Defining the Gold: What Are The Olympic Medals Made Of?

The answer to that question may surprise you. Not all of them are made of what their names suggest. 

We’ve put together this quick guide to help you learn more about bronze, silver, and gold Olympic medals. 

Olympic Medals

So keep reading below! 

What Are the Olympic Medals Made Of?

The exact make-up of the Olympic medals can vary depending on which country makes them. But not all of them are what they seem. 

Here’s a brief look at each Olympic medal and how they’re made. 


The bronze Olympic medal is made of mostly copper, but it does contain 5% zinc. 

This isn’t unusual. 

After all, bronze itself is an alloy that consists largely of copper with a few additional ingredients, like zinc, thrown into the mix. In other words, the bronze medal is made of actual bronze. 


Like the bronze medal, the silver Olympic medal is made of 100% silver


If you’re following the pattern, you might assume that the gold Olympic medal is made of—that’s right—pure gold. But you’d be wrong. 

In fact, the gold medal barely contains any gold at all. 

The International Olympic Committee requires Olympic gold medals to contain at least 6 grams of gold. The rest of the medal is made of silver. When it’s all put together, this balances out to about 98.8% silver and 1.2% gold. 

That’s it. 

How Much Are Olympic Medals Worth?

They’re worth a lot less than you think. 

You spend more money on a cup of coffee than you would if you decided to buy a bronze medal. An average cup of Starbucks coffee costs about $3.25, but the Olympic bronze medal is only worth approximately $2.38. 

You’d have to give your 13-year-old teenager 4 and a half bronze medals every week to meet the average allowance of most families.  

When compared to bronze medals, silver medals are worth quite a bit more. The average value for an Olympic silver medal is about $315. While this seems a bit higher, it’s still less than the average American spends on basic living expenses in three days

The gold Olympic medal is valued at about $565. Again, though this amount is more than the silver medal, it is still less than most adults make from work in a single week. 

But then again, the true value of an Olympic medal can’t be measured in dollar amounts. 

Did the Olympics Always Have Medals?


The earliest Olympic winners, way back in ancient Greece, were awarded olive wreaths. Modern medals weren’t introduced until 1896, but even after that, other rewards, similar to the cups at, were used instead. 

It wasn’t until 1904 that medals became a constant Olympic prize. 

Understanding Olympic Medals 

So what are the Olympic medals made of?

The bronze and silver medals are pretty straightforward, but the gold medals barely contain any gold at all. And even though they aren’t worth as much as you might expect, that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable to the athletes who win them. 

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