How Olympic Medals Are Manufactured

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    Missy Franklin celebrates with her gold medal during the medal ceremony for the Women's 100m Backstroke on Day 3 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on July 30.

    We see them every time a national anthem is played at the Olympics. Many are held, kissed or even bitten by an athlete realizing a lifelong dream.

    The London 2012 Olympic medals forged by The Royal Mint of Llantrisant, Wales, are uniquely different from those seen in games before. A total of 4,700 medals were crafted for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

    • Gold and silver medals weigh 412 grams, just under one pound weight.
    • Bronze medals weight 357 grams, or close to three quarters of a pound.
    • The medals are a little more than a third of an inch thick.

    This makes this year’s medals the biggest and heaviest Olympic and Paralympic Games ever made. Each medal includes an inscription of the name and occasionally the distance of the event.

    One of the most frequently asked questions is how much gold makes up the gold medal? The Royal Mint says they are nearly 1.34% gold on the exterior, but mainly (92.5%) silver at the center.

    The design includes the London 2012 logo on one side while the other side includes an image of Nike (the winged Greek Goddess of Victory), the Athens skyline and the Panathenaic Stadium which was used in 1889 for the first modern Olympic games.

    Each medal takes nearly 10 hours to complete with several of the key stages shown in the accompanying slideshow.

    (Numbers correspond to photo #s) Photo Caption: Courtesy of The Royal Mint, UK 1) The Royal Mint begins using these blank metal disks... 2) Each medal is struck 15 times with 900 tonnes of pressure (roughly the same as a small battleship) 3) Each medal gets checked by hand during the process 4) Hand finishing adds to the luster, quality of the medal 5) These medals are being made for the London 2012 Paralympic Games 6) Paralympic medals included braille engraving features 7) A completed medal is readied for inspection 8) Quality control taken to an Olympic level 9) Silver Paralympic medal 10) A group of freshly struck medals awaits final finishing process 11) Now for the final touch, adding the familiar purple ribbon 12) Hand stitching is used to connect ribbon to medal 13) Completed medal and ribbon ready for presentation. 14) The finished product, begin national anthem.