In the Super Bowl City, Building the Rings

In the Super Bowl City, Building the Rings

They have also become increasingly ostentatious. Last year, the Patriots owner Robert K. Kraft helped design one with 283 diamonds to commemorate the 28-3 deficit that the Patriots overcame to beat the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl. The ring also included five large diamonds to symbolize each of the team’s titles. The team logo is in red and blue stones. The words “unequivocally the sweetest” are etched on one side.

“That’s my privilege to do it, and I love it,” Kraft said of his role in designing the rings with Jostens. “To me, having 283 diamonds, I knew our players would never forget.”

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The New England Patriots’ ring for winning the Super Bowl last year has 283 diamonds, representing the 28-3 deficit the Patriots had to overcome to defeat the Atlanta Falcons.

Credit
Jostens

While the Patriots embraced their new jewels, the Falcons owner Arthur Blank was not happy that Kraft had highlighted the score on the ring.

On average, Super Bowl rings in recent years have had more than 250 diamonds, a far cry from the relatively austere ring given to the Green Bay Packers after they won the first Super Bowl in 1967. That version had a single diamond in the middle of a large gold band.

Teams now demand rings so large that Jostens is trying to create a two-fingered ring. The players are getting larger, too. Most men typically wear rings between size 8 and size 14. The largest ring Jostens ever made was for William (The Refrigerator) Perry of the 1985 Chicago Bears, who got a size 25. (Jostens later expanded it to size 27.)

The rings, which are given to players and coaches, can easily cost more than $10,000. The league pays for the first 150 rings. The teams pay for any additional ones. Owners often give more modest versions to team staff members, family and friends, and the wives and partners of players and coaches. Last year, Kraft gave Super Bowl rings to his friend President Trump and to the mother of quarterback Tom Brady, Galynn Brady, who had been fighting cancer.

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At left, an employee at work in the Jostens factory. At right, finished rings on display in the office of Ken Sprabeary, a project manager in Denton. Jostens has had to triple its number of jewel setters in recent years.

Credit
Cooper Neill for The New York Times

Jostens manufactures the rings at its factory in Denton, Tex., about 40 miles north of Dallas. More than 400 employees produce as many as 5,000 rings a day there, and roughly 600,000 a year. Most are high school class rings.

Specialty items like Super Bowl rings are more complicated, requiring nearly three dozen separate manufacturing processes. When the designs arrive from the head office in Minnesota, the production team uses a 3-D printer to make the ring chassis and the four-pronged settings that will hold the stones. The introduction of computers into the design process has let Jostens more easily customize rings.

“For the masses, we try to keep it simple,” said Ken Sprabeary, a project manager for Jostens in Denton. “For the professionals, the sky’s the limit.”

The rings and settings begin with wax models that are used to create cast molds. The molds are then filled with white gold or one of roughly 30 alloys that Jostens uses.

Casting is the least reliable part of the process, particularly when a design is very intricate. (Think of an eagle’s head with a small eye.) Six percent of casts are rejected, Sprabeary said.

Once the rings cool, workers like Darian Redmond clear away the plaster from the mold, one of 20 different processes from polishing to setting. Redmond is a longtime Eagles fan who spent January hoping he would help make his team’s Super Bowl ring.

Polishing removes any excess material. Sometimes, other parts of the ring are welded on, and black paint is sprayed on as a background to the stones. Then 70 setters add diamonds and other precious stones.

Jostens has had to triple the number of setters in recent years. “Everyone wants bling,” Sprabeary said. “Brand X just doesn’t do it.”

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