By Madeline Orton
In the city that was once the center of the precious metals industry, candelabras glisten, jewelry gleams and one trophy shines especially bright as part of Newark Museum’s exhibit, City of Silver and Gold from Tiffany to Cartier.
“The Tiffany factories were once located here in the downtown Newark area,” says Mark Albin, deputy director of the Newark Museum. “We discovered that the original 1967 Vince Lombardi Trophy was actually made here in Newark…and as luck would have it, the Packers were in the process of renovating, and it was either put the trophy into storage in a crate, or loan it to the Newark Museum and let everybody enjoy it.”
With thousands of tourists in-state for the Super Bowl, the museum sees this as an opportunity to show off all they have to offer.
“We want to invite them here to see some of these great works of art, and understand that Newark has this great treasure,” Albin says of the museum.
In fact, with the exception of the trophy on loan, all of the objects in the exhibit are from the museum’s permanent collection.
“The precious metal industry in Newark really starts in the early 19th century,” explains Newark Museum Chief Curator Ulysses Dietz. “And then, by the, 1880s and ’90s, it’s the biggest center of gold and silver production in the United States.”
After decades of production, though, the Great Depression brought with it a dip in demand, and ultimately, a preference for more affordable costume jewelry over heirloom-quality pieces and a decrease in use of genuine silver for items like flatware led the factories in Newark to shut their doors or relocate in the 1980s and ’90s. Still, the works created live on, and the Lombardi trophy is proof.
“They haven’t changed anything on it except the engraving,” says Dietz of the trophy. “And what’s fun is the one that’s here, the original trophy, has different engraving on it because they had not invented the term ‘Super Bowl,’ and they had not, of course, named it the Vince Lombardi Trophy. He was the one who won it first.”
While the trophy is a symbol of the big game, Dietz reminds that it’s a work of art, as well. “Clearly, Riedner designed the base — the three sides are concave — knowing that when it’s sitting on a surface, it would disappear and all you would see is the football angled as if it was in flight,” he says. “Instead of doing something elaborate and fussy, it’s this simple idea that just stuck.”
The end result, like the other objects in the exhibit, is a special kind of art. “You can have an object that’s functional, and it’s just a thing,” says Dietz, “but if you design it and you make it beautifully, you make it special, than it’s more than just a thing. It’s not like painting and sculpture, which is art for art’s sake, this is art for use’s sake.”
This may be New Jersey’s first Super Bowl, but every Lombardi Trophy since the first was made by Tiffany’s right here in the Garden State.