Like Hollywood itself, the Oscar statue’s sparkling exterior conceals its no less meritorious, but certainly less glamorous interior: britannia metal. Or at least that was the case until this year, as the Oscars will make the switch to bronze, shunning the mighty britannia after decades of misleading camaraderie.
No, we will not let great britannia go softly into that cold night! It’s a populace metal, and knowing the Oscars’ devotion to wealth, nepotism, and self-conceived faux aristocracy unintentionally explains its banishment.
Excluding the few early years of bronze statues and the World War II-era awards of painted plaster, the Oscars core was for decades the under-appreciated pewter-type alloy. With a composition of roughly 92 percent tin, 6 percent antimony, and 2 percent copper, it was sturdy, malleable, and common.
POOR, POOR BRITANNIA
Britannia came into this world in the late 1700s. Cheaper than silver, and not requiring the expensive molds of other, less malleable metals, britannia become popular amongst a British middle class of the late 18th and 19th centuries. Alongside the blossoming trend of taking tea and coffee, britannia became quite fashionable, before falling out of public favor in the late 1800s. And yet, according to Silvercollection.it, the metal was a popular material amongst the Art Noveau sculptors and designers of the following decades.
Britannia metal goes by other names. When Snapchatting after school with the Physics Club, it goes by username “britannium.” At dinner parties, you would be remiss to call it anything other than “Britannia ware.” Should you find yourself at a roleplayers’ table, know that britannia rolls a rogue paladin named “Vickers White Metal.” But when it’s just lounging in its pajamas — being the anti-French, pro-patriotic metal it is — its birth name, Britannia metal, works fine.
At the Academy Awards — and only at the Academy Awards — is it acceptable to call britannia metal by the misnomer, “Oscars gold.” Got it, Buster? Good!
The Academy did its best to conceal britannia through the years, plating it in copper, nickel silver, and gold. Britannia never complained. It was just happy to show its love for an industry that only had enough love for itself.
Perhaps, now, britannia will have time to read that stack books on its bedside table, discover the real britannia hidden behind gold for so many years, and return to a past life as a metal of the people. Or perhaps it will disappear, and this will be the last time you hear the name of a metal that goes by many others.