In the realm of sports awards, trophies are a true honor to receive. But kept in display cases following a big win, the joy they impart isn’t experienced on a daily basis. . Championship rings, however, are personal keepsakes that players have for life and can wear regularly as a constant reminder of their rare accomplishment—not to mention bragging rights.The higher profile the sport, the bigger the fame for these rings; the one that reigns over all is most definitely the Super Bowl ring.
Who Creates Super Bowl Rings?
When the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers meet on February 7 for Super Bowl LV, one victorious team will take home rings that memorialize the moment and the season. Chances are, the jewels will be designed and produced by Jostens, which has created 37 of the 54 Super Bowl rings.
The first Super Bowl ring was commissioned by then head coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, in 1967 after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in what was then called the AFL-NFL Championship Game prior to the merger of the two leagues. “He conceived of the idea and approached Jostens to design and produce the ring,” said Chris Poitras, general manager and VP of Pro Sports for the Minneapolis-based company.
The ring was modest by today’s standards but it told the story of the team’s championship season. It consisted of a one carat diamond that centered an outline of a globe in white gold, which Poitras says “was meant to represent the coming together of the two leagues to play in the first ever world championship.”
Since then, the rings have grown progressively larger, bolder and blingier. The stories have become much more elaborate, and the gems used to tell the stories number in the hundreds. Poitras says, “They have risen as fine pieces of art and jewelry.” He also notes that the size and details of the rings have increased as the NFL franchises have flourished into multi-billion -dollar businesses.
“When you look back on the early years, we were trying to tell the story of the season within the history of the organization with simple stone alignments,” he said. “As these businesses became iconic brands, they wanted their logos expressed in the best possible way. The number of stones increased because of this.”
Poitras says that now, Jostens primarily works with the team owners when creating the design. The company presents different concepts to the owners then meets weekly, presenting hard samples until finalization. This lasts about six to eight weeks.
Philadelphia Eagles Chairman and CEO, Jeffrey Lurie, discovered it was more difficult than he anticipated. “I never really thought of the details that were required. You go through so much during a season. When you’re looking back 20 years from now, what do you want to have signified with that ring? What are the statements that you want to make about the team, about the season, about the kinds of players and coaches that we had? … How do you want to be remembered 20 years from now?”
Crafting the rings takes another six to eight weeks and combines modern manufacturing methods, such as 3D Printing and CAD/CAM, with artisan techniques. All of the work is performed at Jostens’ facilities in North America. The initial design and prototype work is done at its Eagan, Minn., facility. The rings are then manufactured at its Denton, Texas, plant. The hand-craftsmanship is completed at its workshop in Quebec, Canada.
“These rings are like a big jigsaw puzzle with upwards of 120 pieces,” Poitras said. “It’s easy to make one ring but to replicate that ring 500 to 1,000 times is more difficult.”
How Much Does a Super Bowl Ring Cost?
The NFL allots about $5,000 for up to 150 rings. Then the owners take over, creating rings that are much higher in cost and often adding rings for other important people in the organization. Although Jostens won’t reveal the costs of rings, it is said that the New England Patriots ring for Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 featured 205 diamonds and reportedly cost $36,500 a pop. It’s likely safe to say that by now, that figure has been surpassed.
Super Bowl Rings: Stories Told Through Diamonds
The diamonds on Super Bowl rings are the main vehicle for telling the stories of the year’s champs and their game. The most common image on the rings is also one of the more tedious items to reproduce: the Tiffany & Co.-created sterling silver Vince Lombardi Trophy awarded each year to the winning team; set on a triple concave-sided stand, it depicts a football in a kicking position.
Of course, the specific story on each year’s ring is always different. For example, the bezel of the Philadelphia Eagles ring for its Super Bowl LII victory depicts a single trick play known as the Philly Special through a “waterfall” of 127 diamonds, a number representing the total of the jersey numbers of the three players who executed it—running back Corey Clement (30), tight end Trey Burton (88) and quarterback Nick Foles (9). Poitras says to the best of his knowledge it is the only time a single play was immortalized on a Super Bowl ring.
The Green Bay Packers Super Bowl XLV ring in 2010 used diamonds to tell various stories about the celebrated franchise. Four marquise stones on each corner of the ring represent its number of victorious Super Bowls. The “G” logo contains 13 diamonds to represent the number of world championships won by the franchise in its history. The total number of diamonds—92— represents the number of years that franchise was in existence at that time.
For the Miami Dolphins Super Bowl VII ring in 1972, 16 round diamonds circle a one carat round diamond, which details its 17-0 season.
The Chicago Bears Super Bowl XX ring in 1985 may be most notable for having the largest Super Bowl ring ever produced. The reported size 25 ring was made to fit the finger of defensive lineman, William “The Refrigerator” Perry.
New England was credited for placing the most diamonds on a ring…twice. Its Super Bowl LI ring from 2017 boasted 283 diamonds, a number symbolizing the team’s 28-3 third quarter deficit against the Atlanta Falcons. (New England won the game in overtime marking the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.)
That record was smashed by the Patriots for its Super Bowl LIII ring, which had an average of 416 of round diamonds and six marquise-cut diamonds totaling 8.25 carats.
Depicting the six Vince Lombardi Trophies it has won over the years, the Patriot’s Super Bowl LIII ring uses a rare fancy marquise-cut diamond for the shape of the football and brilliant round diamonds for the stand (these two diamond cuts, with the latter often pavé-set, are most common in Super Bowl rings). “It’s the largest super bowl and championship ring ever made,” Poitras said. “It’s a masterpiece.”
Super Bowl Rings: Beyond Diamonds
It’s worth noting that Super Bowl rings are so large and heavy with gems that 10k gold is used to provide proper support, as opposed to higher karat gold, which could be too soft to support the size and weight.
Colored gems are used primarily for the colors of the team logo, which is often another extremely difficult aspect of creating the ring, Poitras said. “Teams never consult with us before they design a logo,” he joked. “It’s easy to produce a logo on paper and jerseys but to make it come to life with gold, diamonds and other materials is a bit more difficult. We do find a way to do it.”
The rings are usually presented in June when teams begin practicing for the next season. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the rings for the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl LIV victory were presented to players and families in September in a private ceremony with masks and social distancing on the field at Arrowhead Stadium. Most of the staff were handed their rings in a drive through ceremony.
“I can’t say that we’ve ever done that before,” says Poitras.
Sports and jewelry fans everywhere can’t wait to see what this year’s ring has in store…