There is no Super Bowl without a Super Bowl ring. These mementos, usually packed full of diamonds and intricate references to the winning team and its path to glory, have been gracing players’ fingers for over 50 years.
The tradition itself actually started in baseball — the first ever team-issued championship ring in American sports was made for the the New York Giants to celebrate their 1922 World Series win against the Yankees — and then spread to the other professional leagues.
A long tradition
The New England Patriots received this ring for winning Super Bowl LIII in 2019. Rings have been made for every NFL champion since the first Super Bowl in 1967. Credit: Courtesy NFL
In a nod to tradition, rings are still awarded to the winners of the Conference Championship games — the two semi-final playoff games that precede the Super Bowl. They are similar, but the Championship designs are “a tad more understated,” as Poitras puts it.
Work on each season’s ring doesn’t officially start until after the Super Bowl, and production takes a few months. “Until there’s a winner there’s obviously superstition, so we don’t engage any team and they don’t engage us in any talk around Championship or Super Bowl rings until that entire season has completed. We internally begin to imagine possibilities, but they do not leave our four walls until the day after the Super Bowl,” said Poitras.
The design phase takes up to 8 weeks, and once a final design has been agreed upon, production typically takes between 4 to 6 weeks. The rings are usually awarded in a private ceremony held by the winning team in June.
Super Bowl rings in numbers
It’s not just the 53 players on the roster who are given a ring. “Anywhere from 300 to 900 rings are produced, depending on the size of the organization and how many the owners decide they want to give,” said Poitras. While each player gets a personalized version complete with their name and jersey number, more marginal members of staff might get a cheaper variant, with fewer gemstones or non precious alloys, although Poitras says that some organizations give the same exact ring to every single member.
Charlie Peprah, Jarrett Bush and Desmond Bishop show off their 2011 Super Bowl rings for the Green Bay Packers. Credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
The NFL contributes roughly $5,000 per ring for up to 150 rings, the rest is paid for by the franchise. And they tend to go well beyond that.
“These are big rings and they’re meant to be seen across the room, no doubt,” said Poitras. The largest Super Bowl ring ever produced is a size 25 (the average size for a non-athlete male is 10), for William “Refrigerator” Perry, who won Super Bowl XX with the Chicago Bears in 1986. It is wide enough to let a half dollar coin through.
The one that got away
Past Super Bowl rings on display. Credit: NBC/NBCUniversal/NBC via Getty Images
Other teams choose more explicit references, such as the New York Giants, whose path to the 2008 Super Bowl was made possible by “eleven straight [wins] on the road,” a fact forever emblazoned on the side of the ring.
“These rings are mementos that players will hold onto for the rest of their lives and are passed on from generation to generation,” said Poitras.