A couple of years ago, I started reading stories in the news about these horrible little things called “push presents.” Long popular and conventional in places like the U.K. and India, crassly named “push presents” are gifts given to a new mother by a new father after the birth of their child. Jewelry, artwork, expensive handbags—any of these will fit the bill. The new mother has expended quite an effort to experience the miracle of birth and all. I guess the father owes her something for her trouble.
I thought the concept of “brand-new life = expensive jewelry” couldn’t get any more distasteful; and then I read about cremation diamonds. They’re kind of the opposite of a push present, if you will. In the first circumstance, you celebrate a new life with a new bauble. In the second case, you mark the end of life the same way. See how that works? Either way, someone ends up with a new ring, a new brooch or even a new tie tack.
In the old days, one could anticipate inheriting their great-grandmother’s pin or her wedding earrings. But thanks to the technology behind cremation diamonds, great-grandmother can now be the pin or the earrings.
Cremation diamonds are exactly what they sound like. In just eight simple steps, over the course of several weeks, you, too, can have a cremation diamond that commemorates your loved one by hardening his or her remains into a shiny, pretty stone. Here’s how it works: Cremation ashes get heated to more than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, until only the carbon remains. Heating this carbon for a few weeks turns it into graphite. Then, according to the Cremation Solutions Web site, the next step is to “place the graphite in a core metal catalyst and add a diamond seed crystal.” (No, I don’t know what a core metal catalyst or a diamond seed crystal is, either.) Then the core goes into a diamond press, where it gets more weeks of high heat and enormous pressure. That turns the graphite into a crystal. That crystal then gets cut and polished to the buyer’s specifications.
By the way, the same technology can utilize carbon from a strand of hair to create a “hair diamond.” So the good news is that mourners who are burying the dead, not cremating them, can enjoy the same type of stunning commemorative jewelry. (No news on what – if anything – can be made from the process of resomation, which basically liquefies a corpse. Someone, somewhere is working on it; I’m positive.)
And don’t you worry about your commitment to the environment and “green” living! The web site offers the following reassurance: “Cremation or Hair Diamonds are green to the earth. They have all the attributes of natural diamonds from huge mines – same fire, same hardness but without the social stigma, the blood sweat and tears of hard labour or the environmental issues having a massive impact on the earth.” (Sidebar: misspelled words and grammar errors abound on this site.) That’s a relief. But crematoriums themselves release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And I’m not certain of the carbon footprint the cremation diamond factory itself creates. After all, it heats carbon to thousands of degrees for weeks at a time, and adds 800,000 pounds of pressure per square inch to the “core.” As far as I can tell, that’s not happening on wind power.
May I just take a moment to pose a question here? You can buy what? Cremation diamonds? I’m so sorry, but here’s where I have to interject the Ship of Theseus theory which asks: How much of an object can be replaced without changing the identity of the object? I can’t quite buy the idea that separating, heating, combining, compacting, and then pressuring the carbon from cremation remains (which, let’s face facts, are mostly pulverized bone since body organs and skin basically vaporize in the process) will deliver a new version of great grandma to my naked ring finger. It may deliver a pretty stone, but nope; just don’t believe it’s really her.
This idea doesn’t feel warm and commemorative to me. We have reached some kind of nadir of detachment and set the ‘conspicuous consumption’ bar on the lowest rung when we choose to “wear” sparkly loved ones under the guise of honoring them.
Tell you what. Assuming I have several thousand dollars to spare (cremation diamonds are not inexpensive, not to mention the cost of their settings), the next time I find myself grieving the loss of a loved one, I’ll donate the money to one of his or her favorite charities as a remembrance. I’ll raise a toast and share stories that bring a smile. I’ll keep him or her in my heart and in my mind and help comfort those left behind. And I’ll do it all without the new bling.
Renee James is a freelance writer who lives in Allentown, Pa. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and her blog is It’s not me, it’s you.