]. For related charges, see oven.
The Order of the Athanor, of Meridies, bears: A retort atop an athanor argent.
Luu Naran bears: Sable, a retort atop an athanor, in sinister chief a cross moline, a bordure Or.
An astrolabe is an astronomical instrument; it was used for surveying the positions of the stars and planets, and calculating sidereal time. The device is period – Chaucer wrote a “Treatise on the Astrolabe” c.1391, in which he translated earlier Moslem texts – but no examples of it have been found in period armory. In Society heraldry, the astronomer’s astrolabe is granted no difference from a roundel.
Mariner’s astrolabe (Accepted)
A simplified form of astrolabe, the “mariner’s astrolabe”, was used for navigation; it’s distinguished by large holes in the plate, so the wind wouldn’t interfere with surveying. While it too was a period artifact, dating from Portugal c.1480, no armorial examples have been found.
An abacus is a device for counting and calculating, consisting of rows of sliding beads. While similar apparati may have been used in Roman times, they’d fallen out of use by the Middle Ages, replaced by the counting table; thus no examples of the abacus have been found in period armory. The abacus used in Society armory is the Oriental version, called suan pan by the Chinese, soroban by the Japanese; it is explicitly blazoned as an “Oriental abacus”. As a non-European artifact, its use is considered a step from period practice.
The abacus is fesswise by Society default.
Walter Faversham bears: Per chevron embattled argent and vert, two wooden Oriental abacuses proper and a thunderbolt Or.
Reinhardt Breitenbach bears: Per pale gules and Or, an Oriental abacus counterchanged.
Carwyn O’Hirwen bears: Per pall Or ermined azure, sable and vert, an Oriental abacus argent.