Since the Olympics were revived, with the first modern Games in Athens in 1896, no significant jewellery collections have gone on sale to the public to mark the events — despite there being plenty of watches, notably from Omega. 

But, now, UK-based jeweller Mappin & Webb of the Watches of Switzerland Group has come up with an Olympic jewellery collection in collaboration with Team GB, the UK’s Olympic team. Announced in September, with a retail launch planned for late October, this is the first partnership of its kind for Team GB.

Historically, there is no tradition of precious Olympic souvenirs. The first Ancient Games were held in 776BC in Olympia, Greece, and continued for almost 1,000 years.

According to the research department at the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum in Athens, winners of Olympic competitions traditionally received a red woollen ribbon, which they tied around their heads.

During the official ceremony, kotinos — an olive wreath — was given to the victors. This was made of a branch cut with a pair of golden scissors from the Kallistefanos olive tree, which stood on the south side of the Temple of Zeus.

A Team GB lion logo necklace © Dave Benett/Getty Images

Mappin & Webb, as official jeweller to Team GB, has created two collections of mostly unisex jewellery, including pendants, bracelets, rings, cufflinks and lace tags, featuring the Olympic five-ring symbol and the Union flag. One collection is exclusive to current Team GB athletes and former Olympians, while the other is available to the public.

The collections have already attracted a flurry of interest. Team GB sprinter Annie Tagoe asked to have her gold bracelet customised so she can wear it while competing. From the public collection, the £200 lace tags sold out at pre-launch in early October and are tipped to be the star product of the collection.

This collaboration between Team GB and Mappin & Webb — whose head of jewellery, Mark Appleby, is the current Crown Jeweller — will last three years. Pieces will be sold in the jeweller’s boutiques, online and in the Team GB fanzone shop at next year’s summer Olympics in Paris. 

Annie Tagoe in a grey gown, inside a jewellery store
Annie Tagoe will wear a customised gold bracelet whilst competing © Dave Benett/Getty Images

The idea came about from the jeweller’s history of silverware dating back to 1775 and its links to sport through trophies it has made, including golf’s Ryder Cup and the English Football League Cup.

“During Covid, there was less demand for jewels, so we looked for new opportunities,” says Jason Fitzgerald, retail director at Mappin & Webb. Spotting an opportunity with Team GB, Mappin & Webb proposed the jewellery partnership. “Being a quintessentially British brand with so many sporting links, it felt right,” explains Fitzgerald.

Previously, Britain’s Olympians were left to their own devices to source a jewel to commemorate competing in the Games. Two-time Winter Olympian snowboarder Jamie Nicholls was looking for something to mark his participation in the 2014 Games in Sochi. “You had to go out of your way if you didn’t want the tattoo,” he says. “I wanted something I could take on and off and pass down to my kids.” Fortunately, his friend Simon Belson had just started his 360 Jewellery brand in London’s Hatton Garden, specialising in bespoke jewels.

Belson made the snowboarder a chunky yellow-gold Olympic ring, and Nicholls was so enthralled by the process that he has gone on to work with Belson at 360 Jewellery in the design, production and marketing of more custom-made jewellery. 

“Being an Olympian is a landmark moment, and it is wonderful to have a beautiful piece of jewellery to celebrate and commemorate the occasion,” says Aimee Fuller, another two-time Team GB Winter Olympian snowboarder, and now a broadcaster.

She remembers seeing the American athletes at the 2014 Sochi games. “They had these whopper Olympic rings,” she says. “We would look at the Americans and think, ‘We want that but without the ‘USA’ on it.’”

Jason Fitzgerald with British Olympians at Mappin & Webb’s Team GB collection launch
Jason Fitzgerald, third left, with British Olympians at Mappin & Webb’s Team GB collection launch © Dave Benett/Getty Images

Like Nicholls, Fuller commissioned her own piece featuring the Olympic symbol. “I can look at the ring on my hand, and it takes me back to the start line,” she says. “But, now, there is an option to go and buy something immediately.”

The American athletes’ rings that Fuller refers to were created by the family-owned Salt Lake City-based OC Tanner.

Founded in 1927, the company began as an employee appreciation business and jeweller, making awards and medals. Unlike the Mappin & Webb and Team GB partnership, OC Tanner creates its pieces exclusively for Olympians and donates them for free.

“There has been a tradition in the US of commemorative Olympic rings,” says Sandra Christensen, vice-president of awards at the company. “In 2002, when Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Games, we reached out to the US Olympic Committee and made a pledge to donate the medals. They asked if we could create the team rings, as well, and we took over the existing contract.

“Since then, we have donated a sterling-silver ring to every Olympic athlete and their trainers and support team,” she says. “The rings are engraved with the host city and year. Athletes have the option to pay extra to upgrade to gold and diamond rings.”

At Mappin & Webb, Fitzgerald is hoping for similar success with the UK’s fledgling Olympic jewellery initiative. “Initial signs are very positive, not just commercially, but the partnership with Team GB is a great collaborative relationship,” he says. “I think it will be an idea that builds. Time will tell if this is a commercially viable project, and we are working on new ideas all the time.”

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