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What are Olympic Medals Made of?

July 9, 2012 18:28

Everyone is buzzing about the Summer Olympics. Naturally, the athletes are the main focus of the events, and the athletes themselves are focused on the medals. Gold and silver medals have been awarded to the top athletes since the first modern Olympics in 1896 (bronze was not introduced until the 1904 games). The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has changed the official designs a few times over the years. However, the composition of each medal (which is of particular interest to precious metal refiners, like us) has been rather consistent.

When the medals are casted, they are made with a specific metal content:

  • Gold Medal: 550 grams of silver (at least 925–1000 grade) covered with 6 grams of pure gold
  • Silver Medal: 550 grams of silver (at least 925–1000 grade)
  • Bronze Medal: Copper mixed with some tin and zinc

Knowing the actual precious metal content of these honorable medals is interesting. Bronze is a copper/tin alloy, so its composition is spot on. So too is the silver medal, which uses pure, or nearly pure silver. The gold medal, on the other hand, is exactly the same as the silver medal, but with 6 grams of 24k gold gilding. It may be a bit disheartening to know that the “heart” of every Olympic gold medal is made of silver, but it’s a practical construction. A solid gold medal would be much heavier and more expensive to create. It might also bring some solace to the winners of silver medals – from a composition standpoint, gold medals are not all that much better.

Lastly, in case you were wondering, this year’s Olympic medals are worth (according to the average precious metal prices this year) approximately:

  • Gold Medal: $803
  • Silver Medal: $500
  • Bronze Medal: $63

Of course, the precious metal value can’t hold a candle to the intrinsic value. Congratulations to this year’s Olympic champions!

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