Could Ocean’s 8 Actually Work?
(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- The Ocean’s movie franchise, which began with Ocean’s Eleven in 2001, then breezed through numbers Twelve (2004) and Thirteen (2007), had followed the same formula: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and a clique of colorful confidence men band together, then steal something. The dialogue is easy, the characters are charming, and the plots are totally incomprehensible.
Ocean’s 8, which is directed by Gary Ross and opens in theaters on June 8, picks up where its predecessors left off. This time, though, there’s a twist: Instead of an all-male cast of criminals, now it’s women who commit the grand larceny. (The first movies managed to stuff Julia Roberts into an almost silent supporting role—no small feat.)
The ringleader of this crew is Danny Ocean’s sister, Debbie (Sandra Bullock), a grifter with expensive taste. She spends the first part of the movie pulling cons at the traditional signifiers of New York City’s upper crust—the Plaza Hotel, Bergdorf Goodman—while assembling a crackerjack team that includes Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, and Rihanna.
And what do these accomplished, fast-talking women want? For a movie that purports to upend gender norms, the somewhat disappointing answer is: jewelry!
But not just any jewelry. They want the biggest, most expensive, heaviest necklace imaginable. The object of Debbie’s desire is a Cartier bauble that weighs 6 pounds, is worth $150 million, and is worn at the Met Gala by an obnoxious starlet, played by Anne Hathaway, who eventually becomes the final piece in this gang of eight.
On the face of it, a diamond necklace seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to steal. But talk to anyone in the diamond industry, and he’ll tell you the idea that a $150 million necklace will still be worth $150 million after it’s stolen is a bigger fantasy than The Lord of the Rings.
“You’d be lucky to get 10¢ on the dollar,” says Howard Rothauser, a former diamond wholesaler and the founder of the jewelry website Dacarli. “It would be unsalable as a necklace.”
Diamonds may be forever, but their market is finite. There’s a limited buyer pool for giant stones, and any diamond of value will be laser-etched with a registry number from the Gemological Institute of America Inc., so buyers would know if it’s been lifted.
“There’s legitimate and illegitimate markets,” says Martin Rapaport, founder of the Rapaport Group, a diamond-market company that includes an online trading network for gems. “The spread”—read: profit margin—“in the thieves’ market is really low,” he says. “The buyer knows they’ve got you by the balls. Who are you going to sell it to? And if they rip it off, who are you going to complain to?”
That market narrows further as the price rises. “If it’s a very expensive piece, it almost doesn’t pay to steal one of these suckers, because everyone knows what’s going on,” Rapaport says. “Not only will you have fewer buyers, you’ll also have to hold on to it or recut it.”
And recutting such a precious stone will inevitably reduce its value. “It’s like a painting,” Rapaport continues. “You can’t just rip it in half.” Rothauser points to another problem: the diamond cutter. “He’s going to look at you and know exactly what you’re doing, and then think of how much you’d have to pay him.”
So how much could the women of Ocean’s 8 conceivably hope to get for their necklace? Assuming it retails for $150 million, it probably cost the jeweler $50 million wholesale (that’s right, ladies and gentlemen, you’re paying a 200 percent markup), “so one guy with really deep pockets might say, ‘I’ll give you $10 million,’ ” Rothauser says. “That would be about right, because he might double the value” when he sells it.
Rothauser recommends that thieves—fictional or otherwise—stick with gold. “You steal gold bars, and no one knows anything,” he says. “It’s a commodity. It’s like stealing truckloads of water. But diamonds? If someone gives me a necklace and claims it’s worth $150 million and I try to sell it—or even just a couple of its stones—everyone would know. They’d turn me in just for the PR value alone.”
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