Shardplate is magically-enhanced plate armor that offers great protection and also massively enhances the wearer's strength, speed and dexterity. A person wearing Shardplate is referred to as Shardbearer. There is one major advantage that Shardplate offers the bearer: it can block a Shardblade.
Shardplate is composed of interlocking plates covering the wearer's entire body. Shardplate is heavy, often requiring assistance to don. Typically, attendants apply the armor from the feet up, due to its weight. However, once on, the armor grants the wearer enhanced strength, enabling Shardbearers to easily bear the weight.
Shardplate protects its wearer more than traditional, non-Plate armor. However, even Shardplate has limits. Extreme stress (i.e., repeated blows from a warhammer, or the like) will crack the armor or even shatter a specific segment of the armor. Shattered Shardplate presents problems to the wearer because the shattered segment not only makes the wearer vulnerable in the area the Plate previously protected, but it can also slow the wearer's movements, since the strength of that part of the wearer's body is no longer enhanced by the armor. Destruction of the breastplate, especially, has been suggested to severely impair the mobility of a Shardbearer.
Stormlight infused gemstones are required to power - and can repair or regenerate - damaged Shardplate. Shardplate appears able to regenerate from virtually any damage so long as enough time and Stormlight are available, even if only a fraction of the armor is retained. Damaged Shardplate leaks Stormlight from its attached gemstones. If damage or exertion manage to empty the gemstones, the armor's enhanced properties will fade away, potentially leaving the Shardbearer immobilized in a suit of Plate that his body can't shift unaided.
It appears that if portions of a single suit of Shardplate are separated and both supplied with Stormlight, the larger or more complete of the two will regrow completely and the smaller will crumble and disappear.
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Mounting a horse while wearing Shardplate could be dangerous to the animal if not done correctly.
Q. Is there a functional/structural difference between modern-day Shardplate and the stuff the Radiants wore? Did the Radiants have to use infused gems to keep their suits going or could they just 'breathe in' Stormlight and feed the suit off of their 'inhaled' reserves?
A. Something is different. You will find out what.