The real star of the Oscars: the Oscar | by Neel Dozome | Jan, 2024


It glitters and glows, and catches the light in pools of gold, black and white. To be considered worthy of an Oscar is an opportunity to gush forth on world peace and surviving odds until the band rudely plays you off stage. The trophy’s rivals are Star Wars’ C3-PO, the T-1000 (Terminator 2) or a diminutive Indian bride from an ultra-wealthy family. I speak of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ trophy that is also known as: the Oscar.

Over the years, different materials have been used to construct the trophy. For instance, between 1982 and 2016, to award’s core was composed of a pewter-based alloy called “britannia metal”. The Encyclopaedia Britannica definition states:

britannia metal, alloy composed approximately of 93 percent tin, 5 percent antimony, and 2 percent copper, used for making various utensils, including teapots, jugs, drinking vessels, candlesticks, and urns, and for official maces.”

George Orwell, however, in A Nice Cup of Tea is dismissive of this alloy once so beloved of middle-class Aunts. Orwell writes (as a second rule to his tea-making) that: “tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britanniaware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.” It would appear that those who re-designed the Oscar trophy shared Orwell’s misgivings about the alloy. Today, as of writing this, the statuette is cast solid in gold-plated bronze.

The trophy was designed by Cedric Gibbons, and Aaron Rasmussen writes about him in Grazia:

According to the Academy, in the late 1920s, Gibbons sketched a sword-clutching knight — a figurative crusader of the industry — who stood with a film reel featuring five spokes that represented the Academy’s original branches: actors, directors, producers, writers and technicians. Los Angeles sculptor George Stanley then mocked up several designs in clay and Gibbons chose his favorite…


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