How to: Make an Oscar
This year, as it has every year since 1983, the Northwest Side trophy maker R.S. Owens & Company will provide the golde Oscar statuettes for Academy Award winners. Current R.S. Owens president Scott Siegel, son of the company’s late founder, Owen Siegel, talks us through the process leading up to the February 25h event.
It takes about to dozen workers at R. S. Owens four to six weeks to make 50 to 60 statuettes. (Because of multiple winners, the number needed isn’t known until the envelopes are opened-any extras are stored in a vault until next year.)
Originally made of gold-plated solid bronze, the core of the statuette is now hand-cast in a permanent steel mold of Britannia metal, a dull silver alloy similar to pewter.
Oscar is then sanded several times before being polished to a mirror finish and electroplated with four layers-starting with copper, nickel, and silver.
Oscar gets a final heavy layer of 24-karat gold, then a protective lacquer, and he’s good to go. If imperfections turn up, the little guy is cut in half and thrown back in the smelting pot.
Once completed, Oscar is attached to a three-inch-tall spun brass base, numbered, and then carefully packaged and crated for shipping.
Oscar flies to Los Angeles on United Airlines (dubbed “Oscar 1” by the R.S. Owens folks). “It’s a fun flight,” Siegel says, “because we always carry on one award and pass it around the plane.” The academy gives R. S. Owens two tickets to the ceremony each year, which Siegel awards to an employee on the basis of performance and seniority-he also springs for airfare and tux rental.
| The statuettes you see on TV are not engraved. Only after the last agent is thanked, the last nominated song butchered, and the red carpet rolled out does R. S. Owens get to work engraving plates with the winning names and categories.|
Did You Know?
Oscar’s height: 13.5 in.
Oscar’s weight: 8.5 lbs.
The Oscar was designed in 1928 by MGM art director Cedric Gibbons and sculpted by California artist George Stanley. The award depicts a knight holding a long sword and standing on a reel of film with five spokes signifying the original branches of the academy: actors, directors, writers, producers, and technicians.
What’s an Oscar worth? R. S. Owens can’t give a dollar amount, but one report after a theft of Oscars seven years ago suggested they were worth about $350 each. But ask any winner and he’d probably tell you it’s priceless.
Politics & City Life