Memorial Diamonds Created Out Of Human DNA
5/15/2011 6:24:10 AM Shira
In one of the diamond industry’s truly niche markets, DNA Diamonds—a Minnesota-based manufacturer and distributor of lab grown diamonds owned by Scott Shaffer— uses hair samples or cremains (a deceased person’s ashes) to create diamonds out of human DNA.
The unique process is performed in a European laboratory. First, hair or cremains is turned into powder. (due to its higher carbon content, hair is preferable to ashes). The powder is then carbonized. Using a hydraulic press, the carbon is turned into graphite. The graphite-carbon is placed in a growth chamber, with a small quantity of natural carbon and a microscopic diamond. The natural carbon produces the requested diamond color and the microscopic diamond acts as the “seed” onto which the carbon layers itself into a diamond formation. The carbon is then subjected to super high pressure for 3-5 days, which causes it to form into a diamond. The rough diamond is subsequently cut and polished.
The customer may elect to have a personal message inscribed on the diamond’s girdle.
According to Shaffer, many customers also choose to memorialize a loved one while they are still alive, not only after they have died. A couple in which the husband is suffering from a terminal illness, for example, recently created a diamond out of the man’s hair sample so that he and his wife could enjoy the memorial keepsake together, while he is still alive. Shaffer believes that a sparkling diamond is a more uplifting reminder of a person’s life than an urn.
The starting price for a DNA diamond is around $2,300. Most customers spend in the $8000-$9000 range. Shaffer recommends that potential customers who find the cost prohibitive save a hair sample, in the event they are able to pursue the process in the future.
The eco-friendly angle of not having to mine for a diamond and the personal color selection—blue, red, yellow, amber, or white—are key selling points of DNA Diamonds. Natural colored diamonds, which are rare, are significantly pricier than laboratory-produced colored gems.
Although creating a diamond out of human DNA is not a new technique, the market is small, specialized, and not widely known.