A custom medal surrounded by wildflower seeds, gum and fishing nets.Go beyond gold, silver and bronze with these strange medal materials!

As an event organiser, you've probably seen every medal design under the sun and - let's be honest - they can start to blend into one shiny blur. You might have even found yourself scratching your head, thinking, "How can I make my event's medals stand out from the rest?"

Well, what if your medals could be as unique as the achievements they celebrate? We're talking about medals made from materials that go beyond your standard gold, silver, and bronze – medal materials so unique that they might just land your event on the front cover of a newspaper.

At Badges And Medals, we've seen (and made) it all. We've spent over five decades mastering the art of custom medal-making. We pride ourselves on thinking outside the box and bringing your wildest medal dreams to life, creating tangible, inspiring pieces that are sure to stand out.

That's why we've written this article. In it, we list the strangest medal materials in the world and where you can buy them. We're diving into the rare, the unheard-of, and the outright bizarre. 

Some of them we even make ourselves! 

By the end of this article, 'unique' will have a whole new meaning for you – and your events!

  1. Chewing gum medals

A photograph of a gum medal, surrounded by bubble gum.Gum medals are really something to chew over... (CREDIT: ORAKEL.COM)

Chewing gum is a little product creating big problems. Humans have been chewing gum for thousands of years, but it's only in the last 50 that it's gone on to become the most common street litter in the world, second only to cigarette butts. Because it's made from polymers (aka rubber) it can take hundreds of years for it to break down into what is essentially microplastics.

Ironically, the very rubber that gives chewing gum its long life also keeps it useful, even if it's been chewed on a lot.

One company in the United Kingdom has decided to turn the challenge into an opportunity. Orakel collects old chewing gum waste, melts it down, and moulds it into pink medals. Talk about gumption! Oh, and in case you're wondering - yes, they are hygienic.

  1. Wildflower seed medals

A photograph of a medal made from newspaper pulp and wildflower seeds.
Earth Runs makes medals that turn into wildflowers once planted. (CREDIT: EARTHRUNS.COM)

When you ask most people what a medal means to them, they will say that it's a lifelong memento of accomplishment. But what if that got spun on its head? Enter the wildflower seed medal: the medal made to be thrown out. These medals, made by Earth Runs Medals, are crafted from flower seeds native to Britain and recycled paper that has been mulched, shredded and pressed into a mould. The final product has an organic texture, which just adds to its charm.

Once recipients have finished admiring their medal, they can break it up and pop it (and it's biodegradable ribbon) in their garden, where it becomes a part of nature's cycle. Then, they can watch as wildflowers grow each year! These medals are literally a blooming masterpiece.

Need we say more?

  1. Fishing net medals

A medal made of fishing nets, sitting among fishing nets.Fishing net medals? What a catch! (CREDIT: ORAKEL.COM)

When you think of medals, fishing nets probably aren’t the first material that comes to mind.

Fishing nets are one of the most harmful plastics to pollute our oceans. Lost or abandoned nets harm or kill hundreds of thousands of marine animals each year. But one medal supplier is helping to turn this narrative around.

Orakel takes old, used fishing nets from the ocean and turns them into bright turquoise medals. The end product is essentially a durable and lightweight plastic medal, which can be recycled (again!) at the end of its life. 

Plastic is a relatively common medal material; however, this medal is worth including on our list due to its extraordinary origins! Eco-friendly medals such as these are a great way to make your event not only memorable but environmentally responsible. Read our article '5 Eco-Friendly Medals For Your Sustainable Event' for a more in-depth list of the world’s most sustainable medals. 

  1. Ocean waste medals

A photograph of several plastic ocean waste medals.
Danish company omhu made recycled plastic medals for the 2022 European Stand-Up Paddle Championships. (CREDIT: OM-HU.DK)

But why stop at fishing nets?

Think of the last time you strolled along a beach. Did you notice the bits of plastic waste dotting the shoreline? It isn't just fishing equipment, but bottles and bags, and everything in between.

