Athletes travel to the Olympics from all over the world in the hopes of taking home the same prize: A gold medal. After competing with all their might, winners proudly drape their gold medals around their necks, (often) pretend to take a bite of them, and then presumably take them home to be put in ultra-protective cases.
And with the Winter Olympics right around the corner, sports fans might be wondering: Is a gold medal actually made of real gold?
As it turns out, each gold medal is only partially gold.
There are apparently specific standards for the materials that go into each medal, according to ThoughtCo. A gold medal must be at least 92.5 percent silver, and it must be plated with at least 6 grams of gold. Basically, a gold medal is just a silver medal with a gold shell.
Additionally, as ThoughtCo notes, a silver metal must also be at least 92.5 percent silver. A bronze medal is typically bronze, which is mainly a mixture of copper and tin. And all medals are required to be at least 3 millimeters thick and at least 60 millimeters in diameter.
The committee behind the upcoming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, have already released details on the games’ medals. As noted on the official Olympics website, both the gold and silver medals will be made of silver with a 99.9 percent purity. Additionally, the design of this year’s medal was inspired by South Korean culture. It features the Olympic rings and diagonal lines designed to look like tree trunks, and the ribbon is made from gapsa, a traditional South Korean fabric.
The medals in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 apparently had a special backstory, too. Some of the silver used to make the medals was actually made from recycled silver, according to Quartz. Specifically, mirrors, solder plates, and X-ray plates. Cool, huh?
So even though the gold medals may not technically be pure gold, they’re still worth writing home about (slash cherishing for the rest of one’s natural-born life).