This article was originally published on June 8, 2017.
The heists that go down in movie history are the ones that are pulled off so flawlessly, they leave you, the viewer, thinking they could actually happen in real life. Remember the Mini Cooper modifications and L.A. traffic diversions that led to a successful gold robbery in 2003’s The Italian Job? Or the manufacturing of a fake vault that helped George Clooney and crew get away with millions in 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven?
In Ocean’s 8, the star-studded all-female addition to the Ocean’s franchise that launches in theaters today, there’s a similar moment of could-this-really-happen magic. (Warning: Some small spoilers ahead.) This time, the heist involves a lot of glitz — $150 million-worth, in fact: The team of thieves, led by Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett, plans to steal the stunning, diamond-encrusted Jeanne Toussaint necklace, created by Cartier. How do they propose to steal a multi-million dollar necklace without anyone noticing? By creating a very realistic looking replica.
This is where the tech comes in: The heist crew uses a 3D printer (the one in the movie looks very similar to the real-life $309.99 Tronxy X5S model) to produce a fake so good it can trick everyone, from Anne Hathaway’s character, Daphne Kluger (who wears the real necklace), to the security guards who trail her. For those of you who watch the process and wonder if you, too, can create a Cartier replica at home, the answer is, unfortunately, not really — at least, not a very realistic one.
3D printers, which have been around since the mid-1980s, can print in metals ranging from steel and aluminum to bronze and gold. This means you can use a 3D printer to create custom jewelry. However, creating authentic-looking gemstones would be a very difficult task according to the experts.
“The closest thing doable via 3D printing now would be the creation of a forgery, which could be printed via a transparent red resin or a plastic,” Greg Kress, the CEO of 3D-printing company Shapeways told Refinery29 of creating realistic-looking rubies.
Zirconium, a main material of the fake necklace in the film is also impossible to 3D print, Kress says, although it could “perhaps be duplicated via an acrylic resin.”
Would a fake like that really fool the eyes of trained security guards? Probably not. However, while you can’t currently turn your home office into a makeshift jewelry-making studio on par with Cartier standards, this isn’t to say it won’t ever be possible: In 2016, aerospace company Lockheed Martin filed a patent application for a 3D printer that could print synthetic diamonds.
The future is looking a little bit sparklier.