Your loved one has been cremated, the ashes are yours…now what? Putting them in an urn doesn’t appeal, scattering them to the wind isn’t enough…but can you really turn ashes into diamonds? Yes—the process of creating a memorial diamond(s) has been a meaningful part of the grieving process and produced beautiful keepsake for countless families.
How Do You Turn Ashes to Diamonds?
After cremation, the family is left with the ashes (cremains). You may choose to scatter them, keep them in an urn, or find an alternative way to memorialize your loved one. Having a cremation diamond made from the ashes is one such alternative that has been gaining popularity in the last few years.
Originally discovered in the 1950s and 1960s, this process has been used to create cremation diamonds since the early 2000s. In 2003, LifeGem claims to be the first to offer the service to consumers (with their 2001 patent), with Heart In Diamond making the same claim with this Russian patent. Algordanza in Switzerland was also close behind.
So how do you transform ashes into diamonds?
- Carbon is extracted from the ashes and purified, converting it to graphite (a form of carbon).
- The carbon is subject to the same conditions that create real diamonds in an HPHT (high pressure and high temperature) machine. Adding color is an option at this step.
- The rough diamond is removed and cleaned.
- The clean rough diamond is (optionally) cut and polished.
- The cremation diamond may be engraved with a laser.
- The memorial diamond will be graded and issued a certificate.
- The newly created diamond can be set or mounted in jewelry.
It can take anywhere from 50 days to 1 year for a company to create cremation diamonds from human ashes. Generally they require 0.5 to 2 grams of hair or 100 grams of ashes to complete the process.
All HPHT diamonds are authentic, real diamonds—including those made from human ashes. However, they are distinguishable. According to the GIA (Gemological Institute of America), the difference between natural and HPHT-created diamonds “can be detected only at knowledgeable, experienced, fully-equipped gemological laboratories.”
Although we focus on Algordanza in our explanations, it is only because they provide the most detail about their process and the most complete information. We consider all companies offering this service in our reviews (and only recommend Algordanza in certain circumstances).
Step 1: Purifying Carbon
Diamonds are made from carbon, so to create memorial diamonds one must first extract the carbon. While hair is about 45% carbon (according to this study), ashes range from about 0.5% to 2.5% carbon by dry mass. Hair is a useful alternative if you don’t plan to cremate your loved one for religious, cultural, or any other reason—or would prefer to keep the ashes in addition to the diamond.
Some companies (including Algordanza) allow you to use the ashes of other symbolic carbon sources if you don’t have enough ashes. These can include letters, diaries, or pictures.
First, the amorphous carbon in the ashes is purified. This just means everything else (other elements and minerals) is removed. Most often, this is done by heating the ashes to extremely high temperatures. It is then refined into graphite, which changes the unstructured, amorphous carbon and charcoal into a neat, ordered allotrope, as pictured below. To get it all the way to diamond structure, however, takes even more extreme conditions…
Only about 3%-5% of the carbon diamond is actually from your loved one. And that number may be far lower, as it is hypothesized carbon is lost in the step from amorphorous carbon to graphite. Companies do not provide the specific number (except for Algordanza).
Step 2: Growing the Diamond
The carbon from the ashes is placed inside a growing cell, which in turn is placed inside a high temperature and high pressure (HPHT) machine.
The growing cell contains, in addition to the graphite carbon, “a catalyst of mixed metals and powders that facilitates the diamond growth” (Source).
HPHT machines can generate temperatures from 1,400 to 2,600 degrees Celsius and pressures of 50,000 to 60,000 atmospheres (870,000 PSI), much like what real diamonds experience in Earth’s crust. 1 atmosphere is the pressure of air at sea level. At the bottom of the Mariana Trench, it’s about 1,100 atmospheres—so it takes a lot of energy to turn graphite into diamond.
After weeks to months in these conditions, the carbon melts and reshapes itself into diamond. The cooling process is carefully controlled to improve the quality of the memorial diamond.
Color can be modified during the process. In fact, this method is the only way to permanently change the blueness and yellowness of a diamond. You can use this same process to change the color of naturally formed diamonds as well, or any pre-existing diamond (natural or lab grown). We’ll talk more about coloration later.
HPHT machines are also used for commercial diamonds because it’s a fast and cheap way to turn flawed, natural diamonds into much higher quality ones—or make them from scratch, like cremation diamonds.
As you might expect, the use of HPHT machines in the diamond industry was met with both joy and dismay. In order to determine whether diamonds were natural or synthetic, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) tasked Dr. Wuyi Wang and his team. They created DiamondView, which uses spectroscopic techniques like considering the grain of the diamond. Now, all diamond certifications (and yes, diamonds get certifications—we’ll get to that later in this article) identify if the diamond as natural or synthetic.
