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Lombardi Trophy is a Tiffany & Co. creation

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Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011

Grown men kiss it.

They put their arms around it, and it can bring tears to their eyes.

It's the Vince Lombardi Trophy, one of the most recognizable and revered pieces of hardware in the sports world. This shiny sterling silver masterpiece -- a regulation-size professional football atop a pedestal -- is the prize given to the World Champion NFL team. As we all know so well, it will be awarded to the winner of Sunday's Super Bowl XLV between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers.

What we all might not be so aware of is the trophy is made by Tiffany & Co., famous for its stunning work packaged in the blue box, tied off with a white satin ribbon.

"Tiffany produces one trophy each year, which is presented to the Super Bowl winning team," says Tom O'Rourke, vice president of business sales for Tiffany & Co. "The players and staff of the winning team are given the opportunity to purchase a 75-percent scale replica of the trophy. All replica purchases are approved by the NFL prior to production."

Fans can't acquire a trophy of their own, but Tiffany does offer a gorgeous line of crystal paperweights, sterling silver money clips and cuff links designed specifically for Super Bowl XLV.

Following Sunday's presentation, the Lombardi Trophy will be returned to Tiffany's workshop in New Jersey. After the name of the winning team and final score has been hand-engraved on the trophy and polished, it will be sent to the championship team.

The Steelers have their six trophies -- the most in the NFL -- on display at the team's offices in the South Side.

Tiffiany's doesn't put a price on the trophy, O'Rourke says, because the trophy is priceless to the players. However, the NFL pays the publicly undisclosed price.

"The trophy was originally designed by Tiffany for the first Super Bowl in 1967," O'Rourke says. "Former Tiffany & Co. vice-president Oscar Riedener sketched the trophy's basic design during a meeting with Pete Rozelle, then commissioner of the NFL.

"The design has remained the same over the years, but in 1970, the trophy was renamed for Vince Lombardi, coach of the Green Bay Packers, winners of the first two Super Bowls. As the NFL has updated and changed their shield logo, we have incorporated the new logo on the original trophy design."

Unlike the Stanley Cup, awarded to the champion of the National Hockey League, a new Lombardi Trophy is made every year and the winning team keeps it permanently. It is inscribed with the words "Vince Lombardi Trophy" across the front and bears the NFL logo.

"I like it," says Susan Wagner, a sculptor and painter from Friendship, who created the Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski statues surrounding PNC Park. "I think simplicity is best. It's also a strong trophy, and the reason they may not have changed is, if something looks good, why change it• "

The process to make the trophy takes four months and goes through four steps: spinning, silversmithing, chasing and finishing/polishing.

"Something like the Lombardi Trophy takes time to make because it is handmade and not mass-produced," Wagner says. "It costs more to do this because of all that goes into it, and it's labor-intensive, but when you see the finished product, it's worth it."

Trophy trivia

For more than 40 years, Tiffany & Co. has created the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy for the National Football League

Some details:

• Originally designed by Tiffany for the first Super Bowl in 1967. Former Tiffany & Co. vice president Oscar Riedener sketched the trophy's basic design during a meeting with Pete Rozelle, then commissioner of the NFL.

• In 1970, the trophy was renamed for Vince Lombardi, coach of the Green Bay Packers, winners of the first two Super Bowls.

• The trophy is created at Tiffany's workshop in New Jersey.

• Master artisans employ age-old silversmithing techniques -- spinning, silversmithing, chasing and finishing/polishing -- to create the trophy.

• The design features a regulation-size football rendered entirely in sterling silver.

• The 22-inch trophy weighs nearly 7 pounds and takes approximately four months to complete.

• After the field ceremony, the trophy will be returned to Tiffany's workshop, where the name of the winning team will be hand-engraved on the trophy.

• Tiffany & Co. has the honor of creating the Pete Rozelle Trophy, which is presented annually to the Most Valuable Player of the Super Bowl.

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