Everyone knows what the newly-renamed FIFA Ballon d’Or trophy looks like but few know how it is made. FIFA.com reveals the secrets behind the creation of this much-coveted accolade, due to be presented once more this evening.
Awarded for the very first time by the French daily France Football in 1956, the Ballon d’Or is made by Mellerio dits Meller, the prestigious jewellers founded in 1613.
Vastly experienced in their art, over the centuries the Mellerio family have fashioned jewellery for royal courts across Europe, not to mention religious silverware, ceremonial swords, ornate decorative pieces and trophies. One of the house’s best-known pieces of sporting silverware is the Coupe des Mousquetaires, awarded to the men’s singles champion at the French Open.
“Dozens of hours of work go into creating this magnificent trophy, which we have made since its inception,” said current CEO Francois Mellerio, explaining the work behind the FIFA Ballon d’Or. “It’s a process that involves several craftsmen: a silversmith, repousseur, chaser, engraver, gilder and a polisher. All of them are highly valued and rare trades these days, and we are immensely proud to have created this legendary trophy.”
Although football has changed much since the trophy was first awarded to Alfredo Di Stefano back in 1956, the bauble itself remains virtually the same. It comprises two semi spheres that are formed from brass plates, which are shaped by hammering from the reverse side (a technique known in French as repoussage, deriving from the verb repousser, meaning “to push up”).
The two parts are then welded together by a goldsmith with a blowtorch. The chaser then takes over, filling the ball with a compound material known as pitch. Using a chisel and hammer, he follows pencil lines drawn on the smooth surface of the metal to form the seams of the “ball”.
After completing his work, he empties the pitch from the ball and hands it back to the goldsmith for polishing and engraving with the FIFA Ballon d’Or logo. In the final stage of the process, the trophy is dipped in liquid gold before being fixed on a pyrite plinth.
Standing 31 centimetres high, 23 wide and 23 deep, the FIFA Ballon d’Or is then ready to be presented to the winner, who will have their name engraved on the bauble only after the award ceremony. In the meantime the recipient’s name, which will also go down in the annals of the game, will appear on a plaque fitted on the plinth.