Designers & Makers of the Lions Series Trophy

Thomas Lyte are honoured to be the Official Silverware Supplier to the British & Irish Lions and the designers and makers of the Lions Series Trophy, the first perpetual trophy in the over-120 year history of the British & Irish Lions Tour, one of the most anticipated events in the international rugby calendar.

As luxury silversmiths and elite sports trophy makers, we were commissioned by the Lions to design and create the gold-plated sterling silver trophy in time for the 2021 Castle Lager Lions Series in South Africa.

“We are incredibly proud to be able to present a custom trophy, designed and made in Britain, that truly reflects the momentous achievement of winning a Lions Series,” said Kevin Baker, CEO and Founder of the world-class trophy manufacturer Thomas Lyte.

“The Lions hand-pick its elite squad from the best rugby union players from England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, and this year they’ll meet the Rugby World Cup winning Springboks. I think it’s fair to say the competition for the trophy will be fierce.”

The Lions have become part of rugby folklore since the first tour in 1888. Every four years, The Lions have taken on national teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, yet most of the tours in the past have taken place without a trophy being awarded.

“Selection for a tour is the pinnacle of any player’s career and an endorsement that you are amongst the very best in your position. We feel much the same, having been named as the Official Silverware Supplier to The British & Irish Lions,” said Baker.

“It will be wonderful to see our creativity and craftsmanship on show to a global audience at the climax of one of rugby’s greatest competitions.”

Designing and making the Lions Series Trophy
Thomas Lyte’s trophy designers worked with the Lions, creating many custom trophy designs to create an iconic symbol of celebration. Once the design had been agreed, Thomas Lyte’s highly skilled team of master craftsmen and -women set to work using traditional silversmithing skills, many of which can be dated back thousands of years to the roman empire, combined with the latest methods in modern engineering.

The bespoke trophy was handcrafted in Thomas Lyte’s London-based silver workshops, taking more than 150 hours to complete. Standing at 60cm tall and weighing 6½kg, the main body of the trophy was handspun from a single sheet of hallmarked sterling silver, while the base is handmade from sapele hardwood.

Hot forging was used to bend small rods of sterling silver at over 700 degrees Celsius before they were soldered together to create the shape of a chalice with the Lions Series Logo attached.

The chalice was gold plated in a chemical reaction called electroplating and all the individual pieces were polished separately with motorised polishing lathes spinning at over 3000 rpm.

Once the Lions Series Logo was engraved onto the main body of the trophy, it was assembled, cleaned and passed to Thomas Lyte’s quality control team for the final check. Having many of the world’s most iconic sporting trophies crafted or repaired in our workshops, including the Guinness Six Nations Trophy, The Rugby World Cup and The Emirates FA Cup to name a few, quality control is one of the most important stages in the process. The Lions Series Trophy is no exception, with a QC team thoroughly checking it over before the, now finished, brand-new engraved trophy was finally presented to the Lions.

History of the British & Irish Lions
The Lions began their touring tradition way back in 1888 when captain Robert Seddon led a party of 22 for a tour of Australia and New Zealand that was almost 250 days long.

After making the 46-day, 16,000-mile voyage to New Zealand by sea, the team played their very first match in Otago, winning 8-3, with 10,000 spectators watching the encounter. There were a further 18 games in New Zealand and 16 in Australia. 19 Victorian Rules (later known as Aussie Rules) matches were also arranged to help pay for the trip.

Despite the tragic death of captain Seddon halfway through the tour, in a boating accident on the Hunter River, the tour was deemed a success and set in motion over 130 years of Lions history.

Of the 651 games played overall, the Lions have won 488 - a 75% success rate - and there have been 32 draws and 131 losses. When facing South Africa, however, the Springboks have the edge, having won eight of the 13 series played.

2021 Castle Lager Lions Series
The announcement of this new one-of-a-kind rugby trophy means that more than just bragging rights will be up for grabs during the eagerly awaited 2021 Castle Lager Lions Series in South Africa, when the famous rivalry with the Springboks - which stretches back to 1891 and includes 13 series in total - is renewed this summer.

The Lions last toured South Africa in 2009 when the Springboks emerged triumphant with a 2-1 Test series victory following three brutal, tightly contested matches.

South Africa was also home to the first Tour of the professional era as the Lions upset the odds in the now-iconic 1997 Series - famously documented in Living With Lions.

Jim Telfer’s Everest Speech, Matt Dawson’s dummy, Jeremy Guscott’s drop goal were all etched into the rugby history books from that Tour as the Lions claimed a dramatic 2-1 series win.

And while the first three-quarters of the 20th century was largely a tale of Springbok dominance, Willie John McBride’s 1974 Invincibles changed all that and ended 78 years of hurt.

Historically speaking, the Lions and South Africa are incredibly evenly matched. The Boks have won 23 of the 46 Test matches played, the Lions have won 17 with six more draws.

2021 will be the third consecutive Tour to South Africa in which the Lions face the reigning world champions and the stage is set for another chapter in the saga to be written.

The 1888 Trophy
In addition to creating the Lions Series Trophy, Thomas Lyte was commissioned to design and make the medals for the upcoming series while also designing and making The Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup, a second new perpetual trophy, contested in the pre-tour warm up test match.

The trophy will be first fought for by the Lions and Japan, in preparation for the series, with a clash in Edinburgh on 26 June. The fixture at BT Murrayfield will be the first-ever clash between the world’s greatest touring side and the Brave Blossoms - and the first time a home fixture has been played since 2005.

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