(CNN) — The medals at this year’s Olympics in Paris were not only inspired by the Eiffel Tower — they each contain an original piece of the 19th-century landmark.
Unveiling the designs Thursday, Games organizers said that ironwork removed from the structure during earlier renovations had been repurposed to create the medals’ hexagonal centerpiece. The move, they added, would give successful athletes “veritable pieces of the history of Paris” to take home with them.
The design was overseen by French jeweler Chaumet, whose parent company LVMH signed a major sponsorship deal with Paris 2024 last summer. Like all designs since the 2004 Games in Athens, the reverse of the Olympics medal features an image of the Greek goddess of victory, Nike. The Paralympics medal, meanwhile, is decorated with a graphical representation of the Eiffel Tower, as if viewed from below.
According to a press release, “certain metallic elements” were removed from the landmark during renovation work in the 20th century and “have been carefully preserved ever since.” The Eiffel Tower’s distinctive dark brown paint was cleaned off, and the pieces cut into hexagons before being embossed with the Paris 2024 logo.
The iron pieces are held in position with a “claw” setting, a technique typically usually to secure gems to items of jewelry. Speaking to CNN at Chaumet’s Paris atelier ahead of the reveal, the luxury house’s creative director Clémentine Massonnat-Schaller said the design aimed to “bring out” the hexagonal centerpiece “like a precious stone.” But while the Eiffel Tower served as “the main inspiration,” Massonnat-Schaller added, Chaumet also looked to its own archives — including its history of making jewel-encrusted tiaras. The jeweler said this was most apparent in the lines resembling rays of sunlight that project out from the medals’ center.
“A tiara is a piece that makes the wearer radiate,” said Massonnat-Schaller, adding that the sunray motif was intended to “make the athletes shine even brighter.”
Unlike in previous years both the Olympic and Paralympic medals share one face. In a statement announcing the designs, Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet said the decision represented a “coming together” of the two events.
Last July, Olympics organizers announced that the Olympic torch will be the first in Games history to be used for both the Olympics and Paralympics. With a ripple effect designed to evoke moving water, French designer Mathieu Lehanneur’s 3.3-pound torch will be produced entirely from recycled steel. The torch was unveiled just weeks after LVMH announced a deal to become the Games’ “Premium Partner.” The conglomerate’s other brands, including Louis Vuitton and Dior, are expected to enjoy a visible presence at the Games, as will the LVMH-owned Champagne producer Moët Hennessy.
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