Tuesday, February 12

The Super Bowl trophy: where Tiffany meets the NFL

The Super Bowl trophy: where Tiffany meets the NFL

Brian A. Shactman , CNBC – 2 days

Outside of the NHL's Stanley Cup, the Vince Lombardi Trophy might be the most recognized trophy in all of sports.

That much you probably already knew. What you probably didn't know: The prize for winning the Super Bowl is seven pounds of sterling silver, handcrafted by jewelry icon Tiffany.

Tiffany, a $4 billion company, has made every Lombardi Trophy dating back to 1967. As the story goes, the original design was sketched on a cocktail napkin in front of then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle.

Tiffany and the NFL might seem like an odd match, but it's not.

"The core mission of the company is to celebrate important moments in people's lives," said Tiffany executive Tom O'Rourke, who has overseen the company's trophy business for almost eight years. "I can't imagine a more important moment for an athlete than receiving the championship trophy on the field after a victory."

The silver itself has a street value of about $3,500. But, if you add in the high-end labor to make it (there is no glue! and its symbolism, the value is a little more difficult to assess.

"I would tell you that the trophy itself is priceless," O'Rourke said. "Whatever monetary value is assigned to the trophy doesn't accurately present the work the athletes have put into it."

The NFL is a customer and does pay for the trophy.

Sources tell CNBC that the Tiffany trophy business, which includes everything from Major League Baseball to PGA golf, is modestly profitable but probably with smaller margins that the rest of its jewelry business.

The NFL trophy is made in a workshop nestled into a distribution center in Parsippany, New Jersey.

"It's like the turn of the century with some of the machines and equipment used," O'Rourke noted.

As you might imagine, the size of the silver sheets is much larger than the average piece used for Tiffany jewelry. Actually, the only place the company has been able to procure sheets of high-grade silver big enough for the Vince Lombardi Trophy is in Italy.

After the silver arrives in New Jersey, the four-month process begins. Old-world terms like blacksmithing, spinning and chasing are following by the final polishes and engravings.

"It's made by local craftspeople that are employing crafts and skills from the 1800s," O'Rourke explained.

Then, the trophy goes to the Hall of Fame for display and returns for a touchup before journeying to the big game itself.

"It does come in a blue box," O'Rourke joked. "Actually, the reality is that the trophy will be in blue felt in a secure box — not a traditional Tiffany box."

After the game, the winning team enjoys the trophy for a while before returning it to Tiffany for a cleaning and a final engraving.

Sometimes, it's a little worse for wear.

"The biggest issue is always the champagne," O'Rourke said.

The biggest party offender? Reportedly, the New Orleans Saints after winning in 2010.

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