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What are Olympic and Paralympic medals made of? Tradition, history, 2024 Paris Olympics medals, and more

Ever Wonder: What are Olympic medals made of?
Steve Kornacki details the storied history of Olympic medals and how the tradition of awarding gold, silver and bronze came to be.

There’s no better feeling than standing on the Olympic podium with a medal draped around your neck while hearing your country’s national anthem being played. It’s the ultimate symbol of achievement, triumph, and accomplishment—a sign that your name is forever carved in the history of greatness. It’s the reason why so many athletes sacrifice their lives, their time, and their bodies in pursuit of Olympic dreams.

Olympic medals are synonymous with glory. But they weren’t always the traditional gold, silver, and bronze that we’re familiar with today.

When did the tradition of awarding gold, silver, and bronze Olympic medals begin?

At the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece first-place winners received a silver medal along with an olive branch. Second and third-place finishers received bronze medals and a laurel branch. The tradition of handing out gold, silver, and bronze medals wasn’t introduced until the 1904 Games—8 years later—in St. Louis, Missouri.

What are Olympic and Paralympic medals made of today and how much is a gold medal actually worth?

Surprisingly, the gold medal only contains about six grams of pure gold which encases the exterior part of the medal. Gold medals consist mostly of silver, putting them at a value of approximately $750 to $850 dollars (based solely on the value of the materials). Silver medals are made out of pure silver, while bronze medals consist of about 95% copper and 5% zinc. But all three medals will be getting a special upgrade for the 2024 Paris Games.

What will Olympic and Paralympic medals for the 2024 Paris Games look like?

Every 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympic medal will contain a central 18-gram, hexagonal piece of wrought iron from the monumental Eiffel Tower. The iron was removed and preserved during the 20th-century renovation.

Olympic Medals Paris 2024

Paris 2024

Paralympic Medals Paris 2024

Paris 2024

The hexagonal shape is a tribute to the country’s nickname "“L’hexagone” affectionally crafted because the nation is shaped like a hexagon.

Paris 2024

The rear side of the Olympic medals will feature the traditional Olympic rings and Nike—the Greek goddess of victory. While the back of the Paralympic medals will include the words “Paris” and “2024 written in braille along with the Agitos.

Paralympic Medals Paris 2024

Paris 2024

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