What is an Oscar made of? What is the Oscar statue made of? Shortly after the formation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927, the fledgling organization held a dinner in the Crystal Ballroom of the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles to set out its goals. Among the topics discussed that night was how best to honor outstanding moviemaking achievements and thereby encourage excellence in all facets of motion picture production.
Agreeing to institute an annual award, the group turned its attention to creating a suitably majestic trophy. MGM art director Cedric Gibbons designed a statuette of a knight standing on a reel of film gripping a crusader’s sword. The Academy tapped Los Angeles sculptor George Stanley to realize the design in three dimensions – and the world-renowned statuette was born.
What is an Oscar made of?
An Oscar statuette is made of solid bronze and is plated in 24-karat gold. It is 13.5 inches (34 cm) tall and weighs 8.5 pounds (3.86 kg). The statuette depicts a knight standing on a reel of film, holding a sword in his right hand and a torch in his left hand. The knight’s face is stylized and does not represent any particular person.
The statuette was designed by Cedric Gibbons, who was the head of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ art department. Gibbons designed the statuette to represent the ideals of the Academy: creativity, achievement, and excellence.
The first Oscar statuettes were made of gold-plated britannia metal, which is an alloy of tin and antimony. However, during World War II, there was a shortage of gold and britannia metal, so the statuettes were made of painted plaster. After the war, the Academy resumed making the statuettes out of solid bronze and gold plating.
The Oscar statuette is one of the most iconic awards in the world. It is a symbol of achievement and excellence in the film industry. It is also a reminder of the Academy’s mission to “advance and recognize the arts and sciences of motion pictures.”
A Knight Called Oscar
Since the initial awards banquet on May 16, 1929, in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel’s Blossom Room, more than 3,000 statuettes have been presented. Each January, additional new golden statuettes are cast by Polich Tallix fine art foundry in New York’s Hudson Valley.
Oscar stands 13½ inches tall and weighs in at a robust 8½ pounds. The film reel features five spokes, signifying the five original branches of the Academy: actors, directors, producers, technicians and writers. Although the statuette remains true to its original design, the size of the base varied until 1945, when the current standard was adopted.
Officially named the Academy Award of Merit, the statuette is better known by its nickname, Oscar. While the origins of the moniker aren’t clear, a popular story has it that upon seeing the trophy for the first time, Academy librarian (and eventual executive director) Margaret Herrick remarked that it resembled her Uncle Oscar.
The Academy didn’t adopt the nickname officially until 1939, but it was widely known enough by 1934 that Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky used it in a piece referring to Katharine Hepburn’s first Best Actress win.
The stuff that dreams are made of
The statuettes are solid bronze and plated in 24-karat gold. Due to a metal shortage during World War II, Oscars were made of painted plaster for three years. Following the war, the Academy invited recipients to redeem the plaster figures for gold-plated metal ones.
Achievements in up to 25 regular categories will be honored on February 24, 2019, at the 91th Academy Awards presentation at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center. However, the Academy won’t know how many statuettes it will hand out until the envelopes are opened on Oscar Night.
Although the number of categories are known in advance, the possibility of ties and of multiple recipients sharing the prize in some categories makes it impossible to predict the exact number of statuettes to be awarded. As in previous years, any surplus awards will be housed in the Academy’s vault until next year’s event.
More than 80 years after that auspicious gathering in Hollywood, Oscar’s success as a symbol of filmmaking achievement would probably amaze those who attended the dinner, as it would its designer, Cedric Gibbons.
Original Oscars statuette designed in 1927
The original Oscar statuette was designed in 1927 and sculpted the following year. The figure was loosely based on Mexican filmmaker and actor Emilio Fernández, who was coaxed into posing for sketches for the original design by MGM art director Cedric Gibbons – the draft sketches were then handed to a young Los Angeles sculptor, George Stanley to produce the classic figurine.
The Oscar statuette depicts a knight gripping a sword with both hands, stood on a circular base, which is decorated as a spool of film.
Traditionally, the Oscar statuettes were cast in solid bronze then plated in 24-karat gold. The process has changed with the latest advances in technology. New York-based fine art foundry, Polich Tallix have been contracted to produces the Oscars since 2016.
A digital Oscar is created using a 3D-printer then the figure cast in wax. Once cooled, each wax statuette is coated in a ceramic shell, left a couple of weeks to cure before being fired at 1,600°F.
During that process, the wax melts away to leave a hollow, Oscar-shaped form. From there, they are cast in liquid bronze, cooled, sanded and polished. The statuettes are then transported across town to Brooklyn where each one is electroplated in 24-karat gold by specialist firm, Epner Technology Inc.
Each Oscar is 13.5 inches tall and weighs 8.5 pounds. The whole process from start to finish takes around three months.
How much is a real Oscar worth?
The real value of an Oscar statuette is immeasurable. It is a symbol of achievement and excellence in the film industry, and it is one of the most iconic awards in the world. However, if an Oscar statuette were to be sold, it would likely fetch a high price.
There have been a few cases of Oscars being sold at auction. In 2011, an Oscar statuette awarded to actress Hattie McDaniel for her role in Gone with the Wind was sold for $292,000. In 2020, an Oscar statuette awarded to actor James Dean for his role in East of Eden was sold for $2.4 million.
These prices are just a few examples of how much an Oscar statuette can be worth. The actual value of an Oscar would depend on a number of factors, including the age of the statuette, the recipient, and the condition of the statuette.
It is worth noting that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a rule that prohibits the sale of Oscar statuettes. However, there have been a few cases of winners selling their Oscars, either illegally or after the Academy has given them permission to do so.
If you are lucky enough to win an Oscar statuette, you should cherish it for its sentimental value. It is a reminder of your achievement and a symbol of your success in the film industry.
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