How much gold is actually in Olympic medals?


If you're interested in the Olympics, you've probably wondered what gold medals are made of. Are Athletes Really Awarded With Precious Metals? We understand the topic.

What was awarded to the winners of the first Olympics?

Let's start with the fact that there were no gold, silver or bronze medals at the ancient Olympic Games. The winner of the games was awarded a laurel wreath from the branches of the sacred olive tree, which grew near the temple of Zeus. The award, like the medal later, was worn around the neck.

The ancient Greek name for the Olympic Games was "Olympiakoi Agnos", which translates more accurately as "Olympic pain, agony or struggle".

When did the gold medal appear?

For the first time, medals were awarded at the Olympic Games in 1894, but then there were only two prizes: silver and bronze. Silver was valued more, so just such a medal was awarded for the first place. And only at the 1908 Olympic Games in London, gold was introduced as the first award, silver became the second, and bronze moved to third place.

At the same time, the tradition of biting Olympic medals appeared: in this way, the winners showed that they were awarded an award made of pure gold, since teeth marks remained on it due to the softness of the metal.

How much gold is in Olympic medals?

1912 Olympic gold medals. Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. Photo: Katherine Fogden, NMAI. Private collection

Pure gold was the reward for first place in the Olympics for a short time. Beginning with the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, a new rule was introduced regarding the standard of Olympic medals. It states that all gold medals must contain at least 6 grams of gold and must be made of 925 silver.

The size of the medals varies from game to game, but the content of precious metals remains the same. The gold medal is made from 1,45% gold, 6% bronze and 92,5% silver. The silver medal is made of 925 sterling silver and the bronze medal is made of bronze.

How are Olympic medals made?

Olympic medals are made in the same way as many modern coins.

After selecting a design, the Mint first creates 3D models that will be used to create a full-size medal shape. These molds are then heat treated to prepare them for the stamping process. After that, an alloy with the desired composition is poured into the molds and sent under a hydraulic press. Under the force of the press, medals with the selected image are formed.

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The resulting medals are finalized manually: fasteners for the ribbon are soldered to them and their appearance can be corrected.

Video about how the medals for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016 were made:


Recycled medals

This tradition began in 2016 in Rio and continued in Tokyo in 2020. Olympic medals have been made from recycled precious materials because it is much more environmentally friendly and in line with modern development.

At the Rio Olympics, the silver and bronze medals used 30% recycled materials and 50% recycled PET ribbons. The gold medals used recycled 925 sterling silver, sourced from leftover mirrors, X-rays, and other scraps. Also, the composition was completely free of mercury.

In 2020, Tokyo repeated the experiment with the environmental friendliness of medals, making it even bigger. The organizers called on Olympic fans to donate their old electronic devices to have their precious metal parts recycled into prizes for the winners. As a result of the action, 30,3 kg of gold, 4 kg of silver and 100 kg of bronze were collected.