Are Rio Olympic medals only fools gold?

Image: casadamoeda.gov.br

The gold medals at this year’s Summer Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro will be shiny and yellow but will contain hardly any gold.

Weighing around 500g, the medals will instead be made mostly of silver (494g) with only 6g of gold. The athletes will receive an award worth approximately $600 at current prices.

Production manager of the Olympic medals at the Brazilian Mint, Victor Hugo Criado Berbet, said the silver medals will contain 92.5 per cent pure silver.

The gold is considered very high quality and certified to contain a certain amount of purity.

The silver and ‘bronze’ medals – which are not fully made of bronze – are mainly made from recycled materials. The silver used in both the gold and silver medals is made mostly from plates and mirrors.

The bronze medals however, partially come from the same copper used to make Brazilian coins, with approximately 40 per cent of the total copper needed for all 5,130 gold, silver, and bronze medals coming from the mint.

Alternatively, the Paralympic medals, which are currently being made, will contain small steel balls, to be easily identified by participants with poor vision or going blind.

Although Nike, the goddess of victory in Greek mythology, has been on Olympic medals since the 2004 Athens Games, the version of her in the medal for the Rio games is supposed to depict Brazilian women.

Nelson Carneiro, the sculptor who created the medals, said, “Rio de Janeiro is a city full of curves in the sea and hills, just like the body of the Brazilian woman.”

The Summer Olympic games kick off on August 5.

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