Olympic Gold Medals Are Worth a Lot Less Than You'd Think

The 2022 Winter Olympics are going down literally right now, and a bunch of people are about to walk away with some verrrrrry fancy medals. Obviously, the International Olympic Committee gives out three types of medals: gold, silver, and bronze. And judging from how heavy they look, they’re definitely very solid. But, like, how solid (and how expensive) are we talking? Because I’m going to need answers to the following questions before I pivot my life from couch to curling:

Are Olympic Medals Made From Real Gold?

Kinda. Sorta. In the way that the necklace your ex gave you is made from “real gold” plus a bunch of other metals lurking beneath the surface. Turns out Olympic gold medals are actually, ironically, mostly made from silver. Specifically, they’re 92.5 percent silver. However, they are plated with 6 grams of gold so at least there’s that.

Back in 2021, an International Olympic Committee Spokesperson confirmed as much to Newsweek, explaining, “The medals for first and second places shall be of silver of at least 925-1000 grade; the medal for first place shall be gilded with at least 6g of pure gold.”

Obviously, this means silver medals are basically just gold medals without the extra gilding. Meanwhile, bronze medals (bless them!) are made from 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc. Huh!

Anyway, before we move on to $$, a quick note on the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics medal design (because its super fascinating!).


A post shared by The Olympic Games (@olympics)

The Beijing Winter Olympic medals are named “Tong Xin,” which means “together as one.” And according to the Olympics website, the design by Hang Hai is based on “Chinese ancient jade concentric circle pendants with the five rings representing the Olympic spirit to bring people together and the splendor of the Olympic Winter Games being shared all over the world.”

The front of the medals features the Olympic rings with “XXIV Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022” around them, which is then surrounded by ice, snow, and cloud patterns. Meanwhile, the back of the medals features the Olympics emblem, and the full Chinese name of the games (北京2022年第24届冬季奥林匹克运动会). The Olympics website also notes that “the ring is concave, which echoes the traditional jade pendant design. The shallow carved designs on the rings are all based on traditional Chinese patterns.”

As a reminder, Beijing also previously hosted the Summer Games, and the design of this year’s medals pays tribute to their jade-inlaid medals in 2008—and showcases Beijing’s status as the first “Dual Olympic City.”

So How Much Are Olympic Medals Worth?

Honestly, Olympic medals in general tend to not be worth that much when it comes to the literal materials they’re made of. Silver isn’t a particularly valuable metal, and NBC reports that the gold medals (which, again, are mostly made up of silver) at the 2022 Winter Olympics are worth less than $750. Apparently, there’s about $350 of gold and $400 of silver in each medal, which comes to about $750.64 in total metal value. Of course, Olympic medals have enormous historical and sentimental value and are therefore priceless, so their actual material worth is kinda irrelevant!

‘Kay, But What’s Up With Olympians Biting Their Medals?

Nary a year goes by without photos circulating of Olympians biting their gold medals. Why? Because biting gold is a classic way of verifying its authenticity. Gold is a super soft and malleable metal which can be marked, apparently even by teeth. As the Olympics website puts it, “History says that, during the early days, traders bit their gold coins to check its authenticity when the precious metal was used as a form of currency. Gold is a soft metal which dents under slight stress and leaves a mark when gnawed.”

Cute, but if you’re thinking about biting a medal in the near future, please be advised that German luger David Moeller broke a tooth while biting his silver medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics, so…

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