A large chunk of the ocean's plastic pollution eventually washes up on our shores. Left alone, this plastic poses a threat not only to the shore's aesthetics but also to its wildlife and plant life. It releases toxic chemicals, entraps creatures, and infiltrates our food on a microscopic level.

Danish company Omhu has had enough. They collect this unsightly debris and bring it back to their hub, where it's melted down to create a vibrant array of products - including medals. The plastic they produce is bright and swirling, a result of mixing different coloured plastics.

What do you think? Could this be your perfect catch?

  1. Slate medals

A picture of a slate medal with a turtle custom printed on its face.
Want a medal that ‘rocks’? Then the slate medals might be for you.

Now, let's switch gears from man-made materials to a material older than man: slate.

This stone is known for its remarkable durability and has been used for centuries in everything from roofing to chalkboards. It seems only natural that such a useful material should be used to make custom medals as well.

Creating medals from slate involves cutting the stone into thin, manageable slices, then shaping and polishing them to bring out their natural, grainy textures. Slate can come in several subtle colours, including greys, greens and purples.

These medals are very kind to the planet. Slate requires less processing than traditional metal medals, because it's often used in its natural form, just in miniature. All it takes to make is to extract, cut and engrave it. Plus, once people have finished with their slate medals, they can reuse them in their home or garden - for example, using them as a coaster.

So, if you’re all about combining tradition with environmental awareness, slate medals could be the one for you!

If you're interested in learning more, reach out to the team at Badges And Medals!

  1. Crystal medals

A custom crystal medal made for the Ashgrove Athletics Club.Nothing says ‘luxury’ quite like hand-cut crystal medals. (CREDIT: DERRYCRYSTAL.GLASS-ENGRAVER.CO.UK)

Crystals are the ultimate luxury medal material. They have an attraction that few are powerless against. Nikola Tesla, the inventor of the radio, was famously enamoured with quartz crystals and often referred to them in his research and lectures. Their allure continues even today - we're sure everyone can name at least one person with a crystal collection at home.

Yet few have turned crystals into medals. Why? It all comes down to cost. Finding crystals with the right qualities and quantities for medal-making can be tough and pricey. Working with crystals is also trickier than metal or wood because they can chip or crack during the shaping and engraving process. Crafting them requires an expert hand and specialist equipment.

But if you're open to investing a little bit extra, then wow! 

Crystal medals are a sensory experience your participants won't soon forget. These awards are visually striking and are also heavier than their metal or wood counterparts, giving them an air of luxury and exclusivity. If crystal medals are what you're looking for, don't hesitate to reach out to Badges And Medals and let us add that sparkle to your awards!

  1. Acrylic medals

Dozens of acrylic medals in front of bigger acrylic awards..Acrylic medals can be coloured, engraved and moulded into any shape. (CREDIT: LIBEINCISIONI.COM)

If the idea of crystal excites you, then so might its dowager cousin, acrylic.

This man made material, also known as plexiglass, looks very similar to glass but is far lighter and more shatterproof. You've likely seen it around without even realising it - whether in real life, such as in windows, lights or mirrors, or in movies, when a character bounces off a 'glass' window.

You'd think that a material as durable as acrylic would be popular in the medal-making world, but it's not. This is because people seem to think they don't convey the same prestige as metal or wooden medals do. As a result, only a few medal suppliers offer them up for sale. However, that doesn't mean that this is true, or that you should strike acrylic medals off your to-buy list!

For starters, they're easy to customise. They can be coloured, engraved, and moulded into any shape, size or thickness. They're also lightweight - perfect for kids or saving on transportation.

Pick medals you recipients (and your budget) will love

Medal materials can be as diverse as they are fascinating.

Thanks to Badges And Medals, you are now equipped with a list of extraordinary materials and the know-how on where to find them. Whether it's for a high-profile event or a local community gathering, you can ensure that your medals will make your event stand out from the rest.

But what's next after choosing the perfect medal material? 

Now that you’ve chosen the perfect medal material, the next step is to explore design possibilities. Don't let your new knowledge go to waste!  Check out our article 'Top 5 Places To Find Medal Design Ideas' to spark your creativity and find inspiration that complements your unique material choice.

Read: Top 5 places to find medal design inspiration