Olympic and Paralympic Medals

Chosen from a long-list of 100 UK artists and designers invited to tender by the London 2012 Organising Committee, jewellers David Watkins and Lin Cheung have created unique designs for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic medals.

Striking Gold meets the medal designers and explores their thinking behind the distinctive designs. Watkins has been known for his experimental approach to jewellery since the 1960s. Cheung, taught by Watkins at the Royal College of Art, London, has been an established jeweller since the mid 1990s. This exhibition tells their stories by presenting key moments in their practice via selected works, many of which are held in the Crafts Council Collection.

Philip Attwood, Keeper of Coins and Medals, British Museum on how the medal designs were chosen

David Watkins

David Watkins on the London 2012 Olympic medal design

3’8”, Jared Schiller, 2012

Olympic Medals

For the Olympic bronze, silver and gold medals, Watkins developed a striking geometric design to be juxtaposed with the imagery on the front of the medal, which has since 2004 depicted the Greek goddess of victory, Nike, stepping out of the Parthenon to arrive in the host city. His design for the back of the medal features a dished background, a 3D emblem which suggests the built structures of a modern city, a background grid that radiates energy, a ribbon-like form representing the River Thames, and a square which balances the circularity of the design.

More information about the Olympic medals.

London 2012 Olympic gold medal. Image courtesy of LOCOG.

Lin Cheung

Lin Cheung on the London 2012 Paralympic medal design

3’10”, Jared Schiller, 2012

Paralympic Medals

Inspired by the endurance, focus and achievement of Paralympic athletes, Cheung created a medal that is tactile and rich in elements of illustration, typography and texture. The front, ‘Spirit in motion’, features the imagined close-up section of an outstretched wing of the Greek goddess of victory. The back, ‘The heart of victory’, depicts the area close to the heart of the goddess Nike, and is overlaid with texture modelled on a plaster cast of Nike of Paionios held in the British Museum.

More information about the Paralympic medals.

London 2012 Paralympic gold medal. Image courtesy of LOCOG.

About the medals

When creating the brief for the designers, the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) worked closely with the British Museum’s Keeper of Coins and Medals, Philip Attwood, to look at the symbolic history of medals in Europe in the last century.

An independent panel of Sir John Sorrell (chair), Sir Mark Jones, Catherine Johnson, Ade Adepitan (deputy chair), Iwona Blazwick OBE, Niccy Hallifax and Martin Green was set up to look at the designs submitted by over 100 artists. The LOCOG Athletes’ Committee, chaired by Jonathan Edwards, and the British Olympic Association (BOA) were also involved throughout the process.

The London 2012 medals were produced at the Royal Mint’s headquarters in Llantrisant, South Wales, and the precious metals supplied by Rio Tinto.

More about the London 2012 Olympic medals

More about the London 2012 Paralympic medals

The medals are on display at the British Museum throughout the Games.