My name is Harald Seiz and I have been fascinated with gold for a very long time. I worked as a financial adviser in the 1980s and saw how wealthy clients used gold to build their wealth and protect against inflation. Now my firm in Stuttgart, Germany produces gold Karatbars in 1-, 2.5- and 5-gram weights.
So when I was watching two beautiful young German women in bikinis receive gold medals in beach volleyball during the 2016 Olympics, my first thought was “Are those real gold?”
When is a Gold Medal not a Gold Medal?
Imagine my surprise when I learned that an Olympic gold medal has almost no gold in it at all! The medals are made of silver, copper and gold, and there is almost twice as much copper in the medal as gold. Being in the gold business I expected the medals to be a gold alloy, but imagine my surprise when I learned they are only 1.3 percent gold.
The 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City were even worse, even though Germany won more medals than any other country. The 12 gold medals each weighed 20 ounces (566 g), but contained only 6 grams of gold, meaning they were barely 1 percent gold. I’ve since learned that 6 grams is the minimum mandated by the International Olympic Committee and has become the standard amount in gold medals.
There is some history here.
The last time an Olympic gold medal was a gold medal was at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. That solid gold medal weighed 26 grams and was worth about $15, or enough to take the every one of the 25 German medal winners out to dinner to celebrate.
100 years later, at the time of the 2012 games in London, the 26 grams of gold in the Stockholm Olympic medal were worth around $1,100, which was enough to take 25 athletes out to a nice dinner.
Gold is the real winner.
This illustrates what I have learned about gold. It holds its value when measured by what it can buy. The price increase looks impressive, but the metal is still worth the same number of celebratory dinners.
Of course, Olympic gold medals are worth more than that to the athletes who win them and the fellow citizens who watch them on the podium as they are awarded.