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Going for gold: what's in an Olympic medal for the Rio 2016 Games?

Published Wednesday 22nd June 2016

It’s an Olympic year, and of course that means gold medals.

Like many of the gold and silver items that are now made, Olympic medals contain recycled precious metals. Organisers of the Rio Games, which begin in August, have unveiled the design of the medals for the event and released information about how they are made.

There will be a total of 5,130 medals made for the Rio Olympics and Paralympics, all created by the Brazilian Mint. They feature the traditional laurel leaf and Rio logo on one side and Nike, Greek goddess of victory, on the reverse. The name of the event each medal is awarded for is engraved around the edge.

And although the gold and silver medals do contain precious metal, they are not solid gold or silver. In fact, there is only a small amount of solid silver and gold in each, but the precious metals they do contain have been sustainably sourced.

The gold used has been extracted without using Mercury and has come from renewable sources, the Rio 2016 website reported. Both the silver and bronze medals contain 30 per cent recycled materials such as the silver from mirrors, X-ray plates and soldering materials.

It’s traditional for Olympic gold medals to be made from gilt silver – or silver gilded with gold. When London hosted the Games in 2012, the gold medals contained 92.5 per cent silver and just one per cent gold.

So if you have inherited or bought gold or silver Olympic medals and want to sell them for recycling, the actual precious metal content may not be exactly what you thought.

Of course, it’s a different matter with the scrap gold and silver jewellery that you can convert into cash. Troy ounce by ounce, the metal is worth much more than an Olympic medal, and who knows – the gold and silver you recycle now could be used as part of the medals produced for the next games in 2020.