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Are Olympic Medals Real Gold? The Answer May Surprise You

The Olympic medals for the 2024 Paris Olympics will have a piece of one of the world's most iconic structures. 

By Jill Sederstrom

For most athletes, winning the Olympic gold medal is the ultimate dream. It’s a symbol of perseverance, mastery and excellence — but is it real gold? 

The answer may surprise you. 

The gold medal is actually mostly made of silver and is simply plated with pure gold to give it that enviable golden glow. 

According to The New York Times, the International Olympic Committee has set out requirements that gold medals must be made of at least 92.5 percent silver. They also have about 6 grams of gold in each medal.

While the silver medal is, not surprisingly, made of silver, NPR reported that this year’s bronze medals are made of a mix of copper, tin, and zinc alloy.

RELATED: Who's on Team USA? Here's a List of the Athletes Qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics

When did Olympians begin getting medals? 

The tradition of bestowing Olympic medals to the top athletes in each event can be traced all the way back to the first modern Olympic Games, which was held in Athens in 1896. 

That year, according to Olympics.com, first place winners were given a silver medal, diploma, and olive branch. Those who came in second received a medal made of bronze and copper, a diploma, and a branch of laurel. 

The first Olympic medals featured the face of ancient Greek god Zeus and included the inscription“ΟΛΥΜΠΙΑ,” which translates to Olympia. On the back side, there was a view of Acropolis, the year of the Games and another inscription written in Greek.

The tradition of handing out gold, silver and bronze medals, according to officials, did not begin until the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis, Missouri.

The unveiling of the Paris 2024 Olympics Medals

How much is the gold medal worth?

While there may be no way to calculate the sentimental value of winning an Olympic gold medal, the medals do have a monetary value.

Gold medals are estimated to be worth approximately $750 to $850 simply based on the materials used to create them, according to NBC Sports

A presentation of The Paris 2024 Olympics Medals

What are the 2024 Paris Olympic medals made from? 

This year’s 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympic medals will have a very unique addition. Each medal will have a 18-gram, hexagonal piece of wrought iron that was once a part of the Eiffel Tower. 

"Having a gold medal is already something incredible. But we wanted to add this French touch and we thought that the Eiffel Tower would be this cherry on top,” Joachim Roncin, head of design at the Paris Games organizing committee told NPR. “Having a piece of it is a piece of history.”

The iron incorporated into the medals was removed from the Eiffel Tower and preserved after the 20th century renovation to the historic structure. The hexagonal shape of the iron addition pays homage to France, which is sometimes referred to as “L’Hexagone” due to its shape.

Surrounding the hexagon, the metal used to create the gold, silver and bronze medals will take on a crinkled look to reflect light and give the medal extra shine.

The back side of the Olympic medals, which were designed by the Paris jewelry house Chaumet, feature the Greek goddess of victory, Nike, along with the Olympic rings. 

The Paralympic medals will have “Paris” and “2024” written in braille in addition to the Agitos logo, according to NBC Sports. 

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Watch live coverage of the Opening Ceremony on Friday, July 26, on NBC and Peacock beginning at 12 p.m. ET. Telemundo will provide Spanish-language coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET. Primetime coverage starts at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT on NBC and Peacock.

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