What Is An Olympic Gold Medal Primarily Composed Of?
The only difference between a gold and silver Olympic medal–besides superior athletic performance and loads of training–is a small layer of pure gold on the exterior of the gold medal. Both the gold and silver medals are solid .925 grade silver, but the gold medal has an additional six grams of pure gold plated over the top of it.
The very first 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 bronze medals and an olive 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.