CUMBERLAND, R.I. (WPRI) – Not many people know that one of the most coveted prizes in professional sports is made right here in Rhode Island: the Vince Lombardi trophy, handcrafted at the Tiffany & Co. factory in Cumberland.
The jeweler has been creating the Lombardi trophy since the first Super Bowl in 1967, and opened the local facility where it’s now made in 2001.
Tucked away in an industrial park near the Woonsocket border, workers spend hours transforming sheets of silver into a 22-inch, seven-pound sculpture.
“What really makes it so special is that it’s handmade and they are techniques that can’t be fabricated,” Tiffany & Co. Senior Director Vicky Reynolds told Eyewitness News.
The pieces start off in a simple state, but take shape quickly. First, a spinner uses a wooden mold to shape a flattened silver circle into a sphere.
“There [are] a lot of things that technology certainly has helped us with,” Reynolds said. “But the beauty of this trophy is that the football itself is actually spun from two different spheres; it’s then soldered together.”
Together, those hollow spheres form a regulation-size football that is then passed on to a silversmith. She uses century-old techniques and handmade tools to hammer in the intricate details like stitching and holes for the laces.
From there, it’s on to the concave kicking tee. Three pieces are cut, rolled, then torch-soldered together.
The final touch is to polish and shine – removing all residue and fingerprints from the surface.
Reynolds said the entire process of creating the trophy is a team effort. “I think the term ‘it takes a village’ comes to mind here,” she said.
The football is then fastened to the kicking tee – creating a stable base and also a convenient handle for players, coaches and staff to hoist the trophy high above their heads after a Super Bowl victory.
Its durable design makes it strong enough to be passed along from player to player and endure lots of kissing, cradling, confetti, and more.
“We love it when it comes back with champagne on it because it means it’s been loved,” Reynolds said.
The National Football League is always evolving, from rules and franchise locations to players and coaches, but the top prize has remained unchanged for five decades.
“This is an especially significant trophy for Tiffany,” said Reynolds, who noted the company has been making trophies since 1837.
“All of the trophies are special, but this one is extraordinary,” she added.
Its initial design, however, had rather humble beginnings.
“When our then-Vice President Oscar Reidner met with the commissioner of the NFL, who was Pete Rozelle at the time, he literally sketched the trophy on the back of a cocktail napkin,” Reynolds said. “We’re very proud of that, and sometimes the simplest pieces make the most extraordinary pieces, and we think that’s the case with this trophy.”
It takes about a year for Tiffany’s to complete the order for a new trophy, which means they begin working on the trophy soon after the Super Bowl is over. A few weeks after the game is played, the sculpture is returned to the Cumberland facility so the winning team’s name can be engraved.
A lot of work goes into the sculpture’s creation, but Reynolds said the handcrafted prize has no price tag.
“There is no value, both from a significant standpoint of winning it, but through all of the hard work and dedication that goes into actually winning a Lombardi trophy and the teamwork that it takes to win a Super Bowl,” Reynolds said.
The factory’s proximity to Gillette Stadium means the Patriots’ five trophies have logged fewer miles than the others.
“Certainly the coincidence that you have with the New England Patriots winning this trophy five times with it being made very, very close to their stadium certainly is a nice story,” Reynolds said.
But the Patriots’ winning streak is young compared to the Tiffany tradition of preserving the specialized trades that this trophy requires.
“We have an apprenticeship program that passes down generationally these techniques that really haven’t changed much since our inception in 1837,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds works at Tiffany & Co. headquarters in New York, but is no stranger to New England – she graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design.
“I often tell people you can’t buy this trophy and what makes it so special is that you can only win it,” Reynolds said. “We’re really proud of our legacy and especially proud of this workshop in Rhode Island.”
Reynolds said her heart skipped a beat when Rob Gronkowski almost dropped one of the five trophies during the Patriots’ Super Bowl LI celebration in Providence.
“We got a little faint of heart, but we trust in Gronk,” said Reynolds. “We can certainly understand that sentiment to win five trophies is extraordinary,” she added.
The Super Bowl LI trophy is on display at the Patriots Hall of Fame, but it won’t be there for long; it’s scheduled to head back to Cumberland to be engraved any day now.
In the meantime, workers there already have the order to start working on the next trophy, for Super Bowl LII.