Why are Olympic Medals Gold, Silver and Bronze?

Why are Olympic Medals Gold, Silver and Bronze?

It's safe to say we've all grown up on the Olympic Games. Watching your favorite athletes take the lead and claim gold was simply thrilling, and ahem, sometimes emotion-inducing.

Everyone was usually so in the moment that nothing else matters, like "Wait, why do they place round medals around their necks and then go onto bite them?". 

In the spirit and excitement of the 2021 Tokyo games, we wanted to paint a little background of why gold, silver, and bronze medal tiers exist – so you can spit out fun facts at your upcoming viewing parties.

The History of Medals

When the Olympics originated in Greece, being close to the gods was the ultimate sign of success, and olive wreaths were an ode to the one and only Zeus, king of the gods in Greek mythology. The winner of each race received an olive wreath and a silver medal, while the runner-ups earned a laurel wreath and a bronze medal.

The Parisians, kings of trend-setting, awarded victors with cups, trophies, and valuable art to honor their success in the 1900 Olympics, pivoting the awards towards valuable, rare objects. The following Olympics were held in the US, St. Louis to be exact, where the winner was donned with a shiny gold medal, second place earned a silver medal, and third place received a bronze – introducing the three-tiered system still used today.

Olive wreaths are cool and all, but you can't deny the allure of rare, heavy, one-of-a-kind medals, reminding you of the feat you just accomplished.

So, Why Gold, Silver, and Bronze?

Like all the best nuggets of history, you get to decide which theory you prefer, because the reasons for using gold, silver, and bronze medal materials remain ambiguous. Here are the two leading theories:

Periodic Table

One explanation for the specific Olympic medals requires a little chemistry lesson. Don't worry - there won't be a pop quiz at the end of this. The periodic table describes the characteristics of every element, including gold, silver, and copper (a central alloy in bronze). These three elements are all in the same column, with atomic numbers 27, 49, and 79, which is just a bit too convenient to disregard as coincidence.

It means that these elements have very similar properties – and what's interesting here is that the elements in this exact column form substances that don't break down. They're found in their pure form, which is absolutely fitting to award the three best athletes in the world, right?

Scarcity

Gold, silver, and bronze share something else in common – their inherent, lasting value due to scarcity. The sheer existence of metals is an incredible thought in itself – the earth's crust delivering molten metals through volcanoes every millennium or so – and as metals are a natural material, there's only a finite amount of them. #science

We can reuse, rework and recycle them, but gold, silver, and bronze will remain highly valuable, because humankind simply can't just create them. Additionally, high-density elements are much rarer than lighter ones. That's how we arrive at the final medal placements, because gold is the densest of the three, followed by silver and then last, but not least, copper (bronze).

Our Tokyo Collection

We're celebrating the games this year as a much-needed supply of excitement and fun for the world, even if it's still a little different than the normal games. 

We've curated a winning shave with our Tokyo Collection, including Polished Gold, Polished Silver, and Polished Bronze Single Edge razors, that deliver the most delicate cut.

And like the medals of world-best achievement, our Tokyo Collection is in finite supply, too – so for the best razors, you’ll have to grab them while they're around.

Shop Limited Edition Tokyo Collection here.