When the winner of the World Series of Poker’s Main Event is crowned this week, that player will take home millions of dollars, poker immortality, bragging rights for roughly forever and, of course, the World Series of Poker Main Event bracelet, the blingiest piece of championship jewelry in all of sports.
It’s a substantial, striking thing, not even remotely reminiscent of the ID bracelets you exchanged as a kid, featuring oodles of diamonds and gold and sized just about perfectly to serve as a championship belt should anyone ever decide to promote a boxing match for poodles.
And when the final three competitors in the series’ Main Event do begin battling it out Tuesday at the Rio, Jason Arasheben, founder, president and designer of Jason of Beverly Hills custom jewelry boutiques, will be there.
That blinged-out bracelet? It’s his half-a-million-dollar baby.
Commemorating sports championships with jewelry is an older tradition than many fans might imagine, notes Arasheben, who also has a boutique at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and who counts as his clients such celebrities as Jennifer Lopez, Sean Combs, Rihanna and LeBron James.
“Actually, in the NBA they were doing it in the ’40s,” he says, although “every year it was the same thing. It wasn’t until 1972 that they changed it to have a different-looking ring each year in the NBA.”
Today, rings are used to commemorate wins in a roster of sports that includes pro basketball, baseball and football. Expand the notion of “jewelry” to include belt buckles and belts, and feel free to add pro rodeo and boxing to the list of jewelry-friendly sports, too.
It’s largely an American tradition, Arasheben adds, although he’s doing his part to change that. Last year, Arasheben created rings for the Chelsea soccer club to commemorate its Championship League win, making soccer, “the first non-American sport to adopt the American tradition of getting a championship ring.”
For players in team sports, a piece of commemorative jewelry can serve as a stand-in for the team trophy they don’t get to keep themselves. Also, Arasheben says, a championship bracelet or ring serves as a “physical, tangible” symbol of an otherwise intangible athletic achievement.
The use of a type of jewelry to signify a sporting achievement even has entered sports fans’ lexicon. Think, for instance, how often someone will talk about “how many rings” a player has, using “ring” as a direct synonym for “championship.”
Or, just think of how, in the poker world, “everyone knows what you’re talking about when you say, ‘The Bracelet’ ” says Ty Stewart, executive director of the World Series of Poker.
Bracelets have been awarded in professional poker since the ’70s, says Stewart, although, at the beginning, they weren’t necessarily custom-designed.
But, particularly over the past decade or two, “we have been on a mission to really elevate our trophy and make the bracelet even more meaningful in the hearts of the players,” he says.
Enter Arasheben, who says that, in designing his first Main Event bracelet last year and in doing so again this year, his goal has been to “bring a special flair to the bracelet that no one had ever seen.”
Arasheben’s pro sports jewelry career began in 2009 when he designed his first championship ring for the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers. As a sports fan who grew up in L.A., “definitely, this is a dream come true,” he says.
“I definitely don’t have an athletic bone in my body and I never thought I’d have a chance to play in the NBA, so this was the next closest thing.”
For his first Lakers ring, in 2009, Arasheben designed a ring that evokes the Staples Center, the arena in which the team plays, and incorporated into its design a diamond for every NBA championship the team had won. As part of the process, Arasheben obtained ideas from about a half-dozen players — who also happened to be his personal clients — and majority owner Jerry Buss.
When he designed his second championship ring for the Lakers in 2010, Arasheben says the process wasn’t as lengthy, mostly because he already knew something of the team’s tastes. However, with that second ring, the challenge was to “outdo the first one.”
So, Arasheben incorporated into each of that year’s rings a piece of leather from one of the basketballs used in Game 7 of that year’s NBA finals.
Arasheben says he long has been intrigued by the World Series of Poker’s Main Event bracelet and always thought that “I’d love an opportunity to do this.”
“So, I did what I do best,” he jokes. ”I called them up and harassed them and said, ‘I’d love to get a chance to do that. Let’s set up a meeting. I already have a store in Vegas.’ ”
He got the gig. And, in designing his first WSOP Main Event bracelet last year, Arasheben says he began with one primary goal: “No. 1, first and foremost, I didn’t want it to look like anything from the past. I wanted it to stand alone.
“Even when we did Lakers rings, even though we made both of those, you want each and every year to have its own distinct character. You don’t want it to look like the same bracelet, just with a different year written on it.”
That, Arasheben says, is why this year’s Main Event bracelet “looks a lot different from last year’s bracelet.”
This year’s bracelet also happens to be, Arasheben says, “the most expensive piece of championship jewelry ever made in the history of the world. No sport has a piece of jewelry that expensive.”
How much is it worth?
“It’s hard to tell,” he answers. “I don’t think you can really set a price on something like this.
“You’re looking at over 28 carats of flawless white diamonds, over 220 grams of 14-karat gold, and probably, maybe, 300 hours of manual labor to build something like that. It’s a tremendous bracelet.”
But, Arasheben says, “if you were to attach a dollar figure, it would be close to half-a-million dollars.”
Particularly cool: This year’s Main Event bracelet will, for the first time, be customized for its winner immediately after the tournament by incorporating into it, via laser cutting, figures of the two hole cards dealt during the final hand.
Stewart says the Main Event bracelet “helps define us, that we take ourselves seriously as a major championship and we have a trophy that rivals anything in the world of sports. I believe it is the single most valuable piece of championship jewelry in the entire world, across all of sports.”
The symbolic significance of the Main Event bracelet has become so profound that, Stewart says, in the eight years that he’s been with the World Series of Poker, “not once has a champion asked me what it’s worth.”
“The great thing about this type of jewelry is money can’t buy it,” Arasheben says. “Literally. It doesn’t mater how much money you’ve got. You cannot get a World Series of Poker bracelet.”
As striking as the Main Event bracelet is, it does seem as if it’d be a bit cumbersome to wear. It turns out that’s no problem.
The bracelet isn’t designed, or built, “for wearing,” Arasheben explains. “Most people take them and put them on a pedestal in their home, but they don’t typically wear it.”
Stewart knows of World Series of Poker champions who have given their bracelets to family members as gifts.
“Some definitely were in safe deposit boxes,” he says. “And we still see a few that are worn to the table each summer.”
But, he says, the Main Event bracelet has become such a well-known sporting trophy that “there’s not a poker player out there now who doesn’t know what to do with the bracelet when it’s presented” (namely: holding it over one’s head as if it were a championship boxing belt).
Arasheben says many of the clients for whom he designs custom, high-end jewelry are, in fact, pro athletes. He agrees that, from strictly a business standpoint, creating team championship rings and World Series of Poker bracelets — in addition to the Main Event bracelet, he also has created the 70-plus bracelets that will be awarded throughout this year’s tournament — certainly could help him to attract more clients.
But, Arasheben says, the best thing about designing sports championship jewelry is that it’s just so much fun.
“This is the fun part of the business, mainly because I’m a sports fan,’ he says. “For me to be able to do this (WSOP) bracelet or a Lakers ring, I get to do something every kid dreams of.”
Contact reporter John Przybys at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0280.