August 23, 2019
When a girl gets engaged, there’s nothing she wants more than to celebrate with family and friends. But what if one of those dearest to her already has passed on?
The departed—either human or pet—can still help “spark joy” during this special time; thanks to Eterneva, a company based in Austin, Texas, that creates lab-grown diamonds out of the carbon from remains.
One Diamond Girl (as singers Seals & Crofts would say) from Viera, Florida, learned all about the joys of wearing an Eternava engagement ring, when she was presented with one during a surprise proposal by her now-fiancé, Paul Vasso.
As The New York Times reported on August 22, Shayla Mansfield gets a lot of compliments on her diamond engagement ring. She always has the same response when she does. “Thank you, it’s actually my mother’s ashes,” says Mansfield, 29.
The bride-to-be’s mother, Shirley Mansfield, died on December 29, 2017, at age 58, from acute myeloid leukemia, the Times says; but Shayla’s longtime boyfriend was not about to leave her out of the pre-wedding revelry.
Shortly after Shayla’s much-loved mom died, Vasso saw a Facebook post that a friend shared about turning the ashes of loved ones into a diamond. After getting permission (and a portion of Shirley’s ashes) from the rest of Shayla’s family—and swearing them to secrecy—Vasso asked Eterneva to make the center stone for Shayla’s engagement ring.
Adelle Archer, 28, a founder of Eterneva, which is still a startup after two years in business, told The New York Times that the company has helped other couples transform the ashes of loved ones. “People say diamonds are forever and they’re the symbol of love and permanence,” she said. “How much more meaningful could it get than to have somebody that you hold dear, that can’t be there on your wedding day, to get to be part of that commitment that you make?”
And Eterneva is not the only firm that is capitalizing on the hereafter. LifeGem, which is based in Des Plaines, Illinois, began its ashes-to-diamonds operation in 2002. Dean VandenBiesen, 56, a company founder, said he is proud he is able to provide a personal way to pay homage to a loved one. “It brings a measure of comfort, which I think is kind of a big deal in a very difficult time,” he said.
LifeGem’s showroom allows people a chance to learn more about the process. It involves using extreme heat in a vacuum induction furnace to convert the carbon material to graphite. The graphite is then placed into a diamond press that mimics the forces deep within the earth and allows diamond crystals to form.
Only a relatively small amount of ashes are required to grow a diamond. Ms. Archer of Eterneva says a typical cremation will yield eight to 10 cups and that a half-cup can generate “at least a couple of grams of carbon,” more than enough to yield multiple diamonds. Eterneva sends back any unused ashes to customers or will store a loved one’s remains on site for an indefinite time in case the need to create a replacement diamond ever arises.
According to the Times report, because the diamonds are grown one at a time, and come in a variety of colors, they can be pricey. For $2,490, Eterneva’s clients will get a 0.1- to 0.19-carat accent diamond. It’s $20,199 for a black diamond 1.0 to 1.24 carats; this is the most expensive and difficult to produce of all the colors, according to Ms. Archer. LifeGem’s top-tier diamonds are $24,999 for a 1.5-carat red or green variety.
Research contact: @nytimes