Throughout the centuries, science has permitted civilizations to advance in all aspects of life. Science has been used to cure diseases, visit the moon, and extend the human lifespan. In recent years, scientists have taken a naturally occurring process - the creation of diamonds - and recreated it in the lab. First completed by General Electric in 1954, this process is now being used by companies to help individuals mourn the loss of loved ones.
Eterneva, an Austin, Texas-based company, has leveraged the science behind laboratory-grown diamonds to create a unique product meant to serve those experiencing loss. From the ashes or hair of those who have passed, including family, friends, and pets, the company can create a keepsake diamond in memoriam. Eterneva has developed an exclusive process to aid Americans' grieving process by pulling from science while adding a personal touch.
The Science Behind Ashes to Diamonds
Under extreme pressure and temperature in the mantle layer of the Earth's core, about 150 miles underground, diamonds are made. These diamonds are pushed to the Earth's surface through volcanic activity, where they are then mined and sold throughout society. Diamond formation can take as little as a month; however, reaching the Earth's surface can take years. Today's technology has allowed scientists to recreate the process and make diamonds above the Earth's surface - in a laboratory. In fact, they have identified a method for using the carbon from human and animal remains to complete the process. In four simple steps, the remains of a loved one - either hair or ashes - can be turned into a diamond.
Step 1: Carbon Purification
The human body is composed of four elements: oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon. Three of these - oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen - are gaseous. Therefore, when a body is cremated, the remains contain high carbon traces. This carbon is then used in the lab to create a diamond.
Garrett Ozar, co-founder of Eterneva, explains"When you're [producing] a lab-grown diamond, in general, you're using carbon, heat, and pressure ... So, we're able to extract carbon from ashes - all we need is about a half a cup of ashes - the ashes then go into a custom-made graphite crucible where [they are] treated and turned into pure carbon."
Remains, however, are not purely carbon. The carbon must be isolated from the other elements in the ashes or hair using advanced technology. Eterneva scientists explain,"While much of the elemental carbon burns off during cremation, there still remains carbon in bones called carbonates, which is the carbon we're isolating from all other elements. [Only] 0.5-4% of remains are made up of carbon, and it takes ... many weeks of work to purify and extract it. The result is a carbon graphite powder, which is the starter material for the diamond!" This phase takes approximately 1 1/2 to two months to complete.
Step 2: Diamond Growth
To create the diamond, machines are used to replicate growing conditions under the Earth. The carbon is exposed to high pressure (850,000 pounds per square inch) and high heat (2,500 degrees Fahrenheit). Pressed between two plates under these conditions, the carbon "crystallizes on top of a diamond seed and grows into a raw diamond."
The process can take approximately two to three months. According to Eterneva, "Everyone's carbon is unique, so it's an iterative process for scientists to find the perfect combination of heat and pressure for each individual person!"
Step 3: Diamond Cutting and Colorization
Once the raw diamond is created, it can be cut and colored. The first step, cutting, "takes the new rough diamond and cuts it into the exact shape and size." Then, the diamond can be colored, depending on a client's preference. This stage involves the combination of high-energy particles with natural elements - the additional elements determine the color of the final stone.
A yellow diamond is produced with the addition of nitrogen; a blue diamond is produced with the addition of boron; and red, green, and black diamonds are achieved through an irradiation process that alters the way the finished stone reflects light. The length of irradiation impacts the final color - three weeks creates a reddish diamond, while two to three months results in a black diamond.
The Eterneva Touch
From start to finish, Eterneva is committed to making this scientific process personal to its customers. As a team, they understand the emotional turmoil associated with loss and pride themselves on creating more than just a product - it is a therapeutic process. Adelle Archer, CEO and co-founder of Eterneva, reports,"We obsess over the experience ...This is not just a memorialization process. This is something that will help you heal."
For example, Eterneva always ensures that clients feel connected with both the company and the process. When collecting the ashes from their customers, they send an initial welcome kit, including a video, instructions, return postage, and tools for sending the ashes.
Throughout the process, Eterneva keeps customers updated - the company wants them to be involved and use the experience to heal and grow. Ozar reports, "As part of our commitment to operational precision, we videotape every stage. We assign each customer a number, so we know exactly where they are at all times." Archer continues, "We literally are working on everybody individually, in isolation of each other. We provide a monthly cadence of updates, so our customers are always getting something to look forward to and getting to go on this journey with us."
As for the science, Eterneva adds a few extra steps to ensure quality and client satisfaction. Before cutting and coloring each diamond, the company implements a diamond quality assessment phase. "After the raw diamond has fully formed, we scan the diamond (like an x-ray!) to identify the placement of inclusions in the diamond and to ensure the shape and size we're targeting fit nicely within the raw diamond without any visible inclusions. It's quality over speed at this stage because we want your loved one's diamond to be perfect!" Once approved, the team relies on only the most qualified cutters - with a combined 45 years of experience - to cut the diamond. "The biggest influence on a diamond's quality and sparkle is the cut, so we're really particular about who we work with."
Following the cutting and coloring, Eterneva offers the option to grade, engrave, and set the diamond, which can take an additional one to two months. Eterneva has connected with IGI USA, one of the most respected diamond grading labs globally, to have their team examine the diamond and grade its color, clarity, and cut. They can also engrave a personal inscription on the gem. Archer explains, "Then, totally optional, if [you] want our help with doing a setting ... we can absolutely do that. Or, if [you] want to work with a jeweler of [your] choice, then we can send the cut diamond [to your] home." She continues, "Then we ... have it laser engraved. At any point in the future, you can look under a jeweler's loop, and you'll be able to see your personal inscription."
Eterneva: The Final Touch
Upon completion, Eterneva presents the diamond to its clients through a homecoming ceremony - an element that truly sets the company apart. Instead of simply shipping the diamond, the team personally visits the client to hand-deliver the final product. All the way to the end, Eterneva provides additional comfort and support, enhancing each individual's ability to continue to heal following a loss.