At Eterneva, we wholeheartedly believe that transforming the ashes of those that have passed before us into a beautiful, unique diamond is one way to keep their extraordinary legacy alive and close to us. We partnered with Death and Dying Scholar, Dr. Candi Cann from Baylor University, to explore the impact and potential healing power of growing a memorial diamond from a loved one's ashes.

The full study is below. For a summary of Dr. Cann's research, continue to this article.


Examining the importance of cremation as a disposal choice in Europe, the article traces a possible connection between the initial emergence of lab-grown memorial diamonds and the popularity of cremation. It then turns to the United States, surveying 81 Eterneva clients from an American cremation diamond company located in Austin, examining the grief journey process from turning cremains and hair from humans and pets into lab-grown diamonds.

The study concludes that the process of transforming cremains into wearable diamonds may correspond to the grief journey moving from acute grief to integrated grief, though timeline expectations sometimes interfered with grief outcomes. Because of timeline variability, it is difficult to make definitive conclusions whether the diamond-making process simply coincided with, or actually contributed to, the grief journey process. Various other outcomes—such as the importance of diamond placement, the portability and palatability of diamonds, and the role played by imagined views of the dead—also were found to impact the process.

As the solidified remains market continues to grow, more studies are needed to examine the ways in which these new disposal offerings may impact the grieving process, and the ways in which cultural context and disposal methods may impact new practices.

“A cremation diamond is something that can be meaningful but does not shout ‘I’m a dead person’. It allows the wearer to share the story, and memories, when and if they want to. It can be kept in a safe or worn in meaningful ways, it can have personality (color, setting) to reflect the person being remembered” (Eterneva Survey).

Introduction: Northern and Western Europe and Turning Cremains Into Diamonds

Northern and Western Europe’s high cremation rates have largely corresponded with the popularity and manufacturing of cremation diamonds as memorials. With cremation rates of 70% in Sweden, 76% in Denmark, and 90% in Switzerland, the Swiss have the highest rate of cremation (over burials) in all of Europe, with over 90% of all Swiss citizens choosing cremation as their method of disposal. Switzerland is also where lab-grown diamonds first materialized as a popular option for solidified cremains.

Cerezo-Román, Wessman and Williams suggest that the Northern European acceptance of cremation as a disposal method may have deeper roots in its history, arguing that “Cremation can be profitably situated within an ‘elemental archeology’ that considers the range of materialities and fiery transformations employed in past societies, from the hearths of houses and fiery technologies to elements of the environment such as the sun and lightening” (2017: 14–15). While most contemporary scholars point to more practical reasons such as land shortages, cost, or the rise of secularism to explain the adoption of cremation in contemporary Northern Europe, Cerezo-Román etal point towards a more elemental mythology that may underscore the rapid adoption of cremation as a disposal method throughout Northern Europe (2017).

A brief historical-archeological examination in the region illustrates these practices. Eighth to Eleventh century Scandinavian Vikings preferred cremation as the primary choice of disposal and “the Rus Vikings chose cremation to quickly render their chieftain’s corpse into the stable form of ash and dry bone fragments, and thus free his soul to enter the afterlife” (Zori, 2018: 334). Zori writes that, “Ynlinga Saga recounts that Odin himself was burned after he died and that 'it was people’s belief that the higher the smoke rose into the sky, the more elevated in heaven would be he who was cremated’ (Hollander, 1964, p. 13)” (2018: 336). While the conversion of cremains into diamonds fits Cerezo-Román etal’s earlier ontological category of ‘fiery transformation,’ the practice of cremation by the Vikings bears witness to the pervasiveness of the disposal of the dead through fire in Northern Europe.

Beyond the scope of this article but important to mention, nevertheless, it is even more interesting to think about in light of the Viking’s utilization of rune stones at the grave—massive stones placed at gravesites with “binding magic meant to keep the dead in the grave” (Zori, 2018: 337). Stones—whether they be large rune stones placed at graves or gem stones worn on one’s body in remembrance—continue to function as ways to transform the dead, bind the dead, and carry and honor the dead. As one Eterneva customer wrote: “A diamond, a stone, is the perfect symbol and method for Sadie to be with me, until I find her again” (Eterneva Survey).

