Last year, The Atlantic published a fascinating article, “Where the Dead Become Diamonds,” which discusses Swiss company, Algordanza’s desire to transform the way in which we mourn our departed. It hopes to achieve this by converting the crematory ashes of our dead into diamonds, potentially bringing new meaning to the popular jewelry catchphrase, a diamond is forever. A man who weighs approximately 176 pounds when cremated will generate about 5.51 pounds of ashes, which can subsequently be made into 0.2 gram diamond. That’s equivalent to a one carat diamond! Wow.
True to the uniqueness inherent in natural gemstones, no “memorial diamond” will necessarily look the same. As founder, Rinaldo Willy explained, ‘…we believe in no manipulations. As soon as you have additives, there’s something in the diamond that doesn’t belong.’ Despite the immediate “no additives or preservatives!” lunch-meat image that comes to mind, I enjoy the sentiment—maintaining the purity of the gem and of the person you are essentially eternalizing.
“Instead of being predetermined, the color of each Algordanza diamond results from the specific combination of trace elements present in an individual’s body. Fake teeth, titanium hips, or the remnants of chemotherapy can all impact color. Nitrogen lends a yellow hue. Traces of phosphorescent chemicals can produce diamonds that glow in the dark…” (Morin, “Where the Dead Become Diamonds”)
Both cemetery burial and regular cremation practices end with a great sense of loss and emptiness, so the appeal of this endeavor is understandable. Reminiscent of Victorian mourning jewelry (ie. lockets with snippets of hair), these diamonds gives mourners an elegant opportunity in which to hold on to a piece of their beloved. Most clients reportedly wind up incorporating their finished diamonds into a piece of jewelry, which if done justice, should last for generations to come. Imagine never having to fully say goodbye to your loved one. Imagine “living” forever as a diamond way beyond your own lifetime. The artist in me rejoices, “How wonderful to be able to memorialize someone so dear in such a way. This will bring jewelry storytelling to a whole new level!” The cynic in me mutters, “That’s not healthy. That’s just marketable poetry.”
This dead to diamond process, though romantic, will unfortunately cost mourners a pretty penny. A given conversion of parceled ash to gemstone will cost anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000! Well, if Algordanza seeks to capitalize on our grief, then this venture will require some smart branding. I suppose they are off to a good start. The company actually encourages its clients to make a pilgrimage—a tried and true motivator—of sorts, to the isolated Swiss town of Chur, in which it’s based. “[Passing] through medieval cobblestone streets, a golf course, and wildflower fields…to [bring] the ashes or [pick] up the diamond in person…” Their “choreographed” six-month production process culminates in the hand delivery of the final diamond, nestled within a small, glorified coffin, I mean, “polished wooden box”.
Well folks, if this is indeed the future of mourning, perhaps we should put more stock in the phrase, “bigger is better.” McDonald’s, anyone?
Morin, Roc. “Where the Dead Become Diamonds”. The Atlantic. 14 October 2014. Web. 06 October 2015.