Dust To Diamonds

Feature photo courtesy of Flickr user Kim Alaniz.

Longevity Week: Dust To Diamonds

by Hannah Sutker | Theme Week | Jan 23, 2016

Instead of handing down great-grandma’s possessions for future generations, why not give the gift of great-grandma herself?

The Swiss company, Algordanza, aims to revolutionize the burial process by converting ashes to diamonds. These memorial diamonds immortalize the dearly departed—a symbol of the unique value of each person who passes on.

BTR speaks with Christina Martoia, the National Coordinator for Algordanza, about the diamond conversion process and its implications.

BreakThru Radio (BTR): Who originally thought to launch Algordanza, and what was their main motivation in doing so?

Christina Martoia (CM): Founded in 2004, our CEO Rinaldo Willy worked with the world’s leading scientists and gemologists to study and perfect this extraordinary option to traditional burial. The highly complex process of creating a memorial diamond is the outcome of our efforts to produce something imperishable.

BTR: And is your company the best resource for those who wish to turn ashes into something imperishable?

CM: Memorial diamonds are forever. They can be an everlasting keepsake and heirloom, to pass on to generations. At Algordanza, we are dedicated to helping grieving individuals honor the life of their lost loved one.

BTR: Do you think there’s a specific reason for the popularity of this kind of alternative burial?

CM: Globalization is rising, and it plays a huge part in the world we live in today. Most people move numerous times throughout their life around the country, and even around the world. It is not uncommon for generations of families to live far apart, making visits to a grave harder. A memorial diamond allows you to keep your lost loved one close to your heart wherever you are.

BTR: Does one specific region or country order more memorial diamonds than any other?

CM: About 25 percent of our orders come from Japan. This may be due to the fact that Japan has the highest cremation rate in the world; ninety-nine percent of their deceased are cremated.

BTR: I imagine that this service was initially met with some level of skepticism, what kind of criticism did the company face at its launch?

CM: Firstly, the question about the carbon concentration in the remains after cremation, and if there is even any carbon remaining in the remains. Nobody ever researched how much carbon remains [are] in the ashes after cremation. Thus, we had a laboratory examine remains and confirm that there is actually enough carbon concentration remaining to produce a diamond solely from these remains.

Secondly, there were concerns about the privatization of the dead, toward the person who will keep the diamond nearby and remove a place for mourning for other family members and friends. In traditional burials, the grave is usually accessible for everyone. However, there is still the possibility to have a grave, since we do not use all the ashes. We do not offer an either/or, but rather both possibilities at the same time.

BTR: Do you have suggestions for ways people can honor the deceased through your product, if they do not opt for an additional burial?

CM: Some families choose to create multiple diamonds. A specific instance includes a father who had four diamonds produced, one for each of his children, made from their deceased mother. It is an extraordinary commemoration that many family members can share, and pass on as a family heirloom.

BTR: That’s such a lovely idea. What is the most unique way a customer has used their diamond thus far?

CM: We had a customer, a farmer, who wanted to have a rough diamond made after his passing, and he asked to have the diamond buried on his land. He thought it would be really nice if someone dug him up years later and was surprised by a diamond.

BTR: Due to sentimental value, do you think these gems are technically more valuable than regular gems? It’s difficult to imagine someone trying to sell one of these to a pawnshop, essentially putting a price on a relative’s remains.

CM: In my opinion, a memorial diamond is a priceless keepsake. Technically, memorial diamonds can be rated based on cut, color, and clarity, and can be certified to obtain a monetary value.

However, to these individuals, this is a loved one. How can you put a price tag on memories? On love? On loss? On the soul?

BTR: Let’s continue on value for a moment. Say the government decides they wanted to turn the ashes of George Washington into a diamond. Or the Catholic Church chooses to do the same for a Pope. Would you guys do it? There’s potential here for some really significant crown jewels if any royalty decides to hop on board.

CM: This is an exciting question…absolutely! Algordanza provides our service to anyone wishing to commemorate the life of a loved one. This would be an amazing opportunity to introduce our product to people who have never thought about a memorial diamond.

BTR: So then, why is your service limited only to humans? There must be demand from pet owners in mourning as well.

CM: We do receive interest from pet owners, however, in accordance with our principles of dignity, we refrain from accepting the ashes of pets. This has been the choice of our company’s founder since its conception.

BTR: Will you use this service in the future?

CM: This is a unique question, and I’ll share the most honest answer from my heart. I do plan on having an Algordanza memorial diamond made. My father passed away, and was cremated. Later this year, I plan to take my mother to Switzerland to hand deliver his ashes to our laboratory.

We think of him always, but now we will be able to hold something that brings back all those memories of joy we once shared together. I think my father would have wanted that.

BTR: Your mission statement says, “love, remembrance, and respect.” How does your company best encourage and embody those values?

CM: Our mission statement is a reflection of our love for mankind and the lifetime of memories people can share. We envision the memorial diamond as a third kind of burial, and the most extraordinary form of remembrance. The respect we share stems from each individual staff member, to the families we serve.