From tattoo ink to artificial ocean reefs and fireworks, there are now more ways than ever to think outside the urn when it comes to honoring a loved one’s cremated remains. However, one company has figured out a way for a relative or pet to last forever: Turning them into a diamond.
Though Switzerland’s Algordanza, founded in 2004, is only one of about seven businesses forging diamonds from cremains, it’s the largest and most well known, with services available in 33 countries. Its average “memorial diamond” comes out 0.4 to 0.5 carats, with larger ones available up to about 1.76 carats.
Algordanza’s process for creating diamonds from human (or pet) ashes is much like that of other lab-grown diamonds, which continue to increase in popularity due to the environmentally damaging effects and often dangerous and abusive work environments associated with traditional diamond mining.
Natural diamonds are formed over billions of years about 90 miles below the Earth’s surface and rise to the surface via volcanic eruptions. To simulate the pressure and heat of the Earth’s mantle, purified carbon from about 1 pound of cremains is put into a machine that applies a massive amount of heat and pressure — 2,500 degrees F and 870,000 pounds per square inch — for six to eight weeks. At the end of the process, a sparkling blue diamond is presented to the deceased’s friends and/or family.
According to Rinaldo Willy, Algordanza founder and CEO, the blue color comes from boron, an element that’s impossible to separate from carbon during the purification process (the elements are of similar weight and size) and that’s integral to processes in the human body — it grows bone and helps regulate the immune system. The more boron in the cremains, the deeper the blue color.
Christina Martoia, a spokeswoman for Algordanza U.S., told Business Insider that the lightest diamonds tend to result from the remains of people who have had certain treatments for cancer.
“Our technicians are seeing a correlation in people who have had chemotherapy,” Martoia said. “Their diamonds tend to come out much lighter,” probably because chemotherapy leaches minerals and micronutrients from the body, including boron.
Costs begin at about $5,000 and range up to $48,000 depending on the size of the diamond. Customers can keep the rough diamond as is, or choose to have it cut and polished by a Swiss jeweler. According to Willy, most people take the stone and have it set in a ring or a pendant.
“It allows someone to keep their loved one with them forever,” said Martoia. “We’re bringing joy out of something that is, for a lot of people, a lot of pain.”