The Webb Ellis Cup is one of the most recognised pieces of silverware in global sport, with the winner having lifted the distinctive antique trophy every four years since the inaugural World Cup in New Zealand back in 1987.
Thomas Lyte, a Royal Warrant holder, as the silversmiths and goldsmiths to Her Majesty the Queen, and world-class custom trophy designers and makers, we’re proud to be the official restorers of a trophy that is now among the oldest in any sport, having been crafted as far back as 1906.
As luxury silversmiths, designers and manufacturers of many internationally renowned elite sporting trophies including the Emirates FA Cup, the Guinness Six Nations Trophy and the ATP Finals Trophies, Thomas Lyte are privileged to be trusted with ensuring that every Rugby World Cup winning captain is lifting a prize which looks as pristine today as it did when New Zealand were victorious in that first tournament on home soil.
The Webb Ellis Cup doesn’t just come to life every four years – it tours the world, bringing inspiration, excitement but also the risk of damage, wherever it goes. All of which means that Thomas Lyte’s team of specialists are constantly on hand to ensure that this famous hallmarked sterling silver, gold plated trophy maintains its allure.
First handcrafted in 1906, the Webb Ellis Cup is one of the oldest World Cup trophies in any sport. While the prizes at tournaments like the football World Cup have had numerous incarnations – the original Jules Rimet Trophy, for example, was awarded to Brazil in perpetuity after their win in Mexico in 1970 – the original is still handed to rugby union’s winning captain every four years.
The bespoke trophy is a Victorian version of another trophy first crafted as far back as 1740 by the silversmith and goldsmith, Paul de Lamerie.
It was selected as the trophy to be used at the first rugby World Cup by John Kendall-Carpenter, the former England forward and the then chairman of a tournament that would revolutionise global rugby, and Air Commodore Bob Weighill, the secretary of the International Rugby Board – the forerunner to World Rugby.
Standing at 38 centimetres in height, and weighing 4.5kg, the Webb Ellis Cup has two distinctive cast scroll handles, one of which bears the image of a satyr, the other the head of a nymph. The face of this magnificent trophy, has the words ‘International Rugby Football Board’, while The Webb Ellis Cup is written below.
Our master silversmiths and goldsmiths know the Webb Ellis Cup intimately, with the trophy regularly returning to the workshop for restoration. Sometimes the work might be minor, while at other times a more major repair job may be required. Regardless, we’re always ready to restore this iconic trophy to its original glory.
While our team are pioneers in modern methods such as 3D printing and electroforming, they are also masters in the centuries-old skills required to restore these priceless antiques. The process starts with our master silversmiths and goldsmiths, who undertake processes which can include knocking out dents, filing down deep scratches and sometimes more extreme restorative work. The trophy then is passed to our team of polishers who polish and buff the trophy back to its original state using polishing lathes that spin at speeds exceeding 3000 rpm. With the Rugby World Cup in particular, using a chemical reaction called electroplating, we give the trophy a quick dip in our gold-plating tanks to maintain its magnificent gold appearance.
The final stage in the process, and one of the most important, is quality control. No trophy leaves our workshop without being thoroughly inspected by a team that has decades of experience ensuring that all bespoke silverware that leaves our workshops meets our exacting standards.
Only four countries have ever lifted the fabled trophy, and the highlight for all of those victorious teams is seeing their country’s name engraved on the plinth on which every winner since 1987 appears. The age-old process of hand-engraving is learnt painstakingly over time. It takes a year for apprentices to even learn how to sharpen the tools. Our globally acclaimed team at our London workshops take on the enormous responsibility of engraving history onto a trophy that will stand the test of time.
This is a tournament that is still, in global sporting terms, in its infancy but its growth and appeal continue to grow every time the Webb Ellis Cup is competed for. The original tournament in New Zealand – then the undisputed superpower in world rugby – involved 16 teams, with the hosts prompting a national outpouring of joy by beating France 29-9 in the first ever final, held at Eden Park in Auckland.
Since that initial tournament, the competition has grown in both numbers and stature and featured some of Rugby Union’s most dramatic moments, from South Africa’s re-emergence on the global sporting stage in 1995 to Jonah Lomu’s thunderous arrival in 1999 and the Jonny Wilkinson drop-goal which stunned a nation in Sydney in 2003.
The first World Cup in Asia was no less dramatic in 2019, as South Africa won the trophy for a second time with a blistering performance against a heavily fancied England. As the World Cup itself continues to blossom then so does the mystique that surrounds its famous old trophy. The Webb Ellis Cup may be an antique, but it’s place in modern-day sport has long since been assured.
In addition to our restoration work with the Rugby World Cup trophy, Thomas Lyte is proud to have designed and hand-crafted the majority of the sport’s other major prizes including the Men’s Six Nations Trophy and the EPCR European Champions Cup. Thomas Lyte also restores the Rugby 7’s World Cup and the Women’s Rugby World Cup.
Our team make the conceivable possible, while preserving traditional skills, pioneering modern methods, and promoting authentic British craft across the globe. Combining the latest technologies with centuries of knowledge, Thomas Lyte’s silver workshops in London, England house world-class facilities for an elite team of designers and makers, masters of their craft. Learn about 3D printing, electroforming and other new technologies that our team have introduced to our sustainable handcrafting process.
Materials. Sterling Silver + 24 Carat Gold Plate
Workshop Processes. Cleaning, Filing, Sanding, Chasing, Polishing, Plating And Hand-Engraving
Thomas Lyte are proud to be the entrusted restorers of The Webb Ellis Cup.
Take a glance at these fast facts about one of the oldest trophies in use in the sporting world.