A Swiss firm is offering an alternative to storing the cremated remains of a loved one in an urn – wearing them as a ring instead.
Algordanza says it will turn the ashes of the deceased into diamonds for no more than the cost of a gravestone.
Chur-based Algordanza – Romansh for remembrance – started up in July as the first company in Europe manufacturing precious gems out of human ashes.
According to company director Veit Brimer, the Swiss public has responded very positively to the idea.
“We have a lot of interest – it’s overwhelming,” Brimer told swissinfo. “We get 200 enquiries a day on our website.”
No two diamonds are the same, just as no two people are the same, says the website, and every created gem serves as a lasting reminder of “a unique and wonderful life”.
To produce the synthetic diamonds, human ashes are purified, then heated and pressurised over a period of three to four weeks.
“The diamond crystals are grown, as in nature,” explained Brimer, “except that the method we are using does not take millions of years, just weeks.
“But the process is nearly the same, and today even specialists have a lot of difficulty telling if the diamonds they see are made or natural.”
The gems are bluish in colour, unlike those produced by mixing cremated human remains with carbon. Brimer says the blue tinge makes the gems appear more valuable.
“You have blue diamonds in nature, and they are much more expensive than the normal ones because they are very, very rare.”
The jewels are formed in a machine resembling a big refrigerator, which can produce five or six gems at a time.
But Brimer says there is no danger of ashes from different people being mixed up.
“We make a chemical analysis of the ashes, and we can make a chemical analysis of the diamond as well, so we can see from whose ashes it stems.”
Cut and polish
The company offers a range of options, from polished gems to diamonds set on a granite base or incorporated into jewellery.
Prices start at SFr5,690 ($4,513) for a half-carat cut and polished stone. For a further SFr600, the diamond can be set in a simple gold ring.
Gems can be created up to 1.5 carats in weight, with the weight varying according to the time spent in the pressing machine.
Depending on the wishes of the customer, a name and date – invisible to the human eye – can be engraved on the cut stone using laser technology.
Brimer says enquiries have come not only from people storing the ashes of a spouse or parent at home, but also from those who want their own ashes turned into diamonds on their death.
The most unusual request concerned the ashes of a horse. But Brimer says Algordanza has no plans yet to extend its services to animals.
“For that we would probably set up a different company,” he said.
swissinfo, Morven McLean
Algordanza was set up in July 2004 in Chur, eastern Switzerland.
Its directors are Veit Brimer (38) and Rinaldo Willy (24).
The technology was developed in Russia around 4 years ago.
Prices start at SFr5,690 ($4,513) for a half-carat gem.