Swimming

How Have Summer Olympic Medals Evolved Over Time? (Summer Olympic Medal Index)

Across 29 editions of the Summer Olympic Games, the medal has risen to become a symbol of the highest achievement in sport. First introduced for the first edition of the modern Olympic Games in 1896, the Olympic medal has a longstanding tradition associated with it. 

At the first Olympic Games in 1896, competitors were not yet awarded gold medals. Instead, first place finishers received a silver medal, an olive branch, and a diploma, while the second place finishers won a bronze medal. In a similar fashion, winners at the 1900 Olympic Games won a silver medal, while second place also received a silver medal. These Olympics were the first Games to award the third place finishers bronze medals. 

Podium finishers were first awarded gold, silver, and bronze medals at the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis, a tradition that still stands to this day. From 1904 until 1912, all Olympic gold medals were made of solid gold, while silver and bronze medals were also made out of the natural minerals. After 1920, Olympic medals were often composed of different materials than gold, silver, and bronze. According to the IOC, modern Olympic gold medals must be composed  of at least 92.5% of silver, plated with 6 grams of gold, silver medals must be composed of 92.5% silver, and bronze medals should have a composition of approximately 97% copper with 0.5% tin and 2.5% zinc. However, for the 2020 Olympic Games, the bronze medals were composed of 95% copper and 5% zinc. Olympic medals must also meet certain guidelines pertaining to their size, with a minimum diameter of 60 mm and a minimum thickness of 3mm. 

Throughout the years, there have been many different variations of the Olympic medal as each individual host country is tasked with designing its own medal. At the first Olympic Games, officials elected to use a round medal shape, which has become the standard shape for medals since then. The only exception to this came at the second Olympic Games in 1900, when the medals were rectangle shaped. From 1928 until 1968, the medal design was standardized to feature the Greek goddess of victory on one side and triumphant competitor on the other. For the 1972 Games in Berlin, organizers changed the backside of the medal to feature Castor and Pollux, the twin sons of Zeus and Léda, setting a new standard that has been used ever since then. 

Summer Olympic Medal Designs 

Year
Location
Medals (front/back) via IOC

1896
Athens, Greece

1900
Paris, France

1904
St. Louis, Missouri
Jocurile Olimpice 1904 | Olympic medals, History of olympics, Olympic gold medals

1908
London, England
London 1908 Olympic Medals - Design, History & Photos

1912
Stockholm, Sweden
Gold Medal Stockholm Sweden | Olympic Gold Medal 1912

1920

Antwerp 1920 Olympic Gold medal seen on 100th anniversary | FIH

1924
Paris, France
Sell Your Bronze 1924 Paris Olympics Medal at Nate D. Sanders Auctions

1928

1928 Gold Medal from the Amsterdam Summer Olympics Nets $14,079

1932

Sell a Bronze 1932 Los Angeles Olympics Medal / Nate D Sanders Auction

1936
Berlin, Germany
Official Medals and Badges of the Berlin 1936 Olympic Games - David Feldman SA

1948

Sell a Bronze 1948 London Olympics Medal at Nate D. Sanders Auctions

1952
Helsinki, Finland
File:Medal of olympic summer games 1952.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

1956

Melbourne 1956 Olympic Medals - Design, History & Photos

1960
Rome, Italy
Olympic Medals from 1896 to 2014 | Olympic medals, Medals, History of olympics

1964
Tokyo, Japan
Olympic Medals from 1896 to 2014 | Olympic medals, History of olympics, Olympics

1968

1968 Summer Olympics Olympic Games 1968 Olympics Black Power salute Olympic medal Gold medal, silver medal, medal, gold, olympic Games png | PNGWing

1972

Munich 1972 Olympic Medals - Design, History & Photos

1976

Lot Detail - Silver Gymnastics Medal From the 1976 Summer Olympics -- Won by Member of The USSR Gymnastics Team

1980

1980 Moscow Olympic 'Gold' Medal with Ribbons & Display Stands !!! | eBay

1984

USA Men's Basketball 1984 Olympic Gold Medal Up For Auction, Could Fetch $70k!

1988

1988 OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL - A MAJOR OLYMPIC COLLECTION IS FEATURED

1992

The Spain Barcelona gold medal sport player awards gold plated 1992 badge party gift games medals with ribbon.1pcs/lot - AliExpress Home & Garden

1996
Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta 1996 Olympic Medals - Design, History & Photos

2000

Sydney 2000 Olympic Medals - Design, History & Photos

2004
Athens, Greece
Athens 2004 Olympic Medals - Design, History & Photos

2008
Beijing, China
Beijing 2008 Olympic Medals - Design, History & Photos

2012

London 2012 Olympic Medals - Design, History & Photos

2016

Brazil's 2016 Olympic medal has barely any gold on it - MINING.COM

2020
Tokyo, Japan
How Much is a 2020 Tokyo Olympics Medal Worth

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