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Friday, August 5, 2016

The Rio 2016 Gold Medal Is Worth $564

The Rio 2016 Olympics gold medal. Photo credit: Rio 2016/Alex Ferro

The thing about the Olympics is that it brings out the best in just about anyone who's involved with it. Whether it's for the pride of one’s country or the grandeur of personal gain, everyone associated with the event works hard to step up their own game. 

This certainly is true for the 5,130 Olympic medals that will be awarded to athletes in the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics. More than 100 employees in various fields—including, art, sustainability, engineering and production—were involved in the making of the medals. The result is several innovations in the design and in the sustainable sourcing and creation of the medals. 

A total of 2,488 medals were produced for the Rio 2016 Olympics (812 gold, 812 silver and 864 bronze) by the Mint of Brazil. All of the medals are the same size and weight, with a diameter of 85 millimeters and a weight of 500 grams. This makes the Rio 2016 Olympic medals the heaviest in the history of the Summer Olympics and it is tied with the 2012 London gold medal for the largest medals in the history of the Summer Olympics. At least three Winter Olympic medals were larger and heavier. 

But how much is a 2016 Rio Olympics gold medal worth? 

The reverse (top) and obverse of Rio 2016 Olympics gold medalPhoto
credit: Rio 2016/Alex Ferro

Precious metal prices fluctuate but based on gold and sterling silver prices as of Thursday, the “podium value” of the gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics is approximately $564, in line with the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games (about $566, even though that medal was 31 grams heavier). However, it is a nowhere near the approximate $708 record price of the 2012 London gold medal, due to the record high prices for gold and silver at the time.

If the entire medal was made of gold it would be valued at nearly $22,000, which is why 1912 was the last time all-gold medals were awarded.

As of Thursday, the price of gold was $43.76 per gram. The price of silver was 66 cents per gram, while the price of sterling silver was 61 cents per gram

Each of the 812 Olympic gold medals is plated with six grams of gold (the minimum required by the International Olympic Committee) with 99.9 percent purity. The remaining 494 grams is made of silver with 92.5 percent purity (the standard for sterling silver), according to the Mint of Brazil. The purity silver standard also is a minimum IOC requirement.

The obverse and reverse sides of the Rio 2016 Olympics gold, silver and bronze medals. Photo credit: Rio 2016/Alex Ferro

Each of the 812 silver medals contains 500 grams of sterling silver. The podium value is about $305. Each of the 864 bronze medals contains 475 grams of copper (95%) and 25 grams of zinc (5%). Its podium value is reportedly less than $3.

For the first time in history, the medals are designed in a dome-shape, higher in the center, so the thickness ranges from 6mm to 11mm. 

Sustainable Design
All of the medals (including those for the Paralympics) were produced by the Mint of Brazil, using methods that the Rio 2016 Olympic Committee described as “symbols of sustainability and accessibility.” More than 30 percent of the silver used in the production of the medals are recycled from mirrors, waste solders and X-ray plates. The gold is mined entirely free of mercury. More than 40 percent of the copper used in the production of bronze medals came from the industrial waste of the Mint of Brazil through a process that was developed internally.

The medals come with a sustainably sourced wooden box with a miniature sculpture of the Rio 2016 logo. Photo credit: Rio 2016/Alex Ferro

Even the ribbons that are attached to the medals were well thought out with half of the materials woven from recycled polyester polyethylene terephthalate (PET) yarn (recycled post consumer polyester made from bottles). Each medal comes with a sustainably sourced wooden box, certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which also contains a miniature sculpture of the Rio 2016 logo. 

The front of each medal has the Rio 2016 logo framed by laurel leaves (which were given as awards for the ancient Olympics). The reverse reveals the traditional etching of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, in the foreground and the Greek Panathnaic Stadium in the background. Above Nike is the engraving of “XXXI Olympiad” and the Olympic Rings. In a bit personalization, the name of the event in which the medal was won is engraved by laser along its outer edge.

The front and reverse sides of the three Rio 2016 Paralympic medals. Photo credit: Rio 2016/Alex Ferro

Paralympic medals with new sound innovation
The 2,642 Paralympic award medals were made by the Mint of Brazil are of the same weight, dimensions and materials as the Olympic medals. The design is highlighted by a trail of seeds that wraps from the front to the reverse side of the medal. Olympic officials say the seeds represent “the courage, persistence and development of athletes.” The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games logo is on both sides of the medal, with Braille inscriptions on the front side. 

For the first time the medals come with sound, so visually impaired athletes can identify the medal’s hue. Metal ball bearings were placed inside the medals which rattle when shaken. The gold medal makes the loudest noise and the bronze the weakest. 

The ball bearings being placed inside one of the medals

The use of sound is perhaps the biggest breakthrough in the design of the award medals this year and has the potential to serve as a new Olympic tradition. 

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