A Brief History of Awards and Trophies

Lauren Deegan

Awards are big business in the 21st century. Whether they’re handed out to actors at black-tie ceremonies or hoisted above a champion’s head at the end of a sporting match, awards and trophies make a clear statement about achievement. This is the winner. This is the best. This is what works. Awards send such a clear statement that they’re given to people of all ages by all kinds of organizations.

Maybe dazzling trophies and sparkling awards are popular because we live in a material world. Maybe, though, our fascination with these symbols of achievement goes beyond our infatuation with all that glitters. After all, can any of us even think of a time in life when there weren’t trophies? If your answer is yes, we’re calling your bluff.

That’s because none of us were alive when awards were first put into use. Our world may have become more awards centric in the last century, but the desire to recognize achievement is an integral part of being human. At Cristaux, we like to say that desiring recognition is an elemental part of being human. In this case, it looks like history even back us up.

Curious about the details? Take a stroll with us from ancient times to present as we explore the history of awards and trophies.

 

Trophies Way Back in the Day

Trophies in the ancient times often took the form of magnificent statues, columns and arches. Stone columns were particularly popular in Rome. Following a successful battle, Greek troops often constructed trophies from the arms and armor of captured opponents. These trophies were made to look like warriors. Whatever their form, such ancient trophies were generally dedicated to gods.

However, smaller trophies were also used in the ancient world. At the original Olympic games in Greece, victors were crowned with twisted olive branches. It might seem simple to us today, but it was a serious status symbol in those times and was reserved only for the most elite athletes. After all, runners up at the original games didn’t receive awards at all.

Big Wins in the Middle Ages

You probably don’t associate the Middle Ages with glittering awards, and we don’t blame you. It’s this period in history, though, that’s given us one of the most recognizable forms in the world of trophies. The chalice, often taking the form of a two-handled cup, was given to the winners of sporting events as early as the 17th century. These cup-shaped trophies are still popular today and are often used in sailing, horse racing and auto racing. Of course, the Stanley Cup and Davis Cup are among the most well-known chalice designs of all.

Getting Modern with Trophies and Awards

Trophies and awards today often harken back to older designs such as the chalice cup. Even modern Olympic medals have been known to feature flourishes reminiscent of much earlier awards. Still, there are two important differences between awards and trophies today and those in the past. The first is cost. Thanks to the ready availability of resin, plastics and glass, trophies simply don’t cost as much today as they did even ten years ago.

Diversity is the second difference. Trophy design in the past may have been fairly straightforward, but that’s just not the case today. When it comes to trophies, if you can imagine it, it can be made. Thanks to a diversity of materials and manufacturing practices, designers can translate even the most abstract vision into a physical representation of success. That’s exactly what we do here at Cristaux. We’re proud to be the voice of trophies and awards for a new generation of achievers.