The fleur-de-lis (also spelled fleur-de-lys) is a religious, political, and cultural symbol that has been a significant visual for centuries. The name comes from French and translates to “flower of the lily” (or simply “lily flower”). Some feel that despite its name, the fleur-de-lis is actually derived from an iris. The fleur-de-lis is often colored yellow or gold, and although lilies are never yellow, irises can be. Additionally, there is a visual similarity between the fleur-de-lis and the iris, though this connection raises a mystery regarding the link to the lily and the origin of the name.
Fleurs-de-lis feature three “petals” that have taken on different significances depending on what group is utilizing the symbol. For the Christian religion, the three parts usually represent the Trinity: God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Because of the link to the lily, which is associated with virtue, the fleur-de-lis has also stood for the purity of the Virgin Mary. Although the fleur-de-lis is not seen as frequently in religious emblems as other symbols like the cross or a heart, it has often appeared in religious contexts, such as stained glass windows in many churches. Reportedly, Clovis I, who in the 5th century became the first Catholic king to rule France, used the fleur-de-lis as his royal designation because it came to him from an angel, though there is no actual evidence why he chose the fleur-de-lis. The crest of Pope Paul VI also prominently displayed the fleurs-de-lis.
The origin of the fleur-de-lis is not exactly known. Although it wasn’t used extensively in royal and political realms until the 12th century with King Philippe II in France, many think that the symbol goes back to ancient civilizations. Similar, though slightly different, designs of stylized flowers appear in the artifacts of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. However, once Philippe II began using the fleur-de-lis, it became a consistent visual in royal iconography, especially in France and England. For different periods, the flag of France included the fleur-de-lis in its design – even as recently as 1830. Many other countries, cities, and republics have incorporated the symbol into their identity, as well, including Scotland, Finland, Bosnia, and Florence, Italy.
The fleur-de-lis, due to its unique appearance and historical character, has also been used by many outside of politics and religion. It has been adopted by countless families into their official crest of arms. It is especially prevalent in French aristocracy and in regions that have a background with French people and culture, such as New Orleans (the New Orleans Saints football team features a fleur-de-lis on their helmets) and Canada (the official flag of the province of Quebec shows four fleurs-de-lis and a white cross). Besides the New Orleans Saints, the symbol appears on many sports uniforms, often as a secondary patch or logo. The Boy Scouts insignia usually features a fleur-de-lis of some kind. The emblem of the Boy Scouts of America, for example, features a fleur-de-lis behind an eagle holding a stars and stripes shield.
Silver Mine Gifts offers an array of sterling silver items with the fleur-de-lis symbol, from pendants to pill boxes to bracelets as well as numerous other products.