Oscar Gold – How to Make an Oscar Statuette

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honors achievement in film and filmmaking through nine annual awards, with the Academy Award of Merit, or the Oscar as it is commonly know, being the most popular and coveted trophy.

Oscar night has captivated the film fraternity as well as the public since the initial award ceremony on May 16, 1929, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

Today, the Oscar Awards is a widely televised event with a viewership of 40.3 million.

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History of the Oscars

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was formed in 1927, and they came up with the concept of an annual award in the form of a trophy as the best way to honor outstanding filmmaking achievements and further promote excellence in all aspects of motion picture production.

The task of creating a majestic trophy fell on Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) art director Cedric Gibbons, who designed a statuette of a knight standing on a reel of film gripping a crusader’s sword.

The film reel on which the knight stands consists of five spokes, representing the five original branches of the Academy: actors, directors, producers, technicians and writers.

The design was made into a three dimensional reality by Los Angeles sculptor George Stanley. Since 1982, the golden statuettes are cast, molded, and polished by Chicago-based by R.S. Owens & Company.

How and when these shiny golden statuettes acquired the nickname Oscar is debatable. The Academy recognized the term officially in 1939.

Until the envelopes holding the names of winners are opened on Oscar night, the Academy remains unaware of the number of statuettes that will be handed out as there can be the possibility of ties and of multiple recipients sharing the prize in certain categories, thus rendering it impossible to accurately predict the exact number of statuettes.

Hence the Academy makes extra and the surplus is safely locked away in the Academy’s vault until the next year's event.

In 1950, a legal requirement was made regarding the prestigious golden statuettes, that the statuettes cannot be sold by neither the winners nor their heirs without first offering to sell them back to the Academy for US$1.

Statuette Composition and Dimensions

The prestigious Oscar award stands at 13.5 in. (34 cm) and weighs 8.5 lb (3.85 kg).

The Cedric Gibbons designed statuettes presented at the initial award ceremonies were made of solid bronze and plated with 24-karat gold.

It was cast at the C.W. Shumway & Sons Foundry in Batavia, Illinois, who are famous for casting the molds for the Vince Lombardi Trophy and Emmy Awards statuettes.

In the modern times, the statuette’s interior has been replaced by a metal mixture called Britannium or Britannia metal, which is a pewter-like alloy containing 93% tin, 5% antimony, and 2% copper.

The metal has smooth texture and silvery appearance. The statuette is then plated in copper, nickel silver, and finally given a 24-karat gold finish. Except for the black metal base, the statuette’s dimensions are true to the original design.

The base has had minor streamlining work done to it. It takes R.S. Owens & Company three to four weeks to produce 50 statuettes.

War Time Oscars

The Academy contributed to the victory effort during World War II not only through the War Film Library, but its Research Council in 1940 also worked with the War Department to coordinate the production of training films at the studios.

Oscar statuettes during the Second World War were made of painted plaster due to the shortage of metals and other materials; however, after the war, the plaster statuettes were taken back and replaced with the golden Oscar.

Solid Gold Oscars?

Winning an Oscar is a moment that will never be forgotten by the recipient, and that moment would probably only be topped if the Oscar was sculpted from solid gold.

If the statuettes were made of solid gold, it would cost approximately $219,000 to make one (taking into consideration the constant fluctuations in the price of gold).

To date, the Academy has presented about 2,800 statuettes, which would cost a whopping $637,000,000 were they crafted from pure gold.

However great a film is, this seems a little excessive, hence the use of gold-plating!

Regardless of whether the Oscar statuettes are gold-plated or made from solid gold, they will continue to awe movie goers and the film fraternity for years to come.

References

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G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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