LONITE AG, a company based near Zurich, Switzerland, is a business that offers memorial diamonds (also referred to cremation diamonds in the US) for people who want a special way to remember their loved ones. In this article, Lonité staff describes their unique product, how it helps those who are grieving, and the very technologically advanced methods employed to create the diamonds.
LONITE AG, a company based near Zurich, Switzerland offers a unique way to remember and celebrate your departed loved ones – turning ashes and hair into memorial diamonds. Over the past few years, these special jewels are gaining in popularity in the U.S., throughout Europe and in other countries around the world.
Caption: Memorial jewelry is becoming popular in recent years.
The first memorial diamond appeared in the marketplace in the early 2000s, with more than one company claiming to be the first to introduce it; however, the ability to create man-made diamonds from industrial carbon sources has been possible since the 1950s.
LONITE provides “diamantbestattung,” the “Swiss Diamond Burial.” Their memorial diamonds are not like some created by other companies, where only a small proportion of a deceased one’s ashes are inserted inside a natural diamond. LONITE’s diamonds are composed of 99.99% of a loved-ones cremains.
The brand name, Lonité, which originates from the Swiss French word “Longévité,” means “to live a long life.” Lonité has been providing this unique memorial gem to grieving families and friends for over a decade. During this time, Lonité researchers have made significant technological advancements in the process. Today they are able to turn ashes into diamonds in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors.
Turning Ashes into Diamonds Offer a Way to Commemorate
There are many things in life that are universally experienced, among them love and death. There is nothing more difficult than losing someone you love, and different people choose different ways of dealing with their grief. Project Assistant for LONITE Nicolas Blanc says, “Anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one is filled with so many different emotions. Our cremation jewelry provides a unique, physical connection to the deceased, which is a great help to many grieving people.”
“Long before memorial diamonds came into being,” Blanc continues, “people kept memorial lockets or pendants that held photos, hair, or other memories of their deceased loved ones. Some even had tattoos made of those they lost. These all show the basic human need for emotional attachment and remembrance.”
A unique reason shared by those who buy memorial diamonds is the need to have something physical to keep with them.
Eva Schiffer, a customer from Frankfurt, Germany explains her reasons. “My grandmother helped raise me and was always there to support me. When she died, I wanted to always have something of her with me. Now that I have her memorial diamond, I know she is with me again and will continue to support me. The diamond also helps me remember how she looked when she was young — so beautiful.”
A customer from Japan wrote, “I received the memorial diamond of my husband today. Thank you very much. The size of the diamond is bigger than what I ordered, and it arrived a month earlier. I couldn’t be happier. When he came back from Switzerland, I didn’t feel as lonely. I feel that my husband and I are together again. I will put the diamond into a necklace. In this way, we will be staying together forever.”
“It is extraordinarily moving,” Blanc said, “to be there when customers hand over the remains to us and then when the diamond comes back. They frequently whisper things like, ‘Honey, I am sending you to Switzerland. They told me you would come back in six months. I will miss you and wait for you at home.’ When they return to get the diamond, they usually gently touch the diamond, and talk to it, as if their beloved was there with them. It’s very emotional for everyone.”
Memorial Diamonds Offer Positive Alternatives to Traditional Burial
In addition to providing friends and family with a tangible part of their loved ones, memorial diamonds have other benefits that can outweigh a decision to have a traditional burial.
Caption: Cremation and traditional preservation of the ashes in crematorium.
Burial costs are notoriously expensive and some people really can’t afford them. A “memorial diamond burial” can cost one third to one half the amount of a traditional burial.
Another advantage of a memorial diamond is convenience and the ability to share the loss of a loved one. In our highly urbanized and mobile societies, people move a lot, from city to city, and from country to country. Many of LONITE’s customers live far away from other family members.
“We had one customer,” Blanc explains, “who has five children in five different continents. She has made the decision to have five diamonds made when she dies, so that each of her children can have one.”
