The NBA Finals, Copa America, and the UEFA European Championships are already well underway. Each of these tournaments feature teams comprised of the finest players in the world, duking it out and giving it their all. But what are they giving it all for, exactly? Some play for personal or national pride, while others play for fame and fortune. However, many of the great ones will tell you they’re in it for the championship trophy. The trophy defines careers, cements legacies, and encapsulates the drive and sacrifice necessary to reach the top. In a way, it seems as though the things it symbolizes are more thoughtfully reflected on than the hardware itself. Drenched in champagne and confetti, it can be easy to overlook the beauty and craftsmanship of the sports world’s metallic mementos. However, in this week’s blog, we’ll turn our attention away from the athletes and take a closer look at the trophies that commemorate the greatest feats in sports.
Silver is the New Gold
The Vince Lombardi Trophy, awarded each year to the NFL team that wins the Super Bowl, is among the most iconic trophies in sports. However, despite the commonly held association between gold and first place, the Lombardi trophy is actually made from giant sheets of high-grade sterling silver. In fact, just about every major sports trophy is forged or cast using silver. The NHL’s Stanley Cup is comprised of a mixture of silver and nickel alloys. You may also be surprised to know how labor-intensive the trophy-making process can be. A team of skilled silversmiths forge, spin, grind, engrave, and polish their way to a finished Lombardi trophy over the course of four months. You may also be surprised to discover that Tiffany & Co., the iconic jewelry company, is tasked with creating this piece of Americana. In addition to the Lombardi trophy, Tiffany & Co. also makes the Larry O’Brien trophy and the Commissioner’s trophy, awarded to the NBA Finals and World Series winners, respectively.
The Beautiful Game’s Beautiful Hardware
GDE Bertoni is another notable company involved in the trophy trade. Located in Milan, Italy, Bertoni makes trophies and medals for some of the world’s most prestigious sporting events. Two in particular stand out. The first is the FIFA World Cup, soccer’s top prize and perhaps the most recognized of all sporting trophies. The other, and perhaps the more interesting of the two, is the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) Champions League trophy. While no trophy commands attention quite like the World Cup, winning the UEFA Champions League carries tremendous prestige. The trophy is made of silver and weighs an obscene 17 pounds. Its defining features are its wide, curved body and its oversized handles. It’s no wonder that the trophy is affectionately referred to as La Orejona, or “big-eared one” in Spanish.
Crafting a trophy of that size, and getting every detail just right, can certainly prove to be a challenge. Overcoming those challenges for the last 25 years, Guerrino Giorgi, a seasoned craftsman for GDE Bertoni, oversees the production of La Orejona. Knowing full well what gives this trophy its identity and charm, he takes it upon himself to forge the handles himself. The process takes over two weeks. “It’s the hardest part,” he says.
This year, Spanish superpower Real Madrid, led by international megastar Cristiano Ronaldo, took home the UEFA Champions League title. This is Real Madrid’s 11th league championship, a feat for the ages to be sure. But one has to wonder: While soaking in the scene, clutching La Orejona by its trademark handles, did Cristiano Ronaldo take a moment to admire the craftsmanship of the trophy he had worked so hard to earn?