Gold medal
Overview
 
A gold medal is typically the medal
Medal
A medal, or medallion, is generally a circular object that has been sculpted, molded, cast, struck, stamped, or some way rendered with an insignia, portrait, or other artistic rendering. A medal may be awarded to a person or organization as a form of recognition for athletic, military, scientific,...

 awarded for highest achievement in a non-military field. Its name derives from the use of at least a fraction of gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

 in form of plating or alloying in its manufacture. The award concept arose in the military, initially by simple recognition of military rank
Military rank
Military rank is a system of hierarchical relationships in armed forces or civil institutions organized along military lines. Usually, uniforms denote the bearer's rank by particular insignia affixed to the uniforms...

, and later by decorations for admission to military orders dating back to medieval times.

Since the eighteenth century, gold medals have been awarded in the arts, for example, by the Royal Danish Academy, usually as a symbol of an award to give an outstanding student some financial freedom.
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
A gold medal is typically the medal
Medal
A medal, or medallion, is generally a circular object that has been sculpted, molded, cast, struck, stamped, or some way rendered with an insignia, portrait, or other artistic rendering. A medal may be awarded to a person or organization as a form of recognition for athletic, military, scientific,...

 awarded for highest achievement in a non-military field. Its name derives from the use of at least a fraction of gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

 in form of plating or alloying in its manufacture. The award concept arose in the military, initially by simple recognition of military rank
Military rank
Military rank is a system of hierarchical relationships in armed forces or civil institutions organized along military lines. Usually, uniforms denote the bearer's rank by particular insignia affixed to the uniforms...

, and later by decorations for admission to military orders dating back to medieval times.

Since the eighteenth century, gold medals have been awarded in the arts, for example, by the Royal Danish Academy, usually as a symbol of an award to give an outstanding student some financial freedom. Others offer only the prestige of the award. Many organizations now award gold medals either annually or extraordinarily, including UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 and various academic societies.

While most gold medals are solid gold, notable exceptions are gold-plated and often silver-gilt
Silver-gilt
Silver-gilt or gilded/gilt silver, sometimes known in American English by the French term vermeil, is silver gilded with gold. Most large objects made in goldsmithing that appear to be gold are actually silver-gilt; for example most sporting trophies, medals , and many crown jewels...

, like those of the Olympic Games
Olympic Games
The Olympic Games is a major international event featuring summer and winter sports, in which thousands of athletes participate in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games have come to be regarded as the world’s foremost sports competition where more than 200 nations participate...

, the Lorentz Medal
Lorentz Medal
Lorentz Medal is a prize awarded every four years by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. It was established in 1925 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the doctorate of Hendrik Lorentz. This solid gold medal is given for important contributions to theoretical physics, though...

, the United States Congressional Gold Medal (displayed to the right) and the Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

 medal. Nobel Prize medals consist of 18 carat
Carat (purity)
The karat or carat is a unit of purity for gold alloys.- Measure :Karat purity is measured as 24 times the purity by mass:where...

 green gold plated with 24 carat gold. Before 1980 they were struck in 23 carat gold.

Military origins


Before the establishment of standard military awards, e.g., the Medal of Honor, it was common practice to have a medal specially created to provide national recognition for a significant military or naval victory or accomplishment. In the United States, Congress would enact a resolution asking the President to reward those responsible. The commanding officer would receive a gold medal and his officers silver medals. Other countries similarly honored their military and naval victors in a similar fashion.

Competition medals

Medals have historically been given as prizes in various types of competitive activities, especially athletics.

Traditionally, medals are made of the following metals:
  1. Gold
    Gold
    Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

     (or another yellow metal, e.g., brass
    Brass
    Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc; the proportions of zinc and copper can be varied to create a range of brasses with varying properties.In comparison, bronze is principally an alloy of copper and tin...

    )
  2. Silver
    Silver
    Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

     (or another grey metal, e.g., steel
    Steel
    Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

    )
  3. Bronze
    Bronze
    Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...



