Each Olympics introduces a new set of medals that athletes have spent their lifetime chasing. This year, the PyeongChang Olympics are featuring prizes loaded with Korean culture and tradition. And more silver than you might think, at least when it comes to the top prize.
This Olympiad’s medals were designed by South Korea’s Lee Suk-woo, with a diagonally striated design on the front inspired by the texture of tree trunks. The front also features the Olympic rings, while the back states the sport, event and PyeongChang 2018 emblem. Along the sides, “Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018” is spelled out in Hangul, the Korean alphabet.
As far as what makes up the medals, don’t go thinking the gold medal winners are getting pure gold, which hasn’t happened since the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. Like past medals, the gold medals for this Olympics are mostly composed of silver, using 580 grams with a 6-gram gold coating. In total, the 259 gold medals handed out in PyeongChang will hold 1,554 grams of gold, or 3.43 pounds.
Using only a thin layer of gold, while possibly disappointing for the purists, makes sense when you remember gold is extraordinarily expensive and only getting more expensive. Currently trading at around $1,330 per ounce, the gold in Korea’s gold medals would trade at around $281 per medal and $72,905 total. You can only imagine how expensive medals would if they were made with, say, 600 grams rather than six.
The silver medals are essentially the gold medals without the gold, composed of 580 grams of silver. Between the gold and silver medals, this Olympics’ medals will use 300,440 grams of silver, equivalent to 662 pounds or nearly a third of a ton. With silver hovering around $17 per ounce, that chunk of silver would go for around $180,000 between the two sets of medals.
The medals get a bit less lavish when you reach third place, as the bronze medals will be composed of 493 grams of simple copper.
No matter the composition, the champions of this Olympics will cherish their prizes for the rest of their lifetimes. At least, they hopefully will, assuming these medals don’t do what the ones from the Rio 2016 Olympics did.
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