Diamonds have been loved as best friends and cherished for their timelessness; to coax them out of the earth, sweat has been poured and blood has been split. Today, however, science and a small lab in the mountains of southeast Switzerland have added greatly to the symbolic life of these icy stones. Algordanza, a small company founded in 2004, makes diamonds as permanent mementos of loved ones by forming the stones from human remains. The ashes of loved ones can be made in to bluish tinted diamonds and kept as glittering symbols of those passed away. Fittingly, Algordanza means remembrance in Romansch, one of the four official languages of Switzerland.
In a process called High Pressure/High Temperature one-crystal synthesis, approximately 500 grams of human ashes can be transformed into a diamond, alike to any natural diamond mined from the earth in physical, chemical, and optical properties. Humans are carbon-based life-forms and diamonds are simply the hardest allotrope of carbon. This means that the lab must only extract the carbon from the remains and then accelerate the process of compacting and hardening that takes thousands of years in nature. Algordanza presents its diamonds, up to one carat in size, in just three months.
The diamonds have a bluish tint that ranges from deep blue to almost pure white, based on the individual boron component in the remains. This cannot be controlled or predicted and, as the company puts it, gives the gem “personality.” Though it is impossible to identify which stone came from whom, as DNA does not reach into the atomic level of the carbon that is used, the company keeps careful records so that stones can be traced. Also, the diamonds can be engraved with a laser inscription at the time of their birth.
The company gets between 40 and 50 commissions each month, many from Japan where the practice is gaining popularity. The process costs between $7,000 and $19,000.