The Making of the Oscar Statuette

Scott Siegel, President of R.S. Owens & Company, explains how an Oscar statuette is made. For the past three decades the Chicago based company has been the exclusive manufacturer of the academy awards. On December 17, 2012 the company was sold to St. Regis Crystal Inc. of Indianapolis, IN and 95 workers out of their 251 employees were immediately laid off. The company claims that the Oscars will continue to be handcrafted in Chicago by union workers. When the Motion Picture Academy awarded the company the contract in 1983, there were three basic requirements. They had to be an American company. They had to have the expertise, which they did since they were already producing the Emmy awards. They also had to be a union shop, which was a demand of the Screen Actors Guild. Each year the Academy awards around fifty statuettes. Since the awards began in 1929, there have been less than 3,700 give out. The Academy keeps close tabs on these awards. In an effort to maintain the exclusivity of the award, since 1950 the Academy has required all recipients to sign an agreement that neither they nor their heirs will sell the Oscar and they will sell it back to the Academy for $1. A few pre-1950 Oscars have fetched six figure sums at auction, most notably Orson Welles 1941 Oscar for Citizen Kane. In 2000 just ten days before the Academy Awards Ceremony, the entire shipment of statuettes was stolen in Los Angeles. Normally it takes four to six weeks to produce the awards, but R.S. Owens artisans worked day and night to replace the lost treasures. Now the Academy keeps a supply of statuettes in reserve to guard against similar mishaps. Transcsript: Scott Siegel, President, R.S. Owens Company, Chicago, Illinois, USA First of all the statuette part, the figure part, is hand cast and that’s somewhat of a dying art. Its made in a special steel mold. Its hand poured using a special material called britannium. The caster has to know how to pour the metal. How fast to pour the metal. how much to tilt the mold, so you watch it and you might not think its a skill, but it is a skill to be able to hand cast properly. Know how long to let it cool. Open up the mold. Take out the casting. Then its sanded and then moves to the polishing department, where the real quality of the award starts to take shape, where they spend up to an hour polishing each oscar so that is defect free and it has a mirror finish. You can see your reflection on any part of the oscar. From the polishing department we move it to the electro-plating department, where we nickel plate, then copper plate and then silver plate and then heavy 24 karat gold plate every oscar statuette, so that it has not only its intrinsic value of what its for, but it has the value of what its made out of, the britannium, the silver, and the 24 karat gold, the heavy 24 karat gold. We engrave each oscar statuette with a number, so that each oscar statuette can be traced, who its given to. If one is ever stolen or something happens to it, the academy is able to determine whose oscar it was if the plate is taken off for some reason. We assemble to base to the figure, the statuette. We put a felt but on it. We then put it in a special container. Usually, it will go on a special United Airlines flight, where they fly the oscars to the motion picture academy.

Scott Siegel, President of R. S. Owens Co. in Chicago IL, USA describes the process his company use to produce the Oscar statuettes for the Motion Picture Academy.


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