An exceptional, fine and impressive, rare, antique English sterling silver Torah breastplate; an addition to our Judaica silverware collection.
This exceptional antique George V English sterling silver Torah breastplate has a rectangular rounded shaped form.
The subtly convex surface of the breastplate is ornamented with hallmarked cast and applied elements depicting columns decorated with bird designs, surmounted with crowned lion supporters to a coronet design; the coronet is surmounted with a Star of David*
The centre of the breastplate bears a compartment fitted with two hinged hallmarked doors, modelled in the form of the Tablets of Stone**, securing with a swivel catch.
The compartment is encompassed with an impressive cast scrolling leaf decorated border.
The hinged doors open to reveal an ornamental scroll design depicting a Star of David with the central engraved Hebrew character for Hashem***, in addition to the original gilding.
The lower portion of this Torah breastplate is ornamented with a hallmarked cast and applied oval festival plaque holder embellished with an impressive floral and foliate decorated border.
The body of this exceptional sterling silver breastplate is embellished with a broad embossed scrolling foliate decorated border, accented with three hallmarked silver gilt bells to the lower edge.
The piece is suspended from three linked chains, conjoined at the upper portion with a loop ring.
The reverse of the piece features the original hallmarked screwfitments; these secure the aforementioned applied ornaments in situ.
* The Star of David can also be referred to as the Shield of David or Magen David and is a recognised symbol of Judaism.
** The Tablets of Stone (Hebrew: לוחות הברית Luchot HaBrit - 'the tablets [of] the covenant') can be found in the Hebrew Bible, Exodus 34:1. These were the two pieces of stone inscribed by Moses on Mount Sinai, with the Ten Commandments; later in Exodus they are referenced to as Tablets of the Testimony.
*** The fifth letter of the Semitic abjads, known as He (Hebrew: Hē ה), with the added geresh forms the word Hei (ה׳). This is used as an abbreviation for Heshem, which means 'The Name' and in Judaism this represents the name of God.
NOTE: The breastplate (Hebrew: ḥoshen mishpat) can be categorised as both a Torah ornament and Jewish ceremonial art. They are functional ornamental metal plates/shields which are suspended in front of the Torah scroll.
In the 17th century the breastplate was classically square or rectangular, however in the 18th century this developed to become more rounded with decorative borders. Further embellishments such as bells and small dedicatory plaques were suspended from the lower edge. These design features were influenced by the Torah Ark (Hebrew: aron kodesh or aron ha-kodesh) and the parokhet (curtain) which are used to concealing the Torah.
Some Jewish communities keep their Torah scrolls in a case (tik), whereas others may use the breastplate as more than just an ornament, with interchangeable plaques for the occasions Torah readings and festivals. Typically small interchangeable plaques would be kept in the special holder fixed in the center of the breastplate.