In an interview with Forbes online magazine, Harry Burl owner of man-madediamonds.com, said ” … man-made diamonds are ethical and eco-friendly, but have the same beauty, and a more poignant meaning to them. I was thrilled to find out that man-made diamonds could be created from the carbon in hair or ashes.”
In the article he also said, “These diamonds are 100% eco-friendly with no impact on the environment whatsoever. They have the same physical and optical properties of natural diamonds, with the exception that there has been no vandalism of nature and no exploitation of miners. Because they can be made from human remains – ashes or hair – they are sentimental souvenirs of love, as well.”
In addition, families worry about not being able to visit a gravesite or be available to tend to the burial plot. With a memorial diamond, those worries do not exist.
Why People Are Interested in Burial Alternatives
Memorial diamonds are but one form of burial alternative. Other choices are now plentiful.
In lieu of a traditional interment, some families opt for more environmentally friendly burials, as well as those that have evolved from technological advances. Choices now include home burial, mummification, bio-cremation (aka “resomation”), eternal marine reefs, And Binyly, which presses ashes into a vinyl records, sea, sky, and space burials, and biodegradable urns or pods with a seed to transform the deceased into a tree
Cremation is another alterative. It has been around for eons, but its popularity as a burial form is growing. As evidence of that, the cremation rate in the U.S. for 2015 was 48.6%. By 2020, it is expected that the rate will increase to 54.3%. Blanc said, “People are more interested in cremation and in reducing the carbon footprint they leave behind.”
The Process of Making a Memorial Diamond
Natural and memorial diamonds look the same, both visually and under a microscope, despite a slight difference in the number of carbon atoms and chemical density. The only difference between natural and memorial diamonds is the process of their origin. Memorial diamonds are created from human remains, and natural diamonds are created from underground mineral processes.
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has studied synthetic or man-made diamonds over the past thirty years. GIA Distinguished Research Fellow Dr. James Shigley says that man-made diamonds are very difficult to identify from those that are mined. He says, “There have been continued improvements in their clarity and color, making it difficult for gemologists to identify as natural or synthetic … their chemical and physical properties correspond very closely to those of natural diamonds.”
To understand how LONITE can create such diamonds, it is important to understand that the human body is composed of 18% carbon, and that diamonds are composed of pure carbon crystals. “First, we need to understand how natural diamonds were formed,” Blanc explains. “There is carbon, in graphite form, deep in the mantle. It’s surrounded by magma with several thousand degrees of heat and great pressure. In that environment, the carbon atoms will restructure into a more dense crystal structure, which is a diamond.”
“When we create memorial diamonds in our labs, we mimic how the earth creates natural diamonds,” Blanc continues. We analyze the components of the ashes and extract the needed carbon. After subjecting it to intense heat and pressure for weeks, the carbon forms into a denser crystal – a diamond.”
Caption: HPHT apparatus
To create diamonds from ashes in their laboratories LONITE replicates the same high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) environment that exists underground for the formation of natural diamonds to occur. A pressure of 60,000 Bar and a temperature of 3000 Kelvin chemically changes the carbon in the cremains to diamonds. The carbon is extracted and purified from the remains and then their diamond-making apparatus grows the carbon into real diamonds.
How Long Does the Process Take?
How long it takes for a diamond to be created depends upon a variety of factors. It can take from a few weeks to up to a year. The average time is 6 months.
“Before we can start the growing process of the diamond,” Blanc says, “we must analyze the ashes and purify the carbon. That usually takes one to two weeks to complete. The growing process of the diamond can take days to weeks. It depends upon the size ordered. For example, a 0.25 carat amber diamond takes about two weeks, but a one carat colorless diamond can take five to six weeks. After that, additional time is needed to polish the diamond and get it certified.”
Natural and Memorial Diamonds Come in Different Colors
Colored diamonds are found both in nature and in laboratory settings.