In contrast to Northern Europe, in Western Europe, cremation generally rose out of necessity, and those that choose burial as a disposal method are expected to move the bodies to a mass grave to make room for new bodies after a certain amount of time. As Suzette Sherman wrote in her blog: "What’s most unusual is the pragmatic relationship the Swiss have with death. No grave is more than 25 years old, except for a few old family plots. This practice carefully regulates the precious use of land in what is such a small country... On the other hand, one must acknowledge the fact that cremation ashes are not regulated after they are handed over to a family member. The Swiss are free to keep, bury, or scatter cremation ashes as they wish..."(Sherman, 2013).

It is within this context that the transformation of cremains and hair into diamonds has emerged. Choosing cremation allows families and loved ones to escape governmental regulation regarding reburial, while transforming cremains (or hair) into diamonds provides a unique solution for creating memorials that can accompany them in everyday life. While lab-grown diamonds first started in 1950s, it was not until the early 2000s that memorial diamonds began to be marketed as an alternate option, with various companies starting in the early 2000s and continuing to expand in the memorial diamond market in the 2010s, along-side the increasing popularity of cremation as a disposal choice.

In the United States, cremation has increased ten-fold in the last fifty years, and simultaneously, various practices of creating solidified remain memorials have also increased in popularity. In fact, in 1975, the cremation rate in the United States stood at 5.69%, and by 2019 had reached 54.6%; this figure was forecasted to grow to 79.1 percent by 2035 (U.S. cremation rate1975–2035, 2021). With the continuing rise of cremation in the UnitedStates, as in Northern and Western Europe, alternate ways of utilizing the cremains themselves in memorialization practices are emerging, with people turning to lab-manufactured memorial diamonds as one way to transform the ashes into portable and palatable memorials.

Eterneva: From Europe to the United States

Eterneva, a company located in Austin, Texas, is one of several recent additions to the growing market of offerings in the cremain transformation space, turning ashes (and sometimes hair) into solidified remains.Similar to Parting Stone,4 which turns cremains into small rocks, andSpirit Pieces,5 which incorporates cremains into glass art pieces, Eterneva also changes cremains and hair into solid remains—in this case, lab-manufactured diamonds. And when Eterneva started, it relied heavily on the technology of lab-created memorial diamonds available in the Netherlands and Switzerland. In fact, depending on the size, color, and cut of one’s diamond, Eterneva’s manufacturing process has sometimes needed to be outsourced to these countries (Wallace, 2021). In the last few years, however, Eterneva has begun focusing on keeping its diamond process in-house, stating that they are currently purchasing more diamond machines, figuring out a way to process cremains into diamonds without being sent back to Northern Europe.

While most studies of memorial diamonds focus on the science behind transforming cremains and hair into diamonds, or analyze them from a marketing perspective, there is little to no research that has been conducted from a sociological perspective. Few focus on the link between disposal methods and bereavement, and even less have examined the relationship between memorial diamonds with the grieving process. Does having a form of the dead that is both palatable and portable help or harm one to grieve? Does the transformation of the dead from cremains into diamonds provide a healthy way of continuing bonds with the dead? These questions led me to conduct my study on memorial diamonds and the grief process with Eterneva. Before addressing those questions, however, I will first offer a brief literature review regarding the material framing the study of cremation diamonds, and then turn to my methodology and finally, the study itself.

Literature Review

Material Objects and The Grieving Process

This is a survey study of 81 Eterneva clients, 55 customers that turned human remains and 26 customers that chose to have their pets made into lab-manufactured diamonds. The study set out to examine the process of turning cremains and hair into gemstones and its relation to the grief journey, examining various factors such as the importance of the role of the deceased in choosing diamonds as a method of memorialization, religious beliefs impacting the decision to have ashes made into solidified remains, and whether or not the diamond purchaser feels that the diamond has helped them in their grief management and expression.Before examining the study results, I will briefly give a literature review that analyzes material objects in the grieving process, their role as attachment objects utilizing Continuing Bonds Theory, and the distinctive role of lab-grown diamonds as memorials with agency.

*Also, since Antwerp is still considered the “global diamond capital,” some of Eterneva’s diamonds are still sent to Belgium to be cut and certified.

