Gold medals are award for the highest level of achievement in a field that is not military. Its name is derived from the fact that it is made using at least a portion of gold, in the form of plating or alloying during the production of it.
Since the 18th century gold medals have been given to students in the field of arts such as through the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts generally to signify an award designed to grant the most outstanding student financial freedom. Some offer just the prestige of an distinction. Many organizations today award gold medals, either annually or in extraordinary circumstances, such as numerous academic societies.
While certain gold medals are made of solid gold, other gold medals are silver-gilt or gold-plated, such as those from those of the Olympic Games, the Lorentz Medal and The United States Congressional Gold Medal and the Nobel Prize medal. Nobel Prize medals consist of 18 karat gold that has been plated with 24 Karat gold. Prior to 1980, they were struck in gold of 23 karats.
Prior to the introduction of the standard medals for soldiers, e.g., the Medal of Honor, it was common to award special medals designed to honor national recognition of any significant naval or military success or achievement. When it came to the United States, Congress would issue a resolution that asked the President to honor the individuals responsible for. The officer in charge would be awarded an award of gold and his officers would receive silver medals.
In the contemporary Olympic Games, winners of any discipline of sport receive an award of gold in recognition of their achievements.
In the Ancient Olympic Games, only one person in each event won an award. This was a kotinos. It was an olive wreath made from wild olive leaves , which were gathered from a sacred tree close to the Temple of Zeus located at Olympia. Aristophanes in Plutus mentions that the winners are awarded wreaths from wild olive, not gold. Herodotus tells a story which explains why there were just a handful of Greek participants during The Battle of Thermopylae since “all other men were participating in the Olympic Games” and the prize awarded to winners would be “an olive-wreath”. When Tigranes the Armenian general, heard this, he said to his superior: “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”.
In the 1896 Summer Olympics the winners received a silver award and the second-place finisher was awarded the bronze medal. In 1900, the majority of winners were awarded cups or trophies instead of medals. The subsequent three Olympics (1904 1904, 1908, 1912) presented the winners with gold-plated medals in solid gold, however the medals were less valuable. The gold use diminished with the beginning in the First World War and also after the outbreak in the Second World War. The last batch of Olympic medals made from solid gold was awarded in 1912 at the Summer Olympics held in Stockholm, Sweden.
Olympic gold medals have to be constructed from at minimum 92.5 percent silver. They must be made up of the minimum amount of the equivalent of 6 grams gold. All Olympic medals must measure at minimum 60mm in diameter with a thickness of 3 millimetres. Minting the medals falls to the obligation for the Olympic host. From 1928 until 1968 the design was the identical: the obverse displayed an unidentified design of Florentine artist Giuseppe Cassioli of Greek goddess Nike with Rome’s Colosseum as the background, and the text that referred to the city of the host and the reverse featured a different general design with Nike paying tribute to the Olympic champion.