Medals are precious things, often awarded to represent great valour or human compassion. It's no wonder, then, that some of the most valued medals are made from gold.

Below, you will find some of the rarest medals of all, many dating back centuries, right through to ones commemorating modern day world leaders.

Garden Festival Wales 1992 gold plated medallion

Garden Festival Wales 1992 gold plated  medallion

Price: £4.99
Time Left: 4h 19m
GERMAN - "Gold for Iron", Patriotic medallion.

GERMAN - "Gold for Iron",  Patriotic medallion.

Price: £13.99
Time Left: 5h 29m

The following article was written by Dennis, a keen gold collector:

Gold Medals, a Mark of Excellence

Michael Phelps of the United States scooped 8 gold medals at the 2008 World Olympic Games held in Beijing to bring his total gold medals to 14, a record held by no one else in the Olympics history. The gold medal is an honour bestowed on the 1st prize winner at sporting events during the World Olympic Games. The custom of awarding gold medals winners begun with the 1904 games. The second person gets a silver medal while the third gets a bronze medal.

What is a medal?

A medal is an object sculpted in the shape of a coin and on which a portrait is engraved to signify its importance. The concept of medals originates from the military field or discipline where they recognize and differentiate between different ranks.

Medals in the modern society are awarded to celebrate achievement, recognize individuals, commemorate events or for religious purposes. A gold medal is awarded to the highest achiever or to mark the most outstanding performance. Other medals are made of silver and bronze with bronze being the majority.

Gold medals

A gold medal marks quality. It speaks of and testifies to strength of character when a person rises above what is the norm to come up with inventions or emerge at the top of the pack or achieve the extraordinary.

Gold medals are mostly gold coated. The metal used to coat them (gold) signifies the high value placed on winning a particular event or achieving that fete. There are a few exceptions which are made of solid gold. The Nobel Prize medal is one of them. It is made of 18 carat green gold and is old plated with 24 carat gold. It holds political and social significance.

The Lorentz medal, another solid gold medal is given by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences to people who have made significant contributions to theoretical physics over time. The Congressional Gold medal conferred by the United States Congress to individuals or institutions who have done extraordinary or distinguished achievements is also made of pure gold.

Winning gold

Medals are awarded for different types of competitions. They reward athletes, artists and applaud talents like music and writing.

Some of the most historic moments captured and celebrated all over the world by millions of people involve the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The spirit of excellence and daring to achieve the highest heights is captured and broadcast on TV sets across the globe as athletes, swimmers, boxers and many others battle it out for the top spot.

The underlying goal in these events and the main aim for the participants is to take home the gold medals and make their countries proud. It's not the value of the win that makes it so exciting, although that also counts. It is the pride of making it to the top and being awarded the gold medal as the entire world celebrates you. The knowledge that you were the best, that you were paced against the best of the world and emerged winner. This is what brings tears to the eyes of the winner as his/her country's national anthem is blared out for all to hear.

Gold medals inspire people to want to become the best. The most precious metal is used to commemorate the most highly placed achievers of our times.