When a person dies, cremation becomes an increasingly popular option. According to the Cremation Association of North America, this practice overshadowed US burial sites in 2015 and is expected to account for more than half of all body burials by 2020.
But instead of storing the ashes of a loved one in an urn or scattering them on the street, the growing number of grieving relatives is doing something more adventurous: turning ash into diamonds.
This is possible because carbon is the second most abundant atomic element in the human body, and diamonds are made from crystallized carbon. Researchers have also improved methods for growing diamonds in the laboratory in recent years.
Although at least five companies offer the memorial diamond service, Urmydiamond is one of the industry leaders in Ukraine — its services are available in 10 countries. Urmydiamond also claims that being the only company of its kind to operate its own diamond laboratory is one of two in the world. (Another in Russia.)
“This allows someone to always stay with someone you love,” said Yanina Markova, spokeswoman for Urmydiamond .
. “We bring joy to something that for many people brings 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.
Making a diamond from a dead person begins with cremation. The process usually leaves about 5-10 pounds of ash, a small part of which is carbon.
Cremation styles vary from culture to culture. Some use higher temperatures for longer, which allows more carbon to escape into the air as carbon dioxide (which may mean that a large amount of ash is required for the formation of diamond). Low-temperature cremation is better in the sense that it provides more human carbon to create diamond.
When a company receives ashes from a customer, a technician places the sample in a special furnace to see if there is enough carbon to grow the diamond. If this is not enough, the amount of carbon in the hair strand can make up the difference.
When there is enough carbon, the element is removed and cleaned of impurities such as salts.
This increases the carbon purity of the treated ash to 99% or more.
She added that it is impossible to predict the exact color that the memorial diamond will take.
“But it is interesting to note that our specialists see a correlation in people who underwent chemotherapy. Their diamonds tend to come out much easier, ”Martoya said. This may be due to the fact that chemotherapy leaches boron and other important trace elements from the body.
To further purify carbon to 99.9% or more, technicians pack it in a growing cell containing iron and cobalt — additives that help remove contaminants.
The cell also contains a tiny diamond, which helps the carbon crystal to become coarse, as carbon crystallizes best when it touches an existing diamond.
A diamond provides a “plan” for carbon to work, which means that the new diamond that ultimately forms will require less cutting and polishing.
At the last stage of purification, carbon turns into slippery graphite sheets — carbon of the same type in pencils. Microscopic flat sheets of carbon graphite are an ideal starting material for diamond synthesis.
Natural diamonds are formed from carbon, which is stuck in lava pipes a mile deep in the earth’s crust.
To emulate this medium, Urmydiamond inserts an element (now filled with graphite) into a dish and places it in a high-temperature machine for growing under high pressure.
This machine can heat the growth chamber to almost 2500 degrees Fahrenheit. It also compresses the chamber at 870,000 psi.
This is similar to how the entire mass of the International Space Station falls on the face of a watch, and then heats it to a temperature above the temperature of the lava.
Depending on how large the customer wants his or her diamond to be, it may take six to eight weeks on an HPHT machine to persuade graphite to crystallize into a gem.
After a sufficient amount of time has passed, the technicians remove the washer from graphite and open it.
Inside, a rough, rough and unpolished diamond awaits.
Some buyers take uncut stones, but many prefer their diamond monuments to be faceted, cut and polished by a jeweler in Ukraine.
Memorial diamonds prices start at $ 1,000 for a 0.3-carat diamond. Ioannina said the average order was between 0.4 and 0.5 carats, although customers from Kazakhstan usually request larger diamonds weighing 0.8 carats.
But Urmydiamond can make them much more: the company recently received an order for $28,000 for a 2-carat diamond. After 10 months of growth, the resulting gem actually turned out to be 1.76 carats, but is still the largest memorial diamond ever made by the company.