Blog Are Olympic Gold Medals Made of Real Gold?
You may be surprised to learn that Olympic gold medals are not 100% gold. Gold medals, actually, are made primarily from silver.

Are Olympic Gold Medals Made of Real Gold?

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo is set to close on August 8th. We’ve been watching the games at Garfield, and it got us wondering: Are Olympic gold medals made of real gold?

You may be surprised to learn that Olympic gold medals are not 100% gold. Gold medals, actually, are made primarily from silver. They haven’t been 100% gold since the 1912 Stockholm Olympics.

What are gold medals made of?

The design and composition of the gold, silver, and bronze medals are determined by the host city’s organizing committee. The National Olympic Committee allows a lot of leeway in how medals are designed, but there are minimum standards.

The rules for gold medals are:

  • Gold medals are rewarded for first place.
  • Gold (and silver) medals are composed of at least 92.5% silver (sterling silver).
  • Gold medals are plated with at least 6 grams of gold.
  • All medals must be at least 3 mm thick and 60 mm in diameter.

Gold medal history

The tradition of awarding gold, silver, and bronze medals dates back to the 1904 Summer Olympic Games in St. Louis. However, as we mentioned, the last Olympic gold medal that was pure gold was awarded at the 1912 Stockholm games.

World War I caused a shortage in precious metals after the 1912 Stockholm games, according to ABC News. This is likely the reason Olympic gold medals haven’t been pure for more than 100 years.

Athens, Greece, hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896. First-place winners were awarded silver medals at those games because silver was more precious at the time.
The closing procession at the 1896 Olympics in Athens, Greece. Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the ancient Greek Olympics, medals weren’t awarded. The prizes: A wreath of olive leaves from a tree near Zeus’ temple was placed on the winner’s head.

Athens, Greece, hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896. First-place winners were awarded silver medals at those games because silver was more precious at the time. At the 1900 Olympic games in Paris, the winners received trophies or cups instead of medals.

How much are gold medals worth?

This year’s Tokyo Olympics medals are made from materials recycled from electronic devices donated by Japanese citizens.

The bullion value of Olympic gold medals isn’t that high. Taking current precious metals prices into consideration, Richard Gladdle of Baldwin’s Auctions told BBC News the melt value of a gold medal from Tokyo is about $750 right now.

The bullion value of Olympic gold medals isn’t that high. Taking current precious metals prices into consideration, Richard Gladdle of Baldwin’s Auctions told BBC News the melt value of a gold medal from Tokyo is about $750 right now.
The silver, gold, and bronze medal of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Bronze medals are barely worth anything. The bronze medals are made of an alloy of copper and zinc, and their melt value is less than $7!

Gold medals may not be super-lucrative items, but they’re priceless to the athletes who win them. Olympic medals are rarely sold at auction by athletes, but they net high prices when they are.

Mark Wells won a gold medal with the U.S. Men’s Hockey team at the Winter Olympics in 1980. Wells sold his medal to a private collector for nearly $311,000 in 2010. And in 2013, one of Jesse Owen’s gold medals from the 1936 Summer games in Berlin sold for about $1.47 million.

CLICK HERE if you’re looking to sell unwanted gold and silver.

Established in 1892, Garfield will get you the most for your gold, silver, platinum, and palladium, and we offer the industry’s best customer service. Call us today at 888-677-2362 to find out why Garfield is a premier precious metals refinery!