People Are Turning Their Loved One's Ashes Into Gorgeous Blue Diamonds
The question of what to do with our remains once our mortal coil has come to an end is something most of us don't like to think about. Sure, it will cross our minds from time to time, but death is scary, and usually, it's not until later on in life that we give more than a second thought to, say, making a will and contemplating our funeral arrangements.
But just like everything else in society, the funeral industry has moved with the times, and now the options available are almost limitless; from extravagant funerals with bespoke coffins to some truly unusual uses for ashes.
Speaking of the latter, one increasingly popular option is having your ashes - or a pet's - turned into a sparkling blue diamond.
This is a reflection of the fact that more and more people are choosing to be cremated, with the Cremation Association of the US reporting that by 2020, it will account for more than half of all body disposals.
Environmentally, cremation is a better option. Burial space is not the best due to embalming and other artificial preservation techniques - and that's not to mention the fact that grave sites usually exist indefinitely.
So, to offset this, and provide families with a keepsake that is less macabre than an urn, people are having their ashes turned into diamonds. This is because jewels are made of carbon, which is the second-most-prevalent atomic element in the human body, Business Insider reports. The process is also now fairly simple to achieve as diamonds can now be grown in labs.
"It allows someone to keep their loved one with them forever," Christina Martoia, a spokeswoman for Algordanza US, said to Business Insider. "We're bringing joy out of something that is, for a lot of people, a lot of pain."
There are a number of companies which produce "memorial diamonds", and one of the industry leaders, Switzerland-based Algordanza, revealed to Business Insider that in 2016 alone, it sold almost 1,000 of the diamonds. It's also the only company in possession of its own ashes-to-diamond labs - of which there are just two in the world (the other is in Russia).
Here's a brief breakdown of how Algordanza transforms ashes into diamonds:
First thing's first, after a typical cremation, around 10 pounds of ashes remain once all of the bone fragments have been placed into a cremulator - a small portion of which consists of carbon.
If you or a loved one is planning to have your ashes turned into a diamond, you might want to take this into account when choosing a funeral director. The heat used by the cremation machine will dictate how much carbon is left in your ashes, with lower temperature cremations yielding a larger amount.
According to Martoia, Algordanza needs a minimum of a pound of cremains to make a diamond. She said: "That's kind of the magic number, where our engineers can guarantee there will be enough carbon to make a memorial diamond."
Pictured above is a process which the company uses to check whether or not there is enough carbon in ashes. Your diamond dreams aren't necessarily over if there isn't, as a lock of hair can make up the amount if there's not enough.
After this, all of the unnecessary elements like salt are removed from the remains so that only carbon remains. This is a process which is pictured below. "We use an acidic chemical to get rid of impurities," Martoia said.
Once this has been done, the carbon content of the ashes will have increased to at least 99%.
The remaining 1% of the ashes contain impurities like boron (it's what helps our bones to grow when we're alive).
Boron is also the chemical which colors blue diamonds in nature, which is why memorial diamonds are often blue too!
"The diamonds can range from clear to very deep blue," Martoia said. "The more boron, the deeper the blue."
As a result, the color of a memorial diamond is always going to be a surprise of sorts.
However, if the person whose remains are used has had chemotherapy, this could indicate a lighter color of diamond as it reduces the amount of boron in the body. "But an interesting thing to note is that our technicians are seeing a correlation in people who have had chemotherapy. Their diamonds tend to come out much lighter," Martoia said.