All the secrets of the Oscars
Average reading time — 4 minutes
The 95th Academy Awards ceremony (the Oscars) will take place on March 12, 2023. For almost a century, the golden statuette of a slender man has been considered a symbol of the greatest achievements in the film industry. Yet what does the statuette that actors around the world dream of actually represent? And the main question: how much gold is in it?
“He looks so much like my uncle!”
The Oscars were designed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) art director Cedric Gibbons and sculpted by George Stanley. The statuette represents a knight standing on a reel of film and holding a sword. The five spokes of the reel symbolize the five professions: actors, directors, producers, screenwriters and technicians.
The award was first presented in 1929, and it was called the Academy Award of Merit. There are many rumors about where the name Oscar came from. According to one version, a woman who worked as a librarian at the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences noted the similarity between the statuette and her uncle Oscar. The informal nickname of the award gained wide popularity and in 1939 received official status.
A great award worth $1
The Oscar statuette’s height is 34.3 centimeters, and it weighs 3.86 kilograms. The statuettes are made from solid bronze and are covered with a layer of 24K gold. The process of making 50 statuettes takes about three months.
Interesting fact: during the Second World War, due to a shortage of metals, the Oscars were made from painted plaster. After the war, the Academy offered the award winners to exchange the received plaster figurines for metal ones with gilding.
According to various sources, production costs for making the Oscar range from 400 to 700 dollars. Surely there are some collectors who are ready to pay hundreds of times more for the statuette. However, since 1950, there has been a rule that a Hollywood star cannot sell his/her Oscar to anyone for any amount. First, one has to contact the Academy, which has the right to be the first to buy the award, and for only $1.
Calculations that can surprise
As you can see from the volume of production costs, there is not much gold in the Oscar. The thickness of the gilding layer is 0.38 microns (one-two hundredth of the thickness of a human hair). But let’s look at the precious metal that adorns the film award in a historical retrospective.
Since the first award ceremony in 1929, an ounce of gold has risen in price from $21 to $1,830. From this it follows that the yellow metal in the statuette has increased in price by almost 90 times! A very clear demonstration of how the dollar has depreciated against gold over the past 94 years.
Now let’s imagine that the filmmakers were awarded the Oscar statuette made entirely of gold of the highest fineness. To make such a product, it would require 330 troy ounces (more than 10 kg) of the noble metal. In this case, the cost of one statuette in 2017 would be about $415,000, and in 2023 — $603,900. Only six years have passed, but the difference is huge!
Gold is the oldest symbol of success, power and glory. The best way to celebrate one’s high achievement is to give out an award that features the “King of Metals”. This tradition has not bypassed the film industry, where the most coveted prize is the gold-plated Oscar.
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