Why gold is not gold, and bronze is worth less than a petrol station sandwich

London Spy

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Don't smile too much, Becky - it's only worth three quid

Medals of any shade are priceless to the competitors at London 2012 - but they may still be surprised to learn that some of them cost less than a sandwich from a petrol station.

The gongs given out at this year's Olympics are the largest and heaviest ever seen at a Games, measuring 8.5cm in diameter and weighing a hefty 400g - almost as much as a normal bag of sugar.

But the bronze medals - including the one won by Rebecca Adlington in the 400m freestyle on Sunday night - are worth less than £3.

The gold medals, ironically, are barely gold at all: they are, in fact, 92.5 per cent silver, with just one per cent gold and the rest copper. Their basic value is £410.

At least the silver medals - as won by Lizzie Armitstead in the women's cycling road race on Sunday - are what they say on the tin, being made up of the same 92.5 per cent silver, with the remainder copper.

The bronze medals, though, are 97 per cent copper, 2.5 per cent zinc and 0.5 per cent tin. Bronze alloys usually consist of around 88 per cent copper and 12 per cent tin.

Tin is more than twice as expensive as copper, however, and keeping the level of it down makes those bronze medals worth a few pence less than £3, according to a report in the Daily Mail.

The medals are made by the Royal Mint in Llantrisant, near Cardiff, from metal mined in America and Mongolia. One side features a design showing the River Thames and the London 2012 logo, while on the other is a picture of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, emerging from the Panathinaiko Stadium in Greece.

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The London 2012 medals

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