History is filled with rich rulers who were buried blinged-out in emeralds, diamonds, and other precious gems. But it’s only recently that humans themselves can literally become precious stones.
Swiss company Algordanza compresses human ashes into what they call memorial diamonds. With their services, instead of wearing your late grandmother’s old jewelry, you can actually wear your late grandmother. “Ashes to Diamond, a Jewel To Remember,” they say on their website.
“My ashes will be turned in a 10 carat diamond,” Algordanza CEO Rinaldo Willy tells Co.Design. “I already made an insurance to cover the costs for it.” Willy, 33, was inspired to create the company while in school for economics. He misinterpreted an article about how semiconductors can synthesize ashes into diamonds, thinking it referred to human ashes, when, in fact, it referred to vegetable ashes. This mistake led to the birth of Algordanza, which means “remembrance” in the Rhaeto-Romanic language.
“My father, who died in 1994, was one of the first diamonds made by Algordanza,” Willy says. “My mother keeps the 0.5 carat diamond in a box at her flat. Also, my grandma turned in diamond, which is part of a designed ring.”
To create these synthetic stones, the company’s trained chemists extract carbon from cremated human remains, then convert the carbon into graphite by heating it to high temperatures. This graphite is then put into a machine that mimics the conditions found deep within the Earth, where natural diamonds form. For several weeks, the material is compressed and heated in temperatures of about 1,500 degrees Celsius. The ashes then emerge transformed into a shining raw diamond, usually bluish in color, due to the element Boron in the carbon. (Though, the Website explains, “As different human beings are, as distinct are the tints of the diamonds.”)
The diamond is cut, and, if the deceased loved one’s want to pay for it, engraved with a little message or the name of the person-cum-rock. This ashes-to-diamond process ranges from $5,000 to $22,000, and every year, Algordanza gem-ifies the remains of about 850 people, 25% of whom come from Japan.
It’s not the strangest trend we’ve come across in remains-repurposing: the British company And Vinyly allows people to press a loved one’s ashes into the grooves of a vinyl record. For a slightly cheaper price than Algordanza’s, Elemental Glassworks integrates cremated remains into blown glass designs. In today’s increasingly secular, melting-pot societies, rituals surrounding death and burial deviate from the traditional, leaving more creative choices about what to do with our mortal coils once they’re shuffled off. If being reincarnated as a pretty necklace suits your style, who’s to judge?