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Behind-the-scenes tour of what it takes to make an Oscar

February 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The R.S. Owens & Company in Chicago has been making the Academy Awards trophies for almost 30 years now. Scott Siegel, the owner and president of R.S. Owens, gave us his behind-the-scenes tour of what it takes to make an Oscar.

It begins with a piping hot silver-colored soup - something you wouldn't want on your mantel. But it eventually becomes the most coveted statue in show business.

When the Oscar is first poured, it's about 850 degrees. It's made of britannium, so it's still silver in color. After the Oscar is poured, it needs to be polished and polished, and then polished again. It's buffed out to a very shiny silver - but not for long.

"We hand dip it into a copper tank. The copper is for conductivity, and then we dip it into a nickel tank. There's a heavy layer of nickel that goes on there, and that's for the durability of the award, and then we coat that with silver, and then with a heavy layer of 24-karat gold," Siegel said.

Once that's done, the Oscar heads to the engraving department where Louise White, the master engraver, gives it its own serial number.

"When someone wins, that number is assigned to them, and they'll know if it's damaged or destroyed or stolen," she said.

From there, the trophy goes to a one-woman assembly line where the Oscar is put together, packed up and finally ready for Hollywood.

It is companywide labor of love for each 8.5-pound, 13.5-inch tall Oscar.

"They're true artists. They can make anything from scratch, and we get asked to design and manufacture some very unusual awards," Siegal said.

The employees of R.S. Owens have created awards for the Jolly Green Giant, Mr. Peanut, Starkist Tuna, the cereal giant Kellogg and even Oscar's TV counterpart, the Emmy.

They've been doing this for decades, and in this business, maybe that's why they shine.

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