Remember your loved one -- as a diamond

Fri Sep 19, 2008 10:57am EDT
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By Sam Cage

CHUR, Switzerland (Reuters) - Diamonds really are forever. Algordanza, a small company based in the mountainous southeast of Switzerland, uses the ashes of dead people to make diamonds as a permanent memento for their nearest and dearest.

And with prices starting at less than 5,000 euros ($7,488), the jewels are not solely the preserve of the jetset.

"Some people find it helpful to go to the cemetery and grieve, and they leave their grief in the cemetery," said Algordanza Chairman Veit Brimer. "There are some people who, for whatever reason, do not want to have this farewell.

"Astonishingly these are mainly Christian people. They say: 'Why should I say goodbye? I'll see my husband in 15 years in heaven anyway,'" Brimer said in his office overlooking the town of Chur and its surrounding steep mountains.

The technology for making artificial diamonds was first pioneered by General Electric in the 1950s, and mirrors nature by subjecting carbon to huge pressure and temperature.

Algordanza -- which means "remembrance" in the local language Romansch, spoken in some parts of the Swiss canton of Grisons -- is one of a handful of companies offering artificial diamonds that have sprung up as the technology has improved.

U.S.-based LifeGem and Britain's Phoenix Diamonds, for example, also offer diamonds made from hair, which contains more carbon than ashes meaning a gem can be created from the hair of a living person, or from someone who has been buried rather than cremated. LifeGem even offers diamonds made from dead pets.

"Some people find it is a great honor and remembrance," said Laura Simanton at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). "The technology is certainly getting better."   Continued...