The gold medal is priceless to those who receive the prestigious prize, but the fact still remains that the medals are manufactured. So what is the actual value of an Olympic gold medal?
Gold Medal Value
Gold medals at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics weighed in at 586 grams, almost 20% heavier than the 2016 Rio Olympic gold medals. They were 92.5 mm in diameter. A total of 102 medals were awarded in 15 sports disciplines; 2018 was the first Winter Games in which the gold medal count exceeded 100.
The International Olympic Committee requires the gold medal to contain a minimum of six grams of gold and roughly 92.5% silver. In 2018, the gold medal was 99% silver with 6 grams of gold plating. Since the medal itself weighs 586 grams, it is comprised of 580 grams of silver and just 6 grams of gold.
In February 2018, gold traded around $43 per gram and silver traded at approximately $0.60 per gram. At these price levels, the true value of a gold medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics was about $606 during the Games. Gold medals from the 2016 Rio Olympics were worth a comparable $532.
Why Gold Medals?
Olympic medals have not always been gold. At the first modern Olympic games in 1896, the medals awarded to the first-place team were silver and the runner-up received a copper medal. In the next set of summer Olympics in 1900, many of the winners received trophies and cups in place of medals. It was not until 1904 that gold, silver, and bronze medals started being awarded to competitors.
Each Olympic city hosting the games decides on a unique design and mints the medals. The 2018 PyeongChang design was inspired by traditional elements of Korean culture. The medals were designed by Lee Suk-woo and incorporate Korean Hangeul writing and the texture of tree trunks. The teal and red ribbon will be made from gapsa, a traditional Korean fabric. 2016's Rio Olympic medals were designed with sustainability in mind and included recycled materials, laurel wreaths, and the Greek Goddess of Victory, Nike.
The last time an Olympic medal was made entirely out of gold was in 1912 at the Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. At the time, the average price for one ounce of gold was roughly $18.93 and the weight of the 1912 Stockholm Olympic gold medal was about 24g (0.85 ounces). The cost of a solid gold Olympic medal was approximately $20.40 in 1912. Adjusting for inflation, today it would have cost $542.
The Bottom Line
According to the International Olympic Committee, the 2018 gold medal was designed to reflect the history of the Olympic games and the spirit of the athletes that participate. Even though a medal may not be worth its weight in gold, the athletes that earn one will probably feel that the rewards are much more valuable.