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 their elite squad from the best rugby union players from England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland. I think it’s fair to say the competition for the trophy was 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 was wonderful to see our creativity and craftsmanship on show to a global audience at the climax of one of rugby’s greatest competitions.”
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.
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.
The announcement of this new one-of-a-kind rugby trophy meant that more than just bragging rights were 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 – was renewed.
The Lions won the first test 22–17 on 24 July, but South Africa won the second test 27–9 a week later before winning the third test 19–16 with a late penalty on 7 August, becoming the first side to claim the brand new series trophy.
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 26 of the 49 Test matches played, the Lions have won 18 with six more draws.
In addition to creating the Lions Series Trophy, Thomas Lyte was commissioned to design and make the medals for the 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 was first fought for by the Lions and Japan, in preparation for the series, with a clash in Edinburgh on 26 June 2021. The fixture at BT Murrayfield was 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 by the Lions since 2005.