On my trip to London last month, I learned an interesting piece of Olympic history, one that I thought would be good to share as the Summer Games kick off this Friday in London.

062512_Graff,-Michelle-new-blog-shotSo, here’s my trivia question: The last Olympic Games that utilized solid gold medals was held when?

The answer is 100 years ago, at Stockholm in 1912. (The gold medal pictured below was won in rowing in the games held in London in 1908. It too is made of solid gold.)

Since that time, the medals awarded to the first-place finishers have been a veritable melting pot of metals. And this year in London will be no different.

According to information supplied by the World Gold Council (WGC), the gold medals that will adorn the 062012_Olympic-gold-medal necks of the winners over the next two weeks will be composed of 92.5 percent silver, 6.16 percent copper and only 1.34 percent gold.

The Games’ ruling body, the International Olympic Committee, mandates that each gold medal have a minimum silver content of 92.5 percent and contain at least six grams of gold.

They are flexible, it seems, on the third component. At the last Summer Games, held in Beijing in 2008, the medals contained jade, a nod to Chinese culture.

The London gold medals took 10 hours apiece to make and are worth about $706 each, making them more expensive than past medals due to--no surprise here to jewelers--the high cost of metals.

If all of this year's Olympic gold medals were made of solid gold, they would cost about $39 million in total to make.

A few other random facts to whet your Olympics appetite:
*In order to make this year’s gold, silver and bronze medals, eight tons of silver, gold and copper from Utah and Mongolia were shipped to Spain, where they were turned into discs. The discs then were sent to the Royal Mint.

*At the world’s original Olympic Games held in Ancient Greece, only one winner per event was crowned, with an olive wreath made of leaves from a sacred tree near the temple of Zeus at Olympia.

*Gold, silver and bronze were chosen because they denote the first three Ages of Man in Greek mythology: The Golden Age, where men lived among the gods, The Silver Age, where youth lasted 100 years, and The Bronze Age, which is known as the age of heroes.

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