In a variety of competitions, the gold medal has become the standard representation of ultimate victory. The fact that gold is the top honor in a variety of competitive fields, from the Olympics to the Nobel Prize, demonstrates the honor and majesty associated with the precious metal in history and today.
Ancient Olympic winners were not awarded with medals, but instead an olive branch. Medals were first given to Olympians during the first modern Olympic games in 1896, according to TIME. However, at this point, there was no gold honor, and the winner instead received a silver medal. Gold was first used in 1904 to represent the first era in Greek mythology - the Golden Era, in which the humans were among gods.
Today, the host country is responsible for minting the medals, and the design varies with each Olympiad. The Team U.S.A. Organization explains that the medals must be at least 60 millimeters in diameter, and a gold medal must include at least six grams of gold. Most Olympic gold medals are actually silver covered with 24-karat gold, according to TIME.
Another famous gold medal is the United States Congressional Gold Medal. This is the highest civilian honor, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and can be given to a person or group as a token of appreciation for contributions or achievements. Congress can award the Congressional Gold Medal to any civilian, of U.S. citizenship or not, from entertainers to humanitarians.