Step 3: Rough Diamond Cleaning
After the diamond has undergone its primordial experience in the HPHT machine, it is considered a rough diamond. A rough diamond is any diamond that hasn’t yet been cut.
The diamond is carefully removed from the growing cell and cleaned in an acid bath.
Step 4: Cutting and Polishing
After the diamonds are removed, they are cut and polished. You may have a say in how it is cut, or, if you would prefer, you could leave it in its natural form. The choice is yours.
Most companies will provide a list of options regarding the cut shape. Their selections will look something like the following image.
Step 5: Laser Engraving
Most companies will also offer laser engraving that may include useful information about the diamond. Some even offer an optional personalized message. For example, Algordanza will include their signet and the unique reference number of the order, plus optional custom text.
Diamond laser engravings can be viewed at about 30 times magnification. Its message will be part of the diamonds certification.
Step 6: Certification
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has standardized certification, allowing experts to appraise the size, color, quality, weight, and cut of any diamond. Weight (really mass) is measured in carats, which are equivalent to 0.200 grams. These qualities are generally referred to as the 4Cs, for the color scale, clarity scale, carat weight, and cut scale.
The AGS (American Gem Society) is another well-respected certifier.
Step 7: Setting
Of course, this last step is completely optional. It can be done later at a local jeweler, or reset if you prefer it in a different piece of jewelry.
What Do You Need to Know About Memorial Diamonds?
There are a few important factors to review before we get to how much memorial diamonds cost and where to buy them. They are coloration, timeframe, and carat size. Also, we’ll discuss the religious stance on transforming ashes to diamonds and the environmental and economic impacts of lab grown diamonds.
The coloration of the diamond comes from impurities in the carbon. For example, the element boron contributes to the blue tone of a diamond. The element nitrogen creates a yellowish tint. Logically, a perfectly pure diamond would be colorless and completely clear.
Modifying the colors of a diamond is possible because the the relationship of blue and yellow to boron and nitrogen. The catalyst, during this growth process, binds some combination of boron and nitrogen. By changing the catalyst, you can control how much boron and nitrogen is included in the final diamond.
Green, red, pink and other more exotic colors can be added to the diamond after its formation via irradiation. Red diamonds are created from a partial breakdown in the lattice network of the diamond, achieved by bombarding a diamond with electron-radiation in the form of beta particles. When used on diamonds, gamma radiation (which is just high-energy light), creates a green color. Diamonds with so many impurities and inclusions in them light is no longer reflected appear black. (Thanks to Algordanza for the correction!)
What Are Diamond Sizes?
Diamond sizes are determined by how big the diamond is, as measured by weight (mass) in carats. One carat is equal to 0.200 grams.
Religion and Cremation Diamonds
Many, many religions accept cremation as an acceptable, if not preferred, method of honoring the body of a loved one after passing.
However, accepting cremation does not mean a religious sect accepts cremation diamonds. Most strongly, the pope condemned cremation diamonds in 2016. He also stated that the Roman Catholic church considered all forms of cremation jewelry to be sacrilegious.
This is where you can read more about religious views on cremation diamonds.
Why Are Lab Grown Diamonds Better Than Natural Diamonds?
There are three significant issues with natural diamonds. First, the impact of both exploring and extracting diamonds on the environment is substantial and wide-ranging, including erosion, destruction of ecosystems, and deforestation.
Second, the mining of diamonds is associated with horrific working conditions and child labor.
Third, some diamonds are used to finance civil wars or terrorism. Such diamonds are called blood diamonds or conflict diamonds. At an international level there has been much regulation in the last two decades to certify the origin of diamonds, primarily through the 2003 Kimberly Process. Diamonds that can be demonstrated not to have financed wars are called conflict-free diamonds.
In short, lab grown diamonds circumvent all these problems. In terms of price, until 2018, lab grown diamonds had been selling for about 30% less than natural diamonds, but since then that number has risen to 70-80% less.
How Long Does it Take to Make Memorial Diamonds?
Color plays a much larger role than most people would expect in the timeframe of creating a diamond. The image below captures the range of times for the most popular colors. The companies who offer memorial diamonds market their services as ranging from about two months to 11 months (though this is different from the amount of time the diamond is in the HPHT machine), with a lot of variety by company. The total timeframe—from purchase to delivery—is something we consider when making our recommendation.
How Much Do Cremation Diamonds Cost?
Cremation diamond prices range from about $695 to $50,000 for 0.1 to 3 carats. Generally, yellow diamonds are the cheapest and fastest to make. Colorless diamonds, on the other hands, are the most expensive. Many companies offer payment plans and there are a variety of ways to fundraise for memorials.
