Now that the excitement (and for most of us, the anticipated final disappointment) of the Euros is over, our sporting focus has seamlessly moved to the re-scheduled Tokyo Olympics in Japan.
As the medal haul starts to grow, so does the catalogue of photographs of jubilant athletes and contestants having their pictures taken with their priceless medals. One picture you will see again and again is the close-up of the Olympians seemingly biting their newly won medal with their incisors as if they are checking the authenticity of the metal.
This then got us asking in the office what the Olympic medals are made of? We all know they are gold, silver, and bronze medals but is that what they are actually made from? Well, you might be surprised to learn that the specific composition and design of Olympic medals is determined by the host city's organising committee and could be different each time. You might also be surprised to know that whilst the silver medal is indeed made of silver and the bronze medal is made of bronze, the gold medal is just gold plated.
Although the Olympic gold medal is mostly silver, there are gold medals that are solid gold, such as the Nobel Prize Medal which before 1980, was made from 23-carat gold although now the medals are 18-carat green gold plated with 24-carat gold.
Whilst there is a little flexibility in the creation of an Olympic medal, minimum standards in their production must be always maintained and this includes that all gold and silver medals are at least 92.5% silver and gold Olympic medals must be plated with at least 6 grams of gold. The bronze medals are bronze, an alloy of copper and most commonly tin and all Olympic medals must be at least 3mm thick and at least 60mm in diameter. In recent history, the silver medals at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics had a purity of 99.9%, according to Olympic.org, whilst the gold medal was a silver medal plated with 6 grams of gold, and the bronze medal was made of an alloy of 90% copper and 10% zinc.
Each Olympics has its own medal design and Tokyo is no different, with its own unique pattern. The design for the medal was submitted by a member of the Japanese public after a competition received over 400 entries.
So where does the gold, silver and bronze come from?
From 2017, old mobile phones and electronic devices have been collected from across Japan as part of the Tokyo 2020 medal project and more than 90% of Japan's towns and cities contributed electronic devices, enabling the whole of Japan to get involved in the Olympic effort. In total over 78 tonnes of devices were collected which enabled enough, gold, silver, and bronze to be extracted to make the 5,000 medals for the Tokyo Olympic games.
Perhaps in the future if the cost of silver continue to rise, we may need to consider making the medals from Stainless Steel – you never know, maybe one day BS fixings could be manufacturing Olympic medals as well as stainless steel washers .
But for now, we would like to send out our congratulations to all the athletes who have already won gold and to those simply making it to the Olympic games during such difficult times.