These metals designate the first three Ages of Man
Ages of Man
The Ages of Man are the stages of human existence on the Earth according to Greek mythology. Two classical authors in particular offer accounts of the successive ages of mankind, which tend to progress from an original, long-gone age in which humans enjoyed a nearly divine existence to the current...

 in Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

: the Golden Age
Golden Age
The term Golden Age comes from Greek mythology and legend and refers to the first in a sequence of four or five Ages of Man, in which the Golden Age is first, followed in sequence, by the Silver, Bronze, and Iron Ages, and then the present, a period of decline...

, when men lived among the gods, the Silver Age
Silver age
A silver age is a name often given to a particular period within a history, typically as a lesser and later successor to a golden age, the metal silver generally being valuable, but less so than gold.-Greek myth:...

, where youth lasted a hundred years, and the Bronze Age
Heroic Age
The Greek Heroic Age is defined as the period between the coming of the Greeks to Thessaly and the Greek return from Troy. It was demarcated as one of the five Ages of Man by Hesiod...

, the era of heroes.

The custom of awarding the sequence of gold, silver
Silver medal
A silver medal is a medal awarded to the second place finisher of contests such as the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, and contests with similar formats....

, and bronze medal
Bronze medal
A bronze medal is a medal awarded to the third place finisher of contests such as the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, etc. The practice of awarding bronze third place medals began at the 1904 Olympic Games in St...

s for the first three highest achievers dates from at least the 19th century, with the National Association of Amateur Athletes in the United States awarding such medals as early as 1884.

This standard was adopted for Olympic competition at the 1904 Summer Olympics
1904 Summer Olympics
The 1904 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the III Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event which was celebrated in St. Louis, Missouri, in the United States from 1 July 1904, to November 23, 1904, at what is now known as Francis Field on the campus of Washington University...

. At the 1896 event, silver was awarded to winners and bronze to runners-up, while at 1900 other prizes were given, not medals.

Olympic Games

At the modern Olympic Games
Olympic Games
The Olympic Games is a major international event featuring summer and winter sports, in which thousands of athletes participate in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games have come to be regarded as the world’s foremost sports competition where more than 200 nations participate...

, winners of a sporting discipline receive a gold medal in recognition of their achievement. At the Ancient Olympic Games only one winner per event was crowned with kotinos which was an olive wreath made of wild olive leaves from a sacred tree near the temple of Zeus at Olympia. Aristophanes
Aristophanes
Aristophanes , son of Philippus, of the deme Cydathenaus, was a comic playwright of ancient Athens. Eleven of his forty plays survive virtually complete...

 in Plutus
Plutus (play)
Plutus is an Ancient Greek comedy by the playwrightAristophanes, first produced c. 388 BC. A political satire on contemporary Athens, it features the personified god of wealth Plutus...

 makes a sensible remark why victorious athletes are crowned with wreath made of wild olive instead of gold.
Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 describes a story that explains why there were only a few Greek men at the Battle of Thermopylae
Battle of Thermopylae
The Battle of Thermopylae was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, led by King Leonidas of Sparta, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place simultaneously with the naval battle at Artemisium, in August...

 since "all other men were participating in the Olympic Games" and that the prize for the winner was "an olive-wreath". When Tigranes
Tigranes
Tigranes was the name of a number of historical figures, primarily kings of Armenia.The earliest Tigranes is mentioned in the Cyropaedia and in Armenian historical sources. He was an Armenian king from the Orontid Dynasty and an ally of Cyrus the Great. One of his sons was also named Tigranes...

, an Armenian general learned this, he uttered to his leader a most noble saying: "Good heavens! what kind of men are these against whom you have brought us to fight? Men who do not compete for possessions, but for honour". Hence medals were not awarded at the ancient Olympic Games. At the 1896 Summer Olympics
1896 Summer Olympics
The 1896 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the I Olympiad, was a multi-sport event celebrated in Athens, Greece, from April 6 to April 15, 1896. It was the first international Olympic Games held in the Modern era...

