WHAT ARE THE RIO OLYMPIC MEDALS REALLY MADE OF?

The last time an Olympic gold medal was actually made of gold, was in 1912 for the Stockholm Olympic Games. They will look just like the real thing, but when the Olympic medals are handed out at the Olympic Games in Rio, they’ll be composed of 92.5% silver, at least six grams of gold and as part of the Rio Olympic Games’ commitment to sustainability, they’ll also include elements of recycled electronics.

UNIQUE DESIGN AND COMPOSITION FOR EACH GAMES

The International Olympic Committee stipulates that the Olympic medals at every Olympic Games must measure at least 3mm thick and 60mm in diameter. And the gold medals must be composed of 92.5% silver and contain at least six grams of high quality gold (around 1%), but the other elements used in the composition of the gold, silver and bronze medals are up to the country hosting the games. Over the last few decades, some surprising elements have been included in the gold medals, including:

  • Polycarbonate – otherwise known as plastic, polycarbonate was used at the Sochi Games in Russia to create the unique pattern used in the design of the medal
  • Jade – The gold medals for the 2008 Beijing Olympics featured an inset circle of jade.
  • Copper – Bronze is an alloy of Copper and usually tin, and it’s not surprising that a significant amount of copper is included in the Bronze medals, but copper has also been used to varying degrees in the composition of gold medals and silver medals.
 
what are the rio olympic medals really made of?

SO WHAT ARE THEY WORTH?

In terms of the raw materials, the value of each of the gold, silver and bronze medals fluctuates with the commodity prices, but in terms of what these medals represent to the athletes, they’re priceless.

Due to the work that athletes put into achieving a medal at the Olympic Games, they’re rarely put up for sale, but when they are, they usually fetch much more than the materials they’re made of. In 2010, an auction house sold the gold medal of 1980 USA Hockey Team member, Mark Wells for US$310,000 and Polish swimmer, Otylia Jedrzejczak donated her gold medal from the 200m butterfly at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games to a Polish charity which sold the medal for over US$80,000.

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