When I first heard about turning the cremated ashes of loved ones to diamonds some years ago, I found it something that would be sensible to the Victorians, who are well known in the jewelry world for their morbid fascination with mourning jewels. I have learned the idea is well known, much talked about, but in terms of a business (an extension of the lab created gem industry, contracted out to funeral homes under a few business names) is not exactly a booming option.
Having a large diamond made is time-consuming, a super-heating furnace transforms the carbon ash to lead, and then compresses the crystal in a process that ranges from six months to several years, which is still incredible considering what a shortcut that is from the pressure and heat which requires millions of years in the earth to grow diamonds the natural way. The electric bill alone must be staggering.
Given there are plenty of articles on the subject categorized under news of the weird, I thought only to provide a few visuals. The prices quoted by one firm, ranging from $5,000 to $22,000, make the cost of the diamonds comparable to a traditional funeral but the same firm indicates it receives as few as thirty orders per year, and they are the worldwide leader. This makes the diamonds, if we are to allow all forms of robotics and technology that virtually replace the traditional jeweler in supplying the world’s demand for personal ornamental objects, a truly rare form of jewelry art. They call for a very specific vision of death, remembrance and adornment that says as much about the ‘collector’ as they do the service which creates the gemstone. For this scarcity alone, a diamond made of the ash of a deceased person is incredibly unusual, contemporary and falls completely outside of popular trend and fashion.
In Japan there is a firm that takes a slightly different approach, in a way very fitting to the cultural aesthetic, of memorial stones, smooth like river rocks, which recall grave markers, but made of the ash combined with molted quartz material are shaped into altar pieces that can serve traditional memorial needs for urban families not wealthy enough to have a family burial plot. Starting at $1,500, the option is much more accessible, but even this firm reports fewer than a hundred orders per year, making theirs as unusual a funeral option as the diamond.
Perhaps the most interesting bit of trivia about the cremain diamond is its color. Going in to the furnace, the lab has no control over what color will be produced by the relatively small amount of ashes. Various shades of blue are the most typical result, which the scientists who create them explain is the presence of trace amounts of the element Boron, while other typical results are yellow and less frequently, clear. They can’t explain why the color should be so unpredictable, but it adds an interesting element to one’s sense of self… what color diamond would I make?