This year, the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro has taken a different approach to the prized bronze, silver and gold medals. We reported earlier that this year's medals show a commitment to environmental sustainability, as well as ethical material sourcing. However, this also means those prized gold medals are not so gold, after all.
According to USA Today, the gold medals only are plated in a tiny amount of gold. But why?
"Our operators and some of our developers had the same question," said Victor Hugo Berbert, a member of the Brazilian Mint team that managed the medal-making process. "We can produce medals out of pure gold. But we know how expensive they are. So, gold medals ... are not exactly pure gold."
USA Today did the math, and it turns out Berbert has a point: Each medal would have cost $23,500 each to manufacture in pure gold. With the shift to gold plating, each medal costs about $600. These gold-plated medals are still high quality—the gold must be certified to have a certain amount of purity.
It's very common for the host country's national mint to be in charge of the Olympic medals, as was the case this year. According to Berbert, the entire medal-making process took about two years.