The Melbourne Cup trophy is perhaps the most admired prize in Australian sport, but the meticulous process used to make it is sometimes overlooked.
Valued at over $200,000, the trophy contains 44 pieces that are hand spun over an exhaustive 250-hour process, with gold that is of immaculate purity.
The gold in this year’s trophy comes from Evolution Mining’s Mt Carlton gold mine in North Queensland and the process from dirt to cup is painstakingly arduous.
“(It’s) miners, refiners, chemists, jewellers, managers – dozens of people you need to make the Melbourne Cup because it’s hard,” senior project manager Steve Lowden says.
“Most trophies these days are made by machines but the Melbourne Cup is still made the same way it was 100 years ago – by hand.”
Indeed, the trophy has to be made perfectly and the stakes are incredibly high, according to junior project manager Gemma Foskett.
“There’s a bit of pressure, there’s the Victorian Racing Club (VRC), there’s 150 years of tradition,” she says.
This year, however, is particularly special given it marks the 100th anniversary of the ‘Loving Cup’ design, which involves the trophy being shaped with three handles, representing the owner, trainer and jockey.
It’s not just one cup that’s made either, there is 58, for all those involved in the prestigious prize from the trainer, to the jockey, strapper, starters and for the Melbourne Cup tour.
ABC Refinery managing director Phillip Cochineas says the process is so intricate because the cup needs to be “exactly the right weight, exactly the right dimensions within a tenth of a millimetre,” after all, it is $200,000 on the line.
The process begins at Evolution’s Mt Carlton operations where geologists look for deposits of gold before drilling and blasting takes place to create rubble.
This is then put into trucks, which are carried to crushers to reduce the size of the rocks that then go through a processing plant.
As per the usual procedure with mining operations, rock is smashed until it turns to powder, this goes into a gravity circuit that separates the gold and other metals and this material is turned into gold bars – commonly known as doré bars.
This is when the stakes become high, as the doré bars are sent to Sydney to transform them into the Melbourne Cup.
The gold for the Melbourne Cup must be 18 carat, which is achieved through smelters and bathing, which purifies the gold to 99.99 per cent – borderline perfect.
Enter Keith “sparrow” King, the metal spinner, who can only be described as a veteran in this artform.
As he simply puts it “I’ve been spinning since before you were born.”
Forty years of mastering this artform has led ‘Sparrow’ to be entrusted with perhaps the most intense stage of the Cup’s production.
“It’s the hardest trophy I’ve had to spin, but most importantly, I don’t want to bugger it up,” he said.
Once the gold sheets are spun into shape, the cup is inspected and approved, and the celebrations begin.