“Even with our advanced technology,” Blanc says, “diamonds are different from all other gemstones. For example, we do know that the different colors are a result of their formation process and their environment but the exact reasons why some natural diamonds are pink or purple are still unknown to scientists.”
“Type IIa diamonds,” Blanc continues, “are the most sought after diamonds in the world because they contain very little nitrogen or none at all. Normally, they are colorless, yet they can become brown, pink or yellow through a natural process called plastic deformation, which is a change in the diamond’s atomic structure. The color change is permanent, without any introduction of any other elements.”
Nonetheless, some memorial diamond colors can be predicted, up to a point. In addition to carbon, the human body consists of 3% nitrogen. Nitrogen gives the diamond a naturally amber color, varying from light yellow to deep orange.
“The nitrogen remaining in the carbon may give the diamond a yellow or golden color,” Blanc explains. “However, the exact color can never be predicted because there are many factors in the growth of a diamond and the environment in which they are formed that affect their color and shade.”
In addition to the amber-toned diamonds, LONITE can create other colors. Blanc explains, “Some people prefer a color other than amber. It may seem miraculous, but if you remove the nitrogen and keep the boron inside the carbon, the diamond will become blue.”
In recent years, with improved technology, LONITE can create purely colorless diamonds, where the nitrogen is removed from the carbon, as well as greenish yellow and red-colored diamonds.
Specific Sizes and Shapes are up to Nature
The final shape, size and color of the memorial diamond cannot be specifically predicted.
“The chemical composition of the remains we receive and the environment in which we grow the diamonds,” Blanc states, “determines the size and shape of the individual stone. Sometimes the stones are bigger than what the customer orders and sometimes they are smaller. We explain this from the outset. I’ve never seen anyone disappointed with the results.”
Once customers receive their diamond, they can choose to place it in a jewelry setting, such as a pendant, earrings, a bracelet, or a ring. LONITE offers several of their own designs.
Blanc says, “Mounting the diamonds into jewelry is a perfect way to keep in touch with a loved one. It makes it easier for the customer to touch the stone and, if they wish, have quiet talks when they are alone.”
Customers can also have their memorial diamond engraved onto the diamond girdle with words, a phrase or a name.
Memorial Diamond Prices
The price of a LONITE diamond is based on the color the customer orders, which determines how long it takes to create the diamond. The amber and blue diamonds take the least amount of time to make, while the pure colorless and colored stones take longer. The longer it takes, the more expensive the diamond.
To make memorial diamonds pure and affordable is LONITE’s long term goal.
“One of our biggest goals in creating the business,” Blanc states, “was to make a memorial diamond that was pure and affordable. We decided not to use any middlemen for this exact reason, and as a result, we are able to keep our prices down.”
Personalized Service from Start to Finish
LONITE stays in touch with clients from the first time they meet until the day their memorial diamond is delivered. During the diamond-making process, clients receive updates and notices, and can always inquire about the status of their memorial diamond.
Once it is received, the hair or ashes has a tracking tag attached to the sample container. Each order is scrupulously tracked, recorded and documented. With the tracking order number, customers can use this number to check the status of their order online.While the memorial diamond is being made, clients can receive photos taken during the creation process. Many customers send a photo of their family together with the hair or ashes so it can be included in all of these photos.
What the future holds for Lonité
Company Director Silvia Spitaleri has a laser-like direction for the future of LONITE explaining, “We intend to stick to our Swiss legacy of precision, craftsmanship and attention to details. We intend to invest in additional research, innovation and cutting-edge technology so that not only can we make the finest memorial diamonds for those who have lost someone dear to them, but so that we can make our diamonds more accessible and affordable worldwide.”
“It touches the heart to see our customers with their memorial diamonds,” Spitaleri continues. “It can be transformative in their grief process, eventually making their memories full of beauty, love and happiness. I continued to be immensely moved by the fact that we can help create a forever bond for those who grieve.”