Now that they’ve won the Super Bowl, the Green Bay Packers have another challenge on their hands, literally – designing their championship rings. First step in the process was accomplished before the game even began.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy had the team measured for their rings on Saturday night. “I wish I’d have made a bigger deal out of it,” McCarthy said at a press conference on Monday. “I thought it would give us a boost of confidence to do it the night before the game.”
Measuring for a championship ring before the game may seem like an act of confidence but the team had to be measured anyway. Even the losers of a Super Bowl get rings.
If the Steelers had won, their ring might have looked something like this (left), the one designed for them by Jostens after their 2009 Super Bowl win. The Steelers will get championship rings again this year but the Packers will get the serious bling.
Championship rings have come a long way on the bling scale since the Packers, coached by Vince Lombardi, won the first Super Bowl in 1966. Their ring (top right) cost about $750 with a one-karat diamond and looked more like a high school class ring than the blinding door knockers that typify today’s championship rings.
Last year, the New Orleans Saints had their Super Bowl championship rings designed by Tiffany & Co. with 44 diamonds designating the 44th Super Bowl, 16 more on the face to represent 16 wins of the 2009 season, and a .06-carat sparkler at the center of a fleur de lis – which they opted for instead of the usual Lombardi Trophy.
On one side of the Saints ring: NFL shield, Super Bowl logo, game score, date and location. On the other: the player’s name, number and position, a skyline with Superdome, Carnival float, and musical notes from “When the Saints Go Marching In.” But wait, there’s more! Underneath are inscriptions of the team’s mottos: Be Special, Finish, Smell Greatness.
Even with all that, Tiffany managed to produce a tasteful design, as championship rings go.
You can bet the Packers’ rings will have at least that many references and even more diamonds. Like all Super Bowl rings, theirs will be worth a lot more than they cost to make.
Each year, the NFL shells out $1,125,000 for Super Bowl championship rings – $750,000 to the winning team and $375,000 to the losers. That covers the cost of 150 rings for each team – one for each player and one for the main woman in their lives – wife, girlfriend or mom. The Green Bay Packers will have up to $5,000 to spend per ring. The Steelers will get about half that.
As we all know, five grand does not go as far as it once did – especially with gold at almost $1400/ounce. Tiffany absorbed the additional expense for the Saints’ rings, but recouped at least some of that by selling fan jewelry and commemorative items priced from $100 to $4,000.
The rings themselves are worth far more than they cost to make. Last fall, the Saints raffled off one of those Tiffany-designed rings and raised nearly $1.4 million to benefit people affected by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Last year’s Super Bowl rings were produced in 14kt gold and weighed about two ounces on average. But Bob Bourbeau, who’s been producing championship rings for nearly 40 years with Masters of Design, says it’s not unheard of for a pro ball player to wear a size 20 – twice the size of the average man’s ring.
“Those size 20 rings are not necessarily going to get bigger diamonds but there is a lot more gold,” Bourbeau says with a laugh. “That’s probably 65 penny weight, which is more than three full ounces.”
In the past, both Packers and Steelers have gone with Jostens, a company that specializes in class rings, like Masters of Design. But big-league teams have been known to switch to designers with more cachet. After designing the Phillies’ World Series championship rings in 2009, Masters of Design was expecting to start on the Lakers’, whose rings they’d been designing for years, but the team went with Jason of Beverly Hills instead.
Championship rings are a fickle but lucrative business, which is why so many firms are trying to land them. They garner publicity you can’t buy, even with a Super Bowl commercial. Of course, you’re being asked to make a potentially hideous piece of jewelry. “They all go for big and glitzy,” Bourbeau says. “We never go into an opportunity like this without understanding that this is going to be a challenge. You’ve got to fit so many elements into the ring and still make it manufacturable and somewhat appealing.”
He admits many of the designs end up over the top, but he works hard to land them. “We look at this as a great adventure but it’s also a great responsibility,” says Bourbeau. “On the teletron, they showed each ring in 3000x size, so if there are any flaws and mistakes, you’re in trouble.”