Death is something that humans have been struggling to grapple with since the dawn of mankind. One day you’re here and the next you’re not. It’s the cycle of life and death, and many cultures have had different traditions surrounding the death of a loved one.
In Ancient Brazil, they would eat the deceased. Today, we usually bury them – often in a pretty graveyard next to a freeway. Now, though, there is a new way to memorialize the dead: turn their ashes into a diamond – a memorial diamond.
Indeed, diamonds and death don’t really go too well together. Diamonds are mostly associated with life, love and romance. Moreover, when you think of cremation, you don’t think: “Hey, I bet I could turn these ashes into a diamond!” Alas, though, you’d be surprised. Dozens of companies around the world are popping up and specializing in the unique service of taking an urn of ashes and compressing it into a single diamond for the bereaved to wear in a piece of jewelry or to have on display.
According to many companies, an average sized dude of about 175 pounds turns into about 6 pounds of ashes. From those 6 pounds of ashes, a company can make a loose diamond that weighs less than a gram. One day you’re walking around and the next day you’re a diamond on your wife’s finger. On average the service can cost between $5,000 and $20,000 – depending on the carat, cut, clarity and color of the diamond. According to many of the companies, they advertise that their diamonds are molecularly similar to real diamonds, but not the real thing.
How on earth do they turn the ashes into a diamond? Well, the process starts with putting the ashes in a crucible that can withstand a tremendous amount of heat – thousands of degrees Fahrenheit. This allows all of the elements to oxidize – except the carbon. The ashes are heated for multiple weeks until the carbon has turned to graphite. The graphite is then placed in a core with a metal catalyst and diamond seed crystal. After that, the core is placed in a diamond press. The temperature is cranked up again and 800,000 pounds of pressure is applied. In a few weeks, a diamond is formed and then cut to your liking.
If you break it all down, the living human body is about 18% carbon and 2% is left over after cremation. These companies use that last drop of carbon to turn you into a beautiful diamond. When it comes down to it, these diamonds are lab-produced, so you aren’t getting the real thing. However, it’s a nice sentiment knowing that you can wear your grandmother, late spouse, or just about anybody on your finger. And hey, it beats the death tradition of the Dani people of West Papua, New Guinea, who are required to cut off a single finger or toe for each person that dies in their life.