What Are Olympic Medals Actually Made From?
Have you ever wondered what olympic medals are made from? Surely the olympic gold medal is actually made of gold right? Well, thats partially true. You see, gold medals haven’t been made of pure gold since the 1912 summer games in Stockholm, Sweden. . Gold is an extremely soft medal and can easily deform.
So if Olympic gold medals aren’t made of gold, what are they made of?
The host of the games determine’s the design and composition of the medals. But there are certain guidelines and standards that must be maintained:
- “Gold and silver medals are 92.5% silver.
- Gold medals must be plated with at least 6 grams of gold.
- All Olympic medals must be at least 3 mm thick and at least 60 mm in diameter.”
Bronze medals are 100% bronze. Bronze is an alloy of copper with another medal, usually tin. We would be remise to not mention that gold, silver, and bronze medals have not always been awarded at the games. At the Athens summer games in 1896, the winners were awarded silver medals while the runner-up got bronze. In 1900 at the Paris games the winners were awarded cups instead of medals. It did not become custom to award medals until the St. Louis, Missouri Olympics in 1904. After 1912 the gold medals have been gilded silver instead of actual gold.
As a side note, the Congressional Gold Medal and Nobel Prize Medal are still comprise of real gold instead of Olympic medals which are actually more silver than gold.
The Nobel Prize medal was made from 23K gold prior to 1980. Post 1980, they are 18K green gold plated with 24k gold.
In the 2016 Rio Summer olympics the medals were eco-friendly. The gold metal used in gold medals was free of mercury contamination.
Gold and mercury are known to be difficult elements to separate. The silver medals from 2016 were made of sterling silver that was partially recycled(30% by mass). Part of the copper used to make the bronze was also recycled.