As America’s premier sporting event, the Super Bowl is both a spectacle and a ritual, even for non-sports fans. Last year, it drew an audience of nearly 110 million viewers in the U.S. alone. But did you know that every year, the Super Bowl is commemorated with a one-of-a-kind ring? GIA shares some of the incredible stories that have been linked to Super Bowl rings over the years.

Courtesy of Brenda K. Reichel.

John Schmitt, the starting center
for the New York Jets, Super
Bowl III Ring. Courtesy of Brenda K. Reichel.

John Schmitt, the starting center for the New York Jets, lost his Super Bowl III ring in 1971, while surfing about a quarter mile off Hawaii’s shore. Schmitt grabbed a pair of flippers and a snorkel, and dove for three hours, stopping only when he was too exhausted to continue.

Some two decades later, Waikiki lifeguard John Ernstberg found the ring. Thinking it was a trinket, he stored it in a box. When Ernstberg passed away, Samuel and Cindy Saffrey (Ernstberg’s great niece) discovered the ring and took it to appraiser Brenda K. Reichel, GIA GG. Reichel saw it had a trademark by LG Balfour (a ring maker), 42 grams of gold and diamonds, as well as a score and a jersey number.

With permission from the Saffreys, Reichel started hunting down the owner. Three days later, she and the Saffrey’s called John Schmitt. Reichel recounts the conversation:

“John asked if the Saffreys wanted any money. I told him they only wanted to give him back his ring. John broke down into tears. All of us were deeply moved.”

“As for the ring, if I hadn’t attended GIA, I wouldn’t have known the diamonds were real.”

Super Bowl rings have even sparked international incidents. Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, ended up with Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s 4.94-carat Super Bowl ring during a visiting business delegation in 2005. In June 2013, Kraft said Putin “just put it in his pocket.” Putin said he “didn’t remember Kraft or the ring,” but has now promised a replacement. Kraft’s ring, valued at $25,000, remains in the Kremlin’s library.

As we anticipate another thrilling Super Bowl, don’t forget that the winner receives more than just your standard championship hardware. Every new ring that gets created holds the promise of a story that its owner may treasure for a lifetime.