, however, winners received a silver medal
Silver medal
A silver medal is a medal awarded to the second place finisher of contests such as the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, and contests with similar formats....

 and the second place finisher received a bronze medal
Bronze medal
A bronze medal is a medal awarded to the third place finisher of contests such as the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, etc. The practice of awarding bronze third place medals began at the 1904 Olympic Games in St...

. In 1900
1900 Summer Olympics
The 1900 Summer Olympics, today officially known as the Games of the II Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event which was celebrated in 1900 in Paris, France. No opening or closing ceremonies were held; competitions began on May 14 and ended on October 28. The Games were held as part of...

, most winners received cups or trophies instead of medals.

The last series of Olympic medals to be made of solid gold were awarded at the 1912 Olympic games in Sweden. Olympic Gold medals are required to be made from at least 92.5% silver, and must be plated with a minimum of 6 grams of gold. All Olympic medals must be at least 60mm in diameter and 3mm thick.

Minting
Mint (coin)
A mint is an industrial facility which manufactures coins for currency.The history of mints correlates closely with the history of coins. One difference is that the history of the mint is usually closely tied to the political situation of an era...

 the medals is the responsibility of the Olympic host. From 1928
1928 Summer Olympics
The 1928 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the IX Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event which was celebrated in 1928 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Amsterdam had bid for the 1920 and 1924 Olympic Games, but had to give way to war-victim Antwerp, Belgium, and Pierre de...

 through 1968
1968 Summer Olympics
The 1968 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XIX Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event held in Mexico City, Mexico in October 1968. The 1968 Games were the first Olympic Games hosted by a developing country, and the first Games hosted by a Spanish-speaking country...

 the design was always the same: the obverse showed a generic design by Florentine
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 artist Giuseppe Cassioli
Giuseppe Cassioli
Giuseppe Cassioli was an Italian painter and sculptor most famous for his Summer Olympic Games medal design.-Biography:...

 with text naming the host city; the reverse showed another generic design of an Olympic champion.

From the 1972 Summer Olympics
1972 Summer Olympics
The 1972 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XX Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event held in Munich, West Germany, from August 26 to September 11, 1972....

 through 2000
2000 Summer Olympics
The Sydney 2000 Summer Olympic Games or the Millennium Games/Games of the New Millennium, officially known as the Games of the XXVII Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was celebrated between 15 September and 1 October 2000 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia...

, Cassioli's design (or a slight modification) remained on the obverse with a custom design by the host city on the reverse. Noting that Cassioli's design showed a Roman amphitheater for what originally were Greek games, a new obverse design was commissioned for the 2004 Summer Olympics
2004 Summer Olympics
The 2004 Summer Olympic Games, officially known as the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad, was a premier international multi-sport event held in Athens, Greece from August 13 to August 29, 2004 with the motto Welcome Home. 10,625 athletes competed, some 600 more than expected, accompanied by 5,501 team...

 in Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

. For the 2008 Beijing Olympics
2008 Summer Olympics
The 2008 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, was a major international multi-sport event that took place in Beijing, China, from August 8 to August 24, 2008. A total of 11,028 athletes from 204 National Olympic Committees competed in 28 sports and 302 events...

 medals had a diameter of 70mm and were 6mm thick, with the front displaying a winged figure of victory and the back showed a Beijing Olympics symbol surrounded by an inset jade circle.

Winter Olympics medals have been of more varied design. The silver and bronze medals have always borne the same designs.

Other gold medal awards

The award of a gold medal, often coupled with the award of silver and bronze medals to the next place finishers, has been adopted in other competitive fields, such as music and writing. Typically bronze medals are awarded only to third place, but in some contests there is some variety, such as International barbershop music
Barbershop music
Barbershop vocal harmony, as codified during the barbershop revival era , is a style of a cappella, or unaccompanied vocal music characterized by consonant four-part chords for every melody note in a predominantly homophonic texture...

 contests where bronze medals are awarded for third, fourth, and fifth place.

External links

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