The awarding of the Claret Jug dates from 1872, when a new trophy was needed after Young Tom Morris had won the original Championship Belt outright in 1870 by winning the Championship three years in a row. The Claret jug is inscribed 'The Golf Champion Trophy', and it was made by Mackay Cunningham & Company of Edinburgh at a cost of £30.
However as the 1872 event was organised at the last minute, the trophy wasn't ready in time to be presented to Morris (who had won his fourth in a row). His name was the first to be engraved on it, however. In 1873 Tom Kidd became the first winner to be actually presented with the Claret Jug after winning the Championship.
The original Claret Jug has been on permanent display at the clubhouse of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews since 1928. The original Championship Belt is also on display at the same site, having been donated in 1908 by the Morris family.
The current Claret Jug was first awarded to Walter Hagen for winning the 1928 Open. The winner must return the trophy before the next year's Open, and receives a replica to keep permanently. Three other replicas exist—one in the British Museum of Golf at St Andrews, and two used for travelling exhibitions.
Every year, the winner's name is engraved on the Claret Jug before it is presented to him. The BBC always shows the engraver poised to start work, and the commentators like to speculate about when he will be sure enough of the outcome to begin. Upon being awarded the Jug in 1989, Mark Calcavecchia (whose lengthy Italian surname translates to "old crowd") famously said, "How's my name going to fit on that thing?
The Claret Jug has twice appeared on commemorative £5 Scottish banknotes issued by the Royal Bank of Scotland: first in 2004, for the 250th Anniversary of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, then in 2005, the jug is shown held by Jack Nicklaus to mark his retirement.