About Time: You Learnt More About DiamondsBy Angelica Malin
Diamonds are precious stones made of a clear and colorless crystalline form of pure carbon; formed in the earth’s mantle over a billion years but can now be created in a laboratory, due to recent technology advancements. The growing popularity of lab grown diamonds, also known as memorial diamonds in the UK over natural diamonds, is due to uncertainties in the provenance of the latter and the general worry about blood diamonds in the traditional natural diamond trade.
How Does a Natural Diamond Form Underground?
Both memorial diamonds and natural diamonds require very high temperatures and pressure. For natural diamonds, these conditions occur in limited zones of Earth’s mantle about 150 km or more below the surface where temperatures are at least 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. The critical temperature-pressure environment for diamond formation and stability is present primarily in the mantle beneath the stable interiors of continental plates.
Diamonds formed and stored in these diamond stability zones are delivered to Earth’s surface during deep-source volcanic eruptions which tear out pieces of the mantle and carry them rapidly to the surface. This type of volcanic eruption is extremely rare and has never been observed by modern humans.
Diamonds are extremely rare, with concentrations of at most parts per billion in source rocks; kimberlite, lamproite and lamprophyre. With only around 50 known active diamond mines in the world, some of the richest deposits contain just one gram of diamonds per metric ton of rock.
Before the actual mining, prospectors locate diamond sources first. Geologists follow the trail of secondary diamond sources to determine where the primary sources of pipe deposits are. Once the pipes are found and the presence of diamonds is proven true and profitable, shanks are inserted into the ground at the ore-bearing pipes and huge amounts of soil are extracted. In order to make mining efficient and effective, the raw rock and soil are typically not examined on-site. Instead, they are transported to special plants where the ore is processed and the rough diamonds extracted.
This process is very long and often extremely expensive process; according to statistics, global diamond expenditure peaked at over $1 billion in 2010. Therefore, to reduce expenditure, most large mining companies have moved to focus exploration on existing diamond mines such as in the Orapa district of Botswana.
Whereas natural diamonds are a common symbol of love and continuity, they have occasionally been used to catalyze many wars in central and western Africa causing Countries to suffer through years of devastation, opposition to legitimate government and civil war. As a result, diamonds mined during the civil wars in Angola, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and Guinea Bissau were given the label blood diamonds.
Blood diamonds are therefore defined as diamonds mined in a war zone and sold to finance an insurgency; the term is used to highlight the negative consequences of diamond trade in certain areas. During the late 1990’s, blood diamonds accounted for about 4% of the world’s diamond production.
When Science and Geology Comes Together to Provide A Solution to the Worry about the Provenance of Natural Diamonds
Memorial diamonds are artificial diamonds created in laboratories from the carbon extracted from the cremated ashes of your loved one.
HPHT apparatus used in memorial diamond creation
STEP 1: The hair or cremated ashes of the deceased are measured to determine whether they contain enough carbon to be turned into a memorial diamond; about 200g of ashes or 10g of hair are required. The carbon content of ashes differs in every case and therefore may not be enough for memorial diamond creation in some instances.
STEP 2: The ashes are then placed in a specialized crucible and the crucible is heated to over 5000F to make sure every element except carbon oxidizes and then temperature is raised further so that carbon can become graphite.
STEP 3: The graphite with a metal catalyst and a diamond seed crystal are placed into the core. The core goes into a specialized diamond press capable of creating extreme tension which then starts working thus bringing the pressure to about 800,000 pounds/square inches.
STEP 4: During the last stretch when the press is working, the temperature in the room stays about 2500F so that the ashes turned memorial diamonds become solid. Purification takes approximately 5,000 minutes for each memorial diamond ordered.
STEP 5: Impurities are removed and reduced to 1/500 of the original impurity content providing 4N purity (99.99%). Every little detail matters when turning ashes into memorial diamonds. Memorial diamond specialists use highly specialized state-of-the-art equipment that allows the greatest precision, quality and stability. Scales are accurate to 0.001(g).
According to GIA only one in 10,000 natural diamonds is a colored diamond. Natural diamonds occur naturally in all colors of the rainbow; from red, pink, orange, blue, green, violet, yellow, brown, gray and even black. Due to their high demand and low supply, there are technological means to artificially create colored memorial diamonds in the laboratory.
Some of the specialist companies in the memorial diamond industry in the UK and around the world include;
ALGORDANZA – Has laboratories in Graubünden, Switzerland and is the oldest company on the market. Their memorial diamonds are available in sizes of 0.3ct to 10. ct; and only offer a range of blue colored memorial diamonds. Their UK ashes into diamonds cost start at £1,500 and also have a service dedicated to pets.
LONITÉ – The Swiss ashes into diamonds expert company’s headquarters are located in Zürich, Switzerland with a branch office in London, UK. Their memorial diamonds come in sizes of 0.25ct to 1.0ct, customizable above 1ct as well as in different cuts, available in 5 different colors; naturally amber, red, blue, greenish yellow and purely colorless. Their UK ashes to diamonds cost start at £1,400. LONITÉ also offers the possibility to personalize your memorial diamonds with custom made cremation jewelry with rings, pendants and earrings and engraved inscriptions options. They also have a memorial diamond service available for pets.
Heart in Diamonds (HID) – Is a UK-based company. Their memorial diamonds come in different colors available in white, blue, orange yellow, deep red and yellow green in sizes ranging from 0.015ct to 2ct. Memorial Diamonds starting price in the UK: £1295.
LIFEGEM – Is an American memorial diamonds specialist based in Chicago, USA. Their memorial diamonds are available colorless, in blue, red, yellow, and green with sizes ranging from 0.15ct to 2.0ct as well. Lifegem memorial diamonds costs are higher than its competitors starting at £1800.
ETERNEVA – Is an American Texas based company from Austin, who recently launched their business of memorial diamonds for humans and pets. Their ashes into diamonds starting price is $7000 with laboratories located in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Why Memorial Diamonds from Ashes are More Meaningful than Traditional Natural Diamonds?
Memorial Diamonds can be arranged in a Jewellery setting
Personal attachment: Memorial diamonds are made from the ashes of your departed loved one which not only gives you a sense of personal attachment to your gem but also is a beautiful way to stay close to your loved ones, even in death.
Symbol of love and continuity: Unlike blood diamonds that have over the years been used to finance rebel activities, memorial diamonds from ashes are a way to profess your undying love for the deceased by eternalizing them in gem form.
Eternal tribute: Diamonds are a symbol of eternity and therefore commemorating the life and legacy of your departed loved one with a memorial diamond from ashes is an everlasting act of love.
Physical continuity: Memorial diamonds from ashes can be passed on from one generation to another within the family at special life events like engagements and weddings thus ensuring that the memory of your departed loved one continues to live on.
Besides providing a solution to the worry about the provenance of natural diamonds, the beauty of a memorial diamond from ashes lies in the fact that it can be customized with as many personal traits of a departed loved one that gives the bereaved a sense of attachment and in so doing empowers them against grief.