Memorial diamond prices depends on five factors: the 4C’s of the diamond and the quality of the service. After picking a company, the biggest factor in price is the carat—or size—of the diamond.
- Carat Size
- Quality of customer service offered by the cremation diamond company
If memorial diamonds appeal to you or your family but are outside your price range, consider reading our guide to memorial fundraisers.
What Companies Can Turn Ashes to Diamonds?
We found seven (listed alphabetically).
- Algordanza (Switzerland) / MyMemorial Diamond (United States)
- Eterneva (US)
- Everdear (?)
- Heart In Diamond (UK)
- LifeGem (US)
- Lonite (Switzerland)
- Saint Diamonds (US with Swiss Lab)
Many companies allow you to create multiple diamonds throughout the process, offering discounts if you purchase more than one. This is great for children of a parent who has passed on, or the loved one’s spouse and parents.
Where Should I Buy My Cremation Diamond?
We have broken down the answer to this question into three different sets of circumstances. However, overall our ranking is as follows:
|My Memorial Diamond*
|Heart In Diamond*
|Starting At (Cost)
|Starting At (Carat)
*We are reporting US-based prices
- Be careful to take into account the size when comparing prices between companies. The larger the carat, the more expensive.
- The minimum prices are for the smallest carat of yellow diamonds. The maximum price is the largest carat of colorless diamond.
- Rough (uncut) diamonds are much cheaper.
- My Memorial Diamond offers high carat diamonds for a custom quote.
Algordanza only offers colors in clear or blue because it is the most authentic. The boron in bones, nails, and hair (from 2-50 ppm) all contribute to the bluish color of their diamonds.
First, if your focus is on the experience, Eterneva is certainly the way to go. Their pricing is competitive, but slightly on the high side. While the timeframe is relatively long at 7–10 months, they go above and beyond to help you through the grieving process and make the experience of creating and receiving your cremation diamond extraordinary—including sending you video progress reports.
Algordanza / My Memorial Diamond Review
Second, if you want the largest and most experienced company outside the US, Algordanza would be your best choice. They are far and away the most transparent about their process, research, and experience. Additionally, they have an international presence and are one of the largest cremation diamond service providers in the world.
If you have only hair or want to use other sources of carbon (letters, pictures, etc), Algordanza is a great choice because they offer discounts for hair (because it is easier to purify).
Heart In Diamond Review
Third, if you are on a budget or time sensitive, we recommend you choose Heart In Diamond. Their turnaround time is 70-120 days with extremely competitive prices. (Though Everdear offers the least expensive option at $695 for a 0.1 carat diamond, they take about 11 months to deliver.)
Founded in 2005, Heart In Diamond has an international presence and sterling reputation. To their detriment, certification and custom engraving is not included in the price—though it is available for an extra fee.
Can You Create Cremation Diamonds From Pets?
Yes! Saint Diamonds, Heart In Diamond, Algordanza (in collaboration with Semper Fides), and LifeGem all offer services specifically dedicated to pets, but any company can create pet memorial diamonds. After all, they cannot distinguish if the ashes came from a person or a pet.
No. Ashes do not expire. Even centuries later, theoretically you should still be able to turned ashes into diamonds.
A carat is a measure of the mass of a diamond (weight without gravity), where one carat is equivalent to 0.200 grams.
Generally you need about 500 grams of ashes or 5 grams of hair. The difference exists because hair contains a lot more carbon than ashes.
Yes! Mining for natural diamonds is a process that destroys ecosystems, may fund wars, and enables poor working conditions. By comparison, the energy and effort that it takes to grow a diamond in a lab is much smaller. Furthermore, many companies—particularly memorial diamond service providers—have made commitments to sustainability.
Yes! Saint Diamonds, Heart In Diamond, and LifeGem all offer services specifically dedicated to pets, but any company can create pet memorial diamonds.
We recommend Eterneva as our top choice (in most situations). Their pricing is on the higher side, but still competitive. While the timeframe is relatively long at 7–10 months, they go above and beyond to help you through the grieving process.
Memorial diamond prices range from about $695 to $50,000 for 0.1 to 3 carats. Generally, yellow diamonds are the cheapest and fastest to make. Colorless diamonds, on the other hands, are the most expensive. Many companies offer payment plans and there are a variety of ways to fundraise for memorials.
Color plays a much larger role than most people would expect in the timeframe of creating a diamond. Yellow is the fastest, while colorless diamonds take the longest time. Companies offering memorial diamonds, market their services as ranging from about two months to 11 months (though this is different from the amount of time the diamond is in the HPHT machine), with a lot of variety by company.
Thanks for reading! We hope you find this helpful. If you have suggestions or feedback, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PS Many thanks to Algordanza for helping to improve the quality and accuracy of this article!