Super Bowl Rings: A Gallery of NFL Championship Rings

GIA
1/26/2016
Photo courtesy NFL
The Super Bowl is the most popular sporting event in the United States – almost 110 million Americans watched the New England Patriots win a thrilling last-second victory against the Seattle Seahawks in February 2015. So it’s not surprising that the Super Bowl ring is a matter of serious interest.

Super Bowl Rings Through the Years

As the game has grown in popularity, the rings have become fancier: more diamonds and gemstones, more complex designs, and a lot more “wow” factor. Consider the first ring made in 1966 that sported a single one-carat diamond.

The New England Patriots, winners of Super Bowl XLIV, celebrated their victory with a Super Bowl ring that broke all records. Some 205 diamonds weighing 4.85 carats glittered in the NFL championship dazzler (the Patriot’s 2003 Super Bowl ring had 104 diamonds; the 2004 Super Bowl ring had 124 diamonds). Team owner Robert Kraft said he wanted this ring to outdo ones his earlier teams had received, and team officials proclaimed it was the “largest ring ever made.”

A bit more about the Patriot’s XLIV Super Bowl ring: Four marquise-cut diamonds on the ring’s table symbolize the Lombardi Trophy (the team has won four Super Bowls). Some 44 pavé-set round diamonds frame the team’s logo. The phrase “Do Your Job” is engraved on the side, along with the final score of the game (28 - 24).

Jostens, a leading designer and producer of championship rings, has created 32 of the 49 Super Bowl rings, all four of the Patriots’ Super Bowl rings, and dozens of football championship rings. GIA asked Chris Poitras, director, sports marketing and development, to share how Super Bowl rings are designed.

Super Bowl Rings Gallery

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Poitras explained that leaders of the winning team collaborate with Jostens’ master jewelers to design and produce custom championship rings for players and members of their organization.

Poitras described the process: “Our goal is to collaborate with the team. The thing that takes the most time when it comes to creating the rings is designing a piece that tells the story of the team, their great win, and the special season. Depending on their design, it can take anywhere from weeks to months to manufacture the rings from start to finish.”

Jostens uses CAD and rapid prototyping to design the rings. In addition, each ring goes through a lost wax process (a wax model of the ring is made, encased in material, the model burned away, and molten metal poured into the cavity), casting, finishing and polishing, and finally, stone-setting, where diamonds and other stones are hand set.

The New Orleans Saints won its first Super Bowl in 2010. The team’s colors are black and gold, and so is the championship ring. Photo courtesy Tiffany & Co.
Tiffany & Co. has created seven Super Bowl rings, and works with team leaders so that they reflect the championship season and the spirit and history of the franchise. For example, engraved inside the New York Giants ring in 2012 are the words “Finish” and “All In”– two inspirational phrases that rallied the team for the season.

The 2008 New York Giants got to the Super Bowl by winning eleven games on the road – a fact emblazoned on the side of the ring. The victory was the team’s third Super Bowl win. Photo courtesy Tiffany & Co.

Fun Facts About Super Bowl Rings

  • The NFL gives each team an allowance of $5,000 for 150 rings. Teams typically spend far more than the allotted money.
  • Lawrence Taylor’s 1991 Super Bowl Ring sold at auction in May 2011 for $230,401 – but most Super Bowl rings sell for far less. Fred “Fuzzy” Thurston’s ring from Super Bowl II sold for $50,788 in 2011.
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders were such bitter rivals in the 1970s that the competition extended to their rings. The Raiders Super Bowl XI ring had 27 diamonds; the Steelers one-upped them by putting 30 diamonds in their Super Bowl XIII rings. The Raiders retaliated by putting 33 diamonds in their Super Bowl XV rings (see below).

Photo courtesy NFL
The average male professional sports player’s ring size is 12 or 13. For comparison, the average male non-professional athlete’s ring size is 10½. The largest size Super Bowl Ring ever produced was size 25 for William “Refrigerator” Perry, who played for the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX. To put it in perspective, a half-dollar coin (30.61mm dia.) could pass through Perry’s ring.

Lore of the Super Bowl Rings

Since Super Bowl rings are the stuff of legend, some incredible stories come with them. John Schmitt, the starting center for the New York Jets, lost his Super Bowl III ring in 1971, while surfing about a quarter mile off Hawaii’s shore. Schmitt grabbed a pair of flippers and a snorkel and dove for three hours, stopping when he was too exhausted to continue.

Photo courtesy Brenda K. Reichel
Some two decades later, Waikiki lifeguard John Ernstberg found the ring. Thinking it was a trinket, he stored it in a box. When Ernstberg passed away, Samuel and Cindy Saffrey (Ernstberg’s great niece) discovered the ring and took it to appraiser Brenda K. Reichel, GIA GG. Reichel saw it had a trademark by LG Balfour (a ring maker), 42 grams of gold and diamonds, as well as a score and a jersey number.

With permission from the Saffreys, Reichel started hunting down the owner. Three days later, she and the Saffrey’s called John Schmitt. Reichel recounts the conversation:
John asked if the Saffreys wanted any money. I told him they only wanted to give him back his ring. John broke down into tears. All of us were deeply moved. As for the ring, if I hadn’t attended GIA, I wouldn’t have known the diamonds were real.
 
Super Bowl rings have even sparked international incidents. Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, ended up with Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s 4.94-carat Super Bowl ring during a visiting business delegation in 2005. In June 2013, Kraft said Putin “just put it in his pocket.” Putin said he “didn’t remember Kraft or the ring,” but has now promised a replacement. Kraft’s ring, valued at $25,000, remains in the Kremlin’s library.

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