Today, awards and trophies are a huge business. No matter if they are being lifted above winners’ heads after a grueling sporting match or if they are being handed to actors and singers at gala events, they have a clear purpose to award achievement. Each trophy tells you that the person holding it is a champion—they are the best of the best. They leave such a big statement that people of all ages from all sorts of organizations and branches get awarded trophies for their success. Since we live in a material world, most of us have a weird fascination with everything sparkly and glitzy, but trophies go beyond our love for glitter and gold. Want to know more? Here’s a brief history of trophies and awards.
Ancient times of trophies
Trophies have been around for much longer than any of us can remember. They were once used to reward soldiers and commemorate victories. Since the word trophy comes from a Latin word trophaeum which roughly translates to “a monument dedicated to a victory”, it’s clear to see how it used to have a strong connection with battles and triumphs. In ancient Greece, for instance, soldiers used to collect arms and armor from fallen enemies, hang them to resemble a warrior and inscribe details of the battle on the monument. Through time, the practice changed, but taking a trophy from enemies has always been a way of proving your victory.
Later on, in the ancient Olympic times, victors would get rewards for their sporting prowess and receive laurel wreaths, amphoras filled with olive oil, bronze shields and silver cups. Fun fact: when the first modern Olympics were held in 1896, winners received silver medals, because silver was considered to be more precious at that time.
While the Middle Ages are more known for invasions, population decline and the collapse of centralized authority than for glittering awards, this is a period in history that actually gave us the most recognizable forms of awards and trophies. The chalice cup with two hands we know today used to be given to winners of sporting events in the early 17th century. These cups are still awarded, especially in sports like sailing, autosport, horse racing and tennis. The Stanley Cup, Davis Cup and Wimbledon Cup are some of the most recognizable awards ever made.
War trophies and medals
Most war heroes in the world get recognized with medals, which are a form of trophies. The most notable are the Medal of Honor and Purple Heart. You can often see decorated war veterans proudly donning their medals for bravery and war success. Most even opt for beautiful memorabilia framing that allows them to display their medals in their homes and trophy rooms. All awards today can be framed and encased. It’s a great way to keep the awards in top shape and provide them with an honorary place.
Today, trophies are widely produced and used for awarding not only athletes and war heroes but also people with great academic success, actors, musicians, artists and doctors. In the 19th century, it used to be very popular to award people with super expensive trophies, many of which made in Birmingham’s world-renowned jewelry stores. One of these trophies that came out of a Birmingham shop is Wimbledon’s ladies’ and men’s trophies. However, modern trophies are distinguishable from the old ones by two major differences. Thanks to the availability of materials like plastics, glass and resin, trophies don’t cost nearly as much as they used to. Their role is more symbolic than literal—no one will get rich by selling their award today. The other difference is diversity. Most trophies in the past used to look more-less the same, especially the cups. But, when it comes to modern awards, if you can design it, it can be produced. Today, we have a variety of materials and new manufacturing processes that can turn even the most abstract vision into a gorgeous trophy.
So, no matter if you got your trophies for participation only or for something truly extraordinary, next time you pass by your awards, consider the thousands of years of tradition you’re being a part of. And, maybe consider getting your trophies cased or framed—it will be a huge ego-boost that will push you to be even better at what you do.
Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in topics related to home improvement, DIY and interior design. In her free time she enjoys reading and preparing healthy meals for her family.