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Forged in fire: The crystal globes that stars covet

By Eoghan Macguire, for CNN
March 31, 2014 -- Updated 1318 GMT (2118 HKT)
From this lump of molten glass will come one of the most sought-after crystal artifacts in world sport. From this lump of molten glass will come one of the most sought-after crystal artifacts in world sport.
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The FIS crystal globe
The FIS crystal globe
The FIS crystal globe
The FIS crystal globe
The FIS crystal globe
The FIS crystal globe
The FIS crystal globe
The FIS crystal globe
The FIS crystal globe
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Skiing's crystal globe trophies are forged in 1,200-degree heat
  • More than 2,000 FIS trophies have been made since 1987
  • This year's winners include Anna Fenninger and Marcel Hirscher of Austria

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(CNN) -- When this season's World Cup alpine ski champions stepped up to the podium to receive their prizes, they were following in some famous footsteps.

The Dalai Lama, designer Karl Lagerfeld, Oprah Winfrey and boxing star Wladimir Klitschko have all been there.

No, not the FIS winners' pantheon. Not yet at least (although Vanessa Mae's appearance at February's Sochi Winter Olympics should offer some encouragement to wannabe ski-celebs).

Each has been the recipient of a piece of fine crystal designed and manufactured by JOSKA Kristall, a German glassblowing specialist.

The Bavaria-based company is renowned as the maker of awards presented to many a famous face -- also including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mikhail Gorbachev and Claudia Schiffer -- but it is perhaps best known for the iconic FIS World Cup globes that are dished out to the kings and queens of the snow.

Some 64 World Cup trophies are awarded yearly to the discipline and overall winners at the various FIS ski, snowboard, Nordic, ski-jump and cross-country World Cup finals events.

Recipients in 2014 have included alpine skiers Anna Fenninger and Marcel Hirscher, who posed for the cameras with the freshest batch after picking up the overall titles for the ladies' and men's events respectively this month.

Yet behind these triumphant images of sporting glory lies a tale of intricate craftsmanship that is as painstaking in its quest for perfection as the preparations of any winter athlete.

A glass apart

Founded in 1960, JOSKA began as a glass-cutting enterprise before later adding a blowing factory, specialist engraving facility and hand-painting operations.

It first manufactured the crystal sphere trophies in 1987, with the first FIS globe handed over in 1989. The process has since become part of winter sports tradition.

Where football has its 18 carat gold World Cup trophy and ice hockey the silver and nickel Stanley Cup, winter sports have the crystal globe.

"Every season we have 33 of the small cups (for the winners of individual events), 17 of the big cups (for the overall winners), 17 for the nations cups and 177 medals of glass," JOSKA's operations manager Alouis Adam told CNN's Alpine Edge series.

"I think of the last 25 years we have made over 2,000 different small and big cups."

Adam says the production of a World Cup trophy spans two days and a number of complex stages.

Each is primarily forged using a 1,200-degree Celsius mass of molten glass which is then painstakingly shaped by JOSKA's glassblowers.

These skilled technicians inflate the hot glass to the required shape via a blowpipe, sweating profusely as they go. After a 24-hour cooling off period, the trophy is brought to a glasscutter who uses diamond disks to carve an intricate snow crystal design into the trophies.

The FIS logos, the relevant discipline and sponsor names are then engraved into the glass.

Once finished, the selected globes are packed up into specially designed shipping cases and transported from JOSKA headquarters to the relevant World Cup venue.

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Of the hundreds of globes made each year, only the finest are used -- JOSKA selects the 33 best trophies out of a total of 60 smaller globes produced annually.

An emotional send-off

Having worked at the JOSKA for nigh on 42 years, Adam has seen hundreds of athletes pick up his company's prized trophies.

He attended this month's World Cup finals and was as effusive as ever on witnessing the world's best skiers, snowboarders and cross-country athletes' joy at receiving the fruits of his company's labors.

"That's a beautiful feeling. I (have) watched all the World Cup finals the last 25 years and we are very proud when the winners have our product," he said.

"This goes out around the world and we are very proud -- the winner looks at the trophy and says it's a wonderful trophy."

JOSKA also manufactures trophies for cycling's Tour de France as well as the German and Polish football federations.

But while fond of these items, Adam believes there is something unique about the World Cup globes.

"(This is an) absolutely special design which displays a globe for the best in skiing," he said.

Those winter sportsmen and women fortunate enough to have their hands on the prized crystal will be sure to agree.

See also: Double world cup joy for Austria

See also: Toe tingling void at top of the alps

See also: Ligety snatches GS title

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