A gold medal is typically the highest medal awarded for achievement in a non-military field. The concept comes from the military, initially with a simple recognition of military rank, and later 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 and various academic societies.
While most gold medals are gold-plated, notable exceptions, made of solid gold, are the Lorentz Medal, the United States Congressional Gold Medal (which is shown to the right), and the Nobel Prize medal. Nobel Prize medals are made from 18 carat green gold plated with 24 carat gold (before 1980 they were struck in 23 carat gold).
The custom of the sequence of gold-silver-bronze for the first three places dates from the 1904 games and has been adopted by many other sporting events. Minting of the medals is the responsibility of the host city. From 1928-1968 the design always was the same: the obverse showed a generic design by Florentine artist Giuseppe Cassioli with text giving the host city; the reverse showed another generic design of an Olympic champion.
From 1972-2000, Cassioli's design (or a slight reworking) remained on the obverse with a custom design by the host city on the reverse. Noting that Cassioli's design showed a Roman amphitheatre for what originally were Greek games, a new obverse design was commissioned for the Athens 2004 Games.
For the 2008 Beijing olympics medals were 70mm in diameter and 6mm thick with the front showing a winged figure of victory and the back 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. The term "gold" refers to colour, not metallic content (as the medals may contain as little as 6 grams of gold).
Going for the gold: Quality Institute International looks to add luster to its Gold Medal program--and to the products and manufacturers that receive its highest prize.
Aug 01, 2003; To a food industry that's tried wellness, convenience, color and just about every other attribute to jump start growth, the...