Medals from Tokyo 2020.
  • A gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics contains just 1.2% gold. The rest is made of silver.
  • Only the silver medal is made entirely of its namesake. The bronze metal contains mostly copper.
  • Each of the 5,000 medals handed out at these Olympics is made from recycled electronic devices.
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Very few athletic achievements are greater than winning an Olympic gold medal, but the prizes awarded to these champs aren't worth their weight in gold.

In fact, only 1.2% of a gold medal handed out at the Tokyo Olympics is actual gold. The other 98.8% is silver, according to Compound Interest, a science communication website that examines chemical compounds.

That means each 0.5-kilogram gold medal contains just 6.7 grams of gold.

During the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the gold medals also contained about 6 grams of gold, CNN reported, though the medals themselves were about one-tenth of a pound lighter than those given out in Tokyo. (Typically, gold medals have just a thin layer of gold surrounded a silver base.)

Only the silver medals at this year's games, which weigh the same as their gold counterparts, are made entirely from their namesake. The lighter, 0.45-kilogram bronze medals - bronze is a mixture of copper and tin - are 95% copper and 5% zinc.

The medals were made from recycled cell phones

The gold, silver, and bronze in this year's Olympic medals were derived from recycled electronic devices like cell phones.
Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images, Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

Japan produced all 5,000 gold, silver, and bronze medals for the Tokyo games using recycled electronic devices like cell phones donated by people all over the country.

Over a span of two years, the Tokyo 2020 Medal Project collected 78,985 tons of electronic devices - including 6.21 million cell phones - from across Japan. The devices were heated to melt and extract the metal inside, which yielded 32 kilograms of gold, 3,500 kg of silver, and 2,200 kg of bronze.

It takes up to 40 cell phones to salvage one gram of gold, Compound Interest reported.

This is the first time in Olympic history that medals have been entirely made of recycled metal, though 30% of the silver medals from the 2016 Olympics came from recycled silver from car parts and mirrors.

Talia Lakritz contributed to this story.

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