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.
While in much of Europe, the quality of silverwork declined during the course of the 19th century, in Vienna the workmanship remained of exceptional quality. This Torah shield stands out among the many fine Tasim fashioned during the last half of that century in Vienna in which technical prowess reached a peak. The ornate, fine work has a luxurious quality that is very much part of the Biedermeier style. The Mayer workshop that crafted this piece is one of the most well-known of the period. The lions were made by a woman silversmith, from whom we know of two Yads as well, one of which is in the Gross Family Collection, 052.001.022. This illustrates the rare, but extant, phenomenon of cooperation between different silversmith shops. This Torah shield is one of the more elaborate examples from the last half of the 19th century.
Inscription: Abbreviations for the Ten Commandments on the Tablets of the Law. Menachem Chaim Eliyahu, May the Lord Sustain Him and Grant Him Favor