What Are Olympic Gold Medals Made of?
The top three finishers (in most cases) of each Olympic competition are awarded the gold, silver, and bronze medals, respectively. While the name seems to imply it, Olympic gold medals are not 100% gold. At one time the prize given to the first-place finisher in each competition was solid gold, but now Olympic gold medals are made mostly from silver. For that matter, the second-place silver medals aren't always 100% silver either, though they do contain the same amount of silver as the gold medal. As for the third-place bronze medal, it is made of exactly what its name claims.
The specific composition and design of Olympic medals is determined by the host city's organizing committee. However, minimum standards must be maintained:
Gold and silver medals are at least 92.5% silver.
Gold medals must be plated with at least 6 grams of gold.
All Olympic medals must be at least 3 mm thick and at least 60 mm in diameter.
The silver medals at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics had a purity of 99.9%, according to Olympic.org. A gold medal was a silver medal plated with 6 grams of gold, while the bronze is made of an alloy of 90% copper and 10% zinc.
Gold, silver, and bronze medals have not always been awarded. In the original Greek games, a wreath of olive leaves taken from a tree near the temple of Zeus was placed on the victor's head.
When the first modern Olympics were held in Athens in 1896, the first-place winners were awarded silver medals, since silver was more sought-after at the time. The runners-up got bronze medals. The winners at the 1900 Paris Olympics received trophies instead of medals.
The custom of awarding gold, silver, and bronze medals started at the 1904 St. Louis Olympics. The last Olympic gold medal that was made from solid gold was awarded in 1912 in Stockholm. After that year, the gold medals have been gilded silver rather than solid gold.
The 2016 Rio Summer Olympics featured most eco-friendly metals with the gold free of mercury contamination. Mercury and gold are notoriously difficult elements to separate. The sterling silver used for the silver medals was partly recycled (about 30% by mass). Part of the copper used to make the bronze for the bronze medals was recycled as well.
The gold medals for the Tokyo Olympics, designed by Japanese designer Junichi Kawanishi, comprise roughly 6 grams of gold atop roughly 550 grams of pure silver. Since gold and silver rates, like stock prices, fluctuate frequently, the value of the medal isn’t exactly static. But in general, it’s hovering somewhere above $800. A silver medal, made of 550 grams of pure silver, comes in at $462; while the bronze medal, mostly copper and a little zinc, is worth just a few bucks.
1. plate v. 镀（金、银等）
2. diameter n. 直径，对径
3. wreath n. 花冠，花环
4. sought-after adj. 受青睐的，抢手的
5. runner-up n. 亚军
6. trophy n. 奖品，奖杯
7. mercury n. 汞，水银
8. notoriously adv. 众所周知地
9. static adj. 静止的，静态的，停滞的
10. hover v. (价格、价值等) 徘徊 (在某个水平上下)