Losing a loved one is one of the most painful experiences we can endure. Parting can be devastating, leaving a gaping hole in our lives and prompting us to think deeply about how to memorialise our beloved.
If, after our loved one has died, their body is cremated, many choose to keep the ashes on display in a feature urn.
But recent developments in science mean ashes can now be converted into a diamond identical in appearance and chemical structure to those found in nature.
Diamonds made from ashes are a precious and beautiful treasure that can be worn on the body, close to the heart all day, every day.
Tiffany Stewart of Heart In Diamond Australia told HelloCare customers ordering their diamonds wish to retain a connection with their loved one who has died.
Many of her customers tell her having the stones made helps them heal. It’s “amazing” the impact, she observed.
Clients come to her for a range of reasons. “Some have lost their loved one through sickness and it is organised before they pass,” Stewart said.
“Others have family members pass quickly and without notice so are needing to keep their memory alive through a physical keepsake.
“Many are elderly and their children are wanting to represent that life by creating a diamond of their favourite colour that represents them. Often multiple diamonds are created for each family member.”
Sometimes the stories are heartbreaking.
“Our saddest moments are with those who have had a baby or child pass”, Stewart said.
“Talking with the families about their loss is something I personally wasn’t really prepared for when I started working in this area. Listening to them talk about their loved one and how much they miss them breaks my heart every time.
“Many customers have just appreciated the chat because it’s given them a chance to tell a stranger how wonderful their child was and how it’s so important to honour them in a diamond that lasts forever.
Sometimes families have ‘celebration diamonds’ created for a special commemoration.
“We have created wedding bands for couples wanting to combine their hair into a diamond to symbolise the joining of their lives”, revealed Stewart.
Sometimes families combine hair from all family members to create a diamond that binds them all together.
Sometimes for a second marriage, members of the blended family have hair from all family members included in the making of the diamond.
“It brings that extra level of meaning to what is already symbolic”, she said.
The human body is made up of about 20 different elements which are mostly derived from ancient stars. About 12% of a human’s atoms are carbon – the raw material of diamonds.
Diamonds are formed when carbon deposits are placed under intense heat and pressure in the earth’s crust, sometimes over millions of years, but diamonds can also be created in nature in a matter of days.
To make their diamonds, Heart in Diamond requires two thirds of a cup of ashes and 2–5 grams of hair – from a person or a pet. A lower volume samle can be used, but it will require more additives during the process.
Sometimes clients are helped to gather the ashes from the crematorium “so they don’t have to handle this part of the process themselves”, Stewart said, as it can be “hard on those who are grieving”.
The sample is analysed and the carbon is extracted using extreme heat.
The carbon is then added to a ‘diamond growing foundation’ from which a unique crystalline matrix will grow. It is then placed in a ceramic core, which is placed in a High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) machine which replicates diamond-growing conditions similar to those found in nature.
Once the growing phase is complete, the stones are polished and cut in accordance with the Gemological Institute of America standards.
The stones then go through a quality control and grading process and an authenticity certificate is issued.
The resultant stones have “the physical, chemical and optical identity” of earth-mined diamonds – “but without the environmental impact”, notes Stewart.
It usually takes between 70 and 120 days from the time the sample is received until the stone is delivered. Prices range from $1,000 up to $25,000 and stone sizes range from 0.03 carats up to 3 carats.
Heart in Diamond can create orange/yellow, yellow/green, deep red, blue or white stones.
“Our most popular stone is a ¼ carat white,” said Stewart. “This is a very classic colour and what most people think of when explaining a diamond.”
Heart in Diamond is often asked to create a diamond in memory of a beloved pet.
“Animals create a unique bond and it’s no surprise that people want to keep close to them after their pet has passed,” said Stewart.
“We have endless stories of how someone’s cat or dog helped them through a tough time and now they want to honour that loyalty.”
The bond with a pet is often as strong as that with a person, Stewart observed.
Pet diamonds are often turned into a pendant for a keyring “so that their pet is with them wherever they travel”, said Stewart.
“It comes as a great comfort to know a tiny part of their pet is still… with them. For those whose pet was their only family, this is a big deal.”
Most people have their stone made into jewellery, commonly a ring or a pendant. Each piece is custom made from scratch. However, some families want the stone as a keepsake to pass down from generation to generation.
Clients also have the option to have the diamond inscribed.
“This has been done for many of our babies and children that have passed with the date of their birth and passing physically on the stone itself. This is not visible to the naked eye, but still something many of our families want,” Stewart said.
A deeply personal touch for a deeply personal treasure.