What Are Olympic Gold Medals Made of?

Contrary to what most people think, Olympic gold medals are made mostly of silver not gold. They have not been made from solid gold since the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. The International Olympics Committee (IOC) has mandated that Olympic gold medals contain at least 0.21 oz (6 g) of gold, but they are usually silver with gold plating.

What Other Materials Are Used?

The actual composition of the medal varies from one Olympiad to the next. For example, the 2012 London Olympic gold medals contained 6% copper and 93% silver, with only 1.34% gold. Aside from the gold plating, a gold medal and a silver medal have virtually the same makeup; silver medals replace the gold with more copper. Exotic materials have been introduced into the medals in other Games, including jade for the 2008 Beijing Games.

Other Olympic Medal Facts

  • Ancient Olympians were awarded with horseshoe-shaped olive wreaths (called kotinos) that the winner (there was only one) wore atop his head.

  • At the first modern Olympic games (in Athens in 1896), the winner was awarded a silver medal. The 1904 Olympiad in St. Louis, Missouri featured the first gold medals.

  • The shape and size of Olympic medals have changed over the years. Today, they are round and about 2.75 inches (7 cm) in diameter but in 1896 they were less than 2 inches (48 mm) in diameter. In 1900, the medals had a rectangular shape.

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