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Torah Breastplate Design

About to start an ambitious project - creation of a torah

Has anyone in our esteemed audience made one before? Any design
issues you would care to discuss?

And hello to all from Denver, Colorado.

Mark Zirinsky

Hello, Mark, I dont know if this helps, but I ran across a
reference in the GIA colored stone lesson #14 pg.18 regarding
birthstones. " The book of Exodus reports God’s instructions for
making a High Priest’s vestments. These included a plaque called
the “Breastplate of Judgement” set with 12 stones, each engraved
with one of the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. Could this be
the same breastplate? Curious - Linda B.

Hello Mark in Denver, Seems to me that there was an article where
someone did a breastplate with stones in an old issue of “Gems
and Minerals”, probably a High Priest thing.

I polished a few in the last years and if you want a little
dicussion contact me off line.


On your behalf, I contacted a dear friend of mine in regard to
your problem, and, though he is too occupied at present to get
invovled directly he sent this note:

Hi, Joe-

This fellow needs to do a little homework. I suggest that he
visit a synagogues (or several) and see how breastplates are
assembled. He may also wish to check out “Encyclopedia of Jewish
Symbols” by Ellen Frankel and Betsy Plotkin Teutsch, available
from Betsy Plotkin Teutsch, 629 West Cliveden Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19119-3651 (original list price was $35 +

Specific considerations:

(1) Dimensions of the specific torah for which its being made
(eg. spacing between torah spindles; diameter of each spindle;
distance from spindles to front edge of torah; distance from top
of torah mantle, etc. Overall height and width of torah). These
measurements will help him determine level at which torah
breastplate is to hang.)

(2) the chain or stirrup on which the breastplate hangs must lie
flat where it passes around the spindles atop the torah
(especially if there are rimonim that go over spindles).

(3) Will there be a yad as part of the ‘suite’? If so, at what
level will it hang in relation to breastplate? (above it? on it?
beside it?)

(4) Consider how you want the breastplate to look while its in
the ark. It should adorn, not overwhelm, the torah. If there
are other torahs in the ark, will the new breastplate 'fit in’

(5) What is material and design of the torah mantle (cover)? An
ultra-modern breastplate against an antique, hand embroidered
background may be visually unsuccessful.

(6) MOST IMPORTANT!!! Determine the party (or parties) with
whom/to whom design negotions must be conducted, and BE PREPARED!
Often, there is a committee, and it is amazing how frequently
many committee members suddenly turn into artists and begin to
dictate how THEY feel the design process should go. A written,
signed contract which spells out number of designs/alterations,
retainer fee, payment schedule, etc. will surely prove very
useful. The road to ruin is strewn with the carcasses of the
well- intentioned! The more specific it is, the fewer the
problems which are likely to arise.

I hope this is of some help JZD

I have made numerous Torah breastplates before, all in sterling,
most with bezel set I tried to use those stones
mentioned in the Bible, but found a few impossible to find or
even interpret. I then tried to make the numbers of them
significant to some aspect of Jewish liturgy or custom. Most of
the commercially made items today, as you probably know are
stamped out with a few added bells, chains, etc. They are
replicas of the hand chased ones made centuries ago. I make more
contemporary models, with some traditional details. They all
have jewish symbolism in the design. They have all been done in
lost wax casting, except for the fabricated chain. Are you
making this for a specific commission? I have only done a couple
that I kept around in hopes that some congregation might buy it.
The rest were all commissioned, and I had to work with various
committees to work out the design, cost, etc. In addition, I made
the rimmonim, which are the decorative covers for the spindles
the Torah is rolled on, and the pointer or “yod” used to keep
place as the Torah is read. (for our non-Jewish friends) Please
contact me if you have any questions.

Ruth Shapiro

Check out “The Curious Lore of Precious Stones,” GEORGE
FREDERICK KUNZ, originally published 1913, in its nth reprint.
Kunz devotes many pages to the High Priest’s Breastplates and,
in fact, quotes the Exodus description.