This type of services became known through the film “As Above, So Below” at the Imagine Science Film Festival. Companies like Algordanza have specialized in creating diamonds from the ashes, and in this article tell us how they do.
Diamonds are essentially pressurized carbon atoms. When carbon atoms are exposed to extreme pressures and high temperatures, they unite in an organized way to form crystals. The longer the carbon remains under extreme pressure and heat, the more carbon atoms will join in this rigid formation and the greater the diamond.
Because diamonds are made of carbon and the human body has about 18% carbon, it is possible to transform human ashes into diamonds.
It is possible to separate the carbon from the other elements in the ashes and those carbon atoms can be used to mimic the natural process of making diamonds in the laboratory. These “commemorative” diamonds produced by Algordanza have, on their own website, exactly the same physical and chemical properties as ordinary diamonds.
Adult cremation produces about five pounds of ash, and according to the Algordanza website, at least 1.1 pounds of those ashes are needed to make the process work.
Creating a diamond from human ashes is quite simple.
Each ash sample is analyzed first chemically. This is an essential step because each country has its own traditions and laws that determine how cremation is handled. Before chemical alterations can be made, non-carbon elements that are mixed with human ashes, such as salts, are sorted, dissolved and then removed. This type of cleaning process is necessary because a high quality diamond can only be formed if the sample has at least 99% carbon.
The clean ashes are placed in a chamber where the pressure and the intense heat are gradually applied and the carbon is converted into graphite. Graphite is simply a physical state different from carbon where atoms are joined in flat sheets
Atoms are tightly bonded under this extreme pressure and temperature in the same way as natural diamonds. It only takes about a week for the diamonds to form, as they grow at a speed of 0.2-0.4 carats per day in the laboratory.
A diamond that forms in a natural environment expands in all directions. These are called rough diamonds. But if carbon is placed in a growing cell, it allows technicians to grow the diamond in a predetermined way, and that is why it can ask for different “cuts” of a diamond.
The company can not really guarantee the appearance of the resulting diamond: it will be whiter than a naturally formed diamond, or it could even have a bluish tint. The blue color comes from the presence of boron. Humans have different levels of boron in their bodies, so the amount of bluish tint depends on the person.
The time that carbon is subjected to pressure and heat determines the carat size of the diamond that is formed, although there is a limit. In the laboratory, the size of the diamond is limited by the growing cell and the chamber that supplies heat and pressure, which limits the growth of the diamond to 1 carat.
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