When a person dies, cremation is an increasingly popular option. The practice eclipsed burials in the US in 2015 and is expected to make up more than half of all body disposals by 2020, according to the Cremation Association of North America.
But instead of storing a loved one’s cremains in an urn or sprinkling them outside, a growing number of bereaved consumers are doing something more adventurous: forging the ashes into diamonds.
This is possible because carbon is the second-most-abundant atomic elementin the human body, and diamonds are made of crystallized carbon. Researchers have also improved ways to grow diamonds in the lab in recent years.
While at least five companies offer a “memorial diamond” service, Algordanzain Switzerland is one of the industry leaders — its services are available in 33 countries, and the company told Business Insider it sold nearly 1,000 corporeal gems in 2016. Algordanza also claims to be the only company of its kind that operates its own diamond-growing lab for cremains — one of two in the world. (The other is in Russia.)
“It allows someone to keep their loved one with them forever,” Christina Martoia, a spokeswoman for Algordanza US, told Business Insider. “We’re bringing joy out of something that is, for a lot of people, a lot of pain.”
Here’s how the company uses extreme heat and pressure to turn dead people — and sometimes animals — into sparkling gems of all sizes, cuts, and colors.
Kelly Dickerson contributed to this story.
Styles of cremation differ from culture to culture. Some use hotter temperatures for longer, which allows most carbon to escape into the air as carbon dioxide (which may mean a large amount of ashes are needed to form a diamond). Low-temperature cremation is better in that it ensures a larger amount of a person’s carbon remains to create a diamond.