What Is An Olympic Gold Medal Primarily Composed Of?
The only difference between a gold and silver Olympic medal—besides the superior athletic performance and loads of training required to get one over the other—is a small layer of pure gold on the exterior of the more prestigious medal. Both the gold and silver medals are 92.5 percent silver, but the gold medal has an additional six grams of pure gold plated over the top of it.
The very first modern Olympic games in 1896 didn’t even have gold medals—the winners were given a silver medal and an olive branch, and the runners-up were given a copper or bronze medal and a laurel branch. Gold medals were introduced in 1904 (and retroactively awarded to previous winners). The original gold medals were, in fact, solid gold. The tradition proved to be quite costly, however, and after the 1912 Olympic Games, the current practice of gold-plating a silver medal was instituted.
In addition to regulations on the metal composition of the medals, the Olympic Committee also requires that medals be at least 60mm in diameter and 3mm thick.