The following description was prepared by William Gross:
Breastplates – ornamental metal plates or shields hung in front of the Torah scroll – are found in all Ashkenazi communities, as well as Italy and Turkey, but designed differently in each community. In most cases the breastplate is made of silver or silver-plated metal. In Italy the breastplate is shaped like a half-coronet and known as the Chatzi-keter, "half-crown." In Turkey, the breastplate is called a Tas, and assumes a variety of shapes – circular, triangular, oval, or even the Star of David. In Western, Central, and Eastern Europe the breastplate is called either Tas or Tziz; its function there is not merely ornamental: it designates which Torah scroll is to be used for the Torah reading on any particular occasion, with interchangeable plaques.
The most notable early breastplates, from 17th-century Germany and Holland, were either square or rectangular, but over time they became rounded and decorative, and bells or small dedicatory plaques were suspended from its lower edge. During this period, the design of breastplates was influenced by that of the Torah Ark and the parokhet (curtain) concealing it, featuring various architectural motifs, the menorah (the seven-branched candelabrum), Moses and Aaron, lions, or Torah crowns.
The workmanship in silver for this Tas is simply extraordinairy. The exquisite detailing in the surface repousse and chasing is the work of a master artisan. There is a use of a coat of arms, whose identification is not yet clear. There apparently was a crown above, which is now missing, leaving the two holes by which it was attached. The use of the word "washers" in the inscription to describe the members of the Chevrah Kadisha is very unusual. While it is most certainly what the members of this Holy Confraternity do for the fellow Jews for burial, it is unusual to find it so explicitly stated. Ritual objects belonging to the Chevrah Kadishah have a great status among collectors and institutions.
Inscription: Abbreviations for the Ten Commandments on the Tablets of the Law. Donated from the funds of the Washers of the Dead in the Holy Congregation of Bucarest in the Year (5)486 (= 1826) by thecurrent patrons: the Rav Ya'akov Son of Yosef, May the Lord Sustain and Strengthen Him, and the Rav Aaron Gera Saibi, May the Lord Sustain and Strengthen Him