Crafting WSOP gold

21 June 2007

Comfort was the idea.

When Corum, the official designer of this year's 55 World Series of Poker gold bracelets, took one look at the massive bracelets of old, they decided to create something players could actually wear in public.

"The old bracelets are great because they mean something, but they look like a heavyweight boxer's championship belt," said Stacie Orloff, president of Corum USA. "We took our inspiration from our watches. We wanted to create something elegant that players would want to wear all the time."

Winning a gold bracelet…priceless.

Each bracelet is made from solid 18-carat gold, yellow for the regular events (54 total bracelets) and white for the Main Event. The weights range from 84 grams for the regular-event bracelets to 136 grams for the Main Event prize. Diamonds and precious stones decorate each bracelet, adding flair to most coveted prize in poker.

So how much is it worth? Orloff was coy about its exact value.

"How can you put a value on a World Series of Poker bracelet," Orloff said. "We don't want to cheapen the amazing accomplishment but putting an exact value on the bracelets. In other words, they're priceless."

Is this thing a watch too?

The bracelets do not tell time or make you a better poker player, Orloff said.

But they do look like watches. Corum wanted the bracelets to look like watches because watches are common and comfortable to the average person, Orloff said.

The bracelets have a link-based design and are fitted with a folding jeweler's clasp typical of many watches.

"The World Series of Poker bracelet is the most coveted prize in gaming and the ultimate expression of excellence in poker," WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack said. "These spectacular bracelets by Corum are the finest in the history of the WSOP, and will be cherished by those skilled enough to win them."

Links also help with sizing. Each bracelet begins at nine inches, the standard size for a men's bracelet. The Ladies World Championship bracelet is eight inches long. Corum created extra links to ensure players with larger wrists can still flaunt their title. The links can also be removed to accommodate smaller players.

"Phil Hellmuth said he loved the new design when he won his 11th," Orloff said. "Normally he gives his bracelets away to family and friends, but I heard him say after his win that might keep this one."

Main Event bling

As in past years, the Main Event bracelet has a special look. Crafted from solid white gold, this year's bracelet features 120 diamonds. The number of diamonds has no significance, according to Orloff.

Each diamond is hand-placed. Diamonds cover the Main Event bracelet face, spelling out the word poker, which is surrounded by rows of diamonds on the top and bottom.

"The amount of labor involved in placing the stones is extensive and costly," Orloff said. "Again, we don't want to put a specific value on it, but I can say it was quite a bit more expensive than in previous years."

H.O.R.S.E. bracelet

Corum officials also wanted to distinguish the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. bracelet because last year's event drew the world's greatest players, unofficially making it the one event that can crown poker's all-around champion, Orloff said.

Ninety-one black diamonds cover the face of the H.O.R.S.E. bracelet.

Black diamonds are rare, made fashionable in recent times because of their unique appearance. Some scientists believe black diamonds come from extraterrestrial sources like meteorites, and are akin to cosmic dust created during Supernovas, according to a 2006 Florida International University study.

"Last year's H.O.R.S.E. event was very special, so the bracelet must also be special" Orloff said. "We wanted to pay homage to that and the great professionals that compete in this tournament."

The H.O.R.S.E. bracelet also features two rubies, signifying the tournament's second run.

Ladies only

Like the H.O.R.S.E. bracelet, Corum wanted to make a special trophy to honor the ladies.

"My heart goes out to the women," Orloff said. "This is our way of acknowledging an event that doesn't always get a lot of attention. Women are playing at such a high level these days, maybe in a couple years there will be no such thing as a ladies-only event."

Orloff played in the Ladies World Championship this year, despite being an admitted poker rookie. She claims to have caught the Texas Hold'em bug and harbored secret fantasies of winning the bracelet for her own wrist.

And who wouldn't?

The Ladies World Championship bracelet features two rubies, four black diamonds and 87 blue sapphires that spell the word poker and line the bracelet's perimeter.

"The goal, as with all the bracelets, is comfort and elegance," Orloff said.

And the winners get…

The remaining bracelets are all the same. Each of the 53 regular event champions will receive a yellow-gold bracelet featuring 53 diamonds. The diamonds represent the number of regular events in the 2007 WSOP.

Corum started making the 2007 bracelets last December in Italy. The bracelet-making process was extensive, as each part was handled by a different expert.

First, a mold was created to serve as the prototype. Gold was then poured into the molds, creating the links and faces. Then, stone setters individually placed each of 3,112 precious stones that adorn this year's trophies.

After the stones were placed, the WSOP logo and the four suits were added. An enameller then sealed the entire structure and added the shiny finish. The final touch was the clasp, which allows the event winner to wear his or her bracelet proudly.

Corum would not say how long it takes to make each bracelet.

Security is an issue when creating unique jewelry. Corum destroyed all of the prototypes to make sure the bracelets remained one-of-a-kind, Orloff said. Each bracelet was also stamped with the Corum seal to ensure authenticity. The stamp appears where the links meet the bracelet face.

There were no additional bracelets made, except for the three headed to Europe for the winners of the inaugural WSOP Europe in September.

"It's a multi-faceted project that requires many experts," Orloff said.

The bracelet's future

Corum has a contract with the WSOP that runs until 2011, keeping the bracelet design under their control for the near future.

This year's watch-like design has received favorable reviews, and Corum will most likely keep a similar design in 2008, Orloff said.

Although there is currently a spot on the back of the bracelet saved for engraving, Orloff said next year, Corum might pre-engrave the event names into the bracelets -- a popular request from players.

Mucking McLane

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