Breaking the Mould

Vancouver — They’re heavy, wavy and collectively worth about $1.8 million based on current metal prices.  And as unique as the world’s top athletes and their awe-inspiring performances, every medal won at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games will be a one-of-a-kind work of art.

In an Olympic first, each medal will be unique, featuring part of an image cropped from two large master artworks of an orca whale (Olympic) and raven (Paralympic) by Corrine Hunt, a Canadian designer and artist of Komoyue and Tlingit heritage based in Vancouver, B.C. wavey medal

Also for the first time, the medals are not flat, but instead move and rise, a design said to spring from the undulating land of the West Coast.  Internationally renowned Canadian industrial designer and architect Omer Arbel, also of Vancouver, used his extensive knowledge of materials and fabrication processes to create the innovative undulating design of the medals, which are struck nine times each to achieve the distinctive look as part of the 30-step medal fabrication process.

The Olympic medals are circular in shape, while the Paralympic medals are a superellipse, or squared circle. They are among the heaviest medals in Olympic and Paralympic history. Vancouver metals giant Teck Resources is producing and supplying the medals along with the Royal Canadian Mint. Teck is recovering materials from cathode ray tube glass, computer parts, and circuit boards through smelting. The process involves shredding, separating, and heating electronic components, then combining the byproducts with metals from other sources.

Learn more about the making of the making of the 2010 olympic medals.