The review finds that both the portability and palatability of cremation diamonds offer a unique ontology as memorial objects, allowing the diamonds to function in some ways as liminal objects representative of status, beauty, and the deceased, themselves. The attitude towards objects of attachment in mourning follows essentially the same trajectory as the broader notion of ongoing attachment in mourning, if a few years behind. Vamik D. Volkan seems to have been the first to systematically consider the role of material objects in the process of grieving (1981). He describes these “linking objects” as a combination of D.W. Winnicott’s transitional object (traditionally associated with the objects a child uses to successfully transition between Freudian stages of development) (1953:89–97) and a fetish object. As an object that both conceals the subject’s anger (fetishistic function) and soothes the difficulty of transition (transitional function), the grieving subject views the linking object with a considerable amount of ambivalence.

For Volkan, the subject’s unresolved ambivalence towards the linking object can lead to maladaptive grieving practices like unresolved or complicated grief. Volkan’s attitude towards linking objects seems to be very heavily shaped by his adoption of Freud’s mourning-as-decathexis approach (Freud 1957: 237–258). For Freud and Volkan, lingering attachments of any kind to the deceased impede the subject’s successful detachment from the object.

Materiality and Continuing Bonds Theory

This underlying psychoanalytic framework underwent a transformation with the publication of John Bowlby’s 3-volume Attachment and Loss (the final volume, Loss: Sadness and Depression (Bowlby, 1980), is the portion of his argument relevant to this project). Because of Bowlby, ongoing attachment to the deceased was no longer seen as a maladaptive grieving process, and the way was paved for Continuing Bonds Theory (Klass, Silverman, and Nickman, 1996) and a reassessment of Volker’s “linking objects” theory.7 Klass, Silverman, and Nickman re-evaluated the process of mourning in light of Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, calling this new approach Continuing Bonds Theory (Klass et al., 1996). These initial publications on the notion of Continuing Bonds (CB), however, did not explorethe idea of material objects as loci of ongoing attachment in much depth.8Despite the growing appreciation for other modes of emotional attach-ment, attachment via artefacts seems to have been the object of continued skepticism.

Field, Nichols, Holen, and Horowitz argued that more abstract modes of connection (such as conversing with the dead or simply conjuring memories) remain better at resolving acute grief than concrete modes of connection (such as linking objects) (1999: 212). That same year,however, Inese Wheeler published the first systematic reconsideration of Volker’s work on linking objects (1999: 289–296.). She approached the topic from an explicitly Continuing Bonds model, utilizing a qualitative study of bereaved parents to challenge Volker’s assertion that the bereaved view clinking objects with ambivalence (1999). On the contrary, Wheeler concludes, parents almost universally view these objects with positive feelings, even going so far as to talk to and express affection towards the object. Wheeler’s preliminary conclusions were further bolstered by Boelen,Van Den Hout, and Van Den Bout (2006). In this study, Boelen et al. revise the methodology of Field et al. and conclude that the use of a linking object (in this case a possession of the deceased) is not a strong predictor of either ongoing grief or ongoing depression symptoms.

* Apparently, this positive assessment of ongoing attachment was a new development in his third volume, and the implications of it were never fully developed by Bowlby.

*A minor, but tantalizing exception was Klass’ description of Japanese home altars and memorial tablets in Klass, Silverman, and Nickman (1996).

* Notably, this debate rages on. As CB is developed into a multidimensional model with “internal” and “external” elements, comparative projects like these are still being published. Scholtes and Browne (2015), for example, supports the findings of Field et al. (1999), but the distinction between “internal” and “external” bonds in Scholtes and Browne’s work is somewhat vague. See pp. 32, 35–36 in Foster (2008) for a concise summary of this issue, and, from another angle, pp. 1334–36 in Turley and O’Donohoe (2012).

At present, the concept of the “linking object” has begun to lose its negative, fetishistic attributes, and has started to take on more of the characteristics of Winnicott’s transitional objects. Indeed, Klass’s 2006 study takes for granted the universally positive function of such objects, but suggests that the term “linking object” is no longer appropriate for the task of describing the material aspects of continuing bonds. He suggests that objects, keepsakes, memorials, and gravesites all function to provide the bereaved with a sense of physical proximity to the deceased, and not just emotional proximity.

Klass’s suggestion seems to hold the most relevance for the Eterneva study, as the processed remains are not simply a reminder of the departed, but are the departed in a material sense. Still, the prolonged desire to maintain a physical closeness to the deceased through an object is almost always associated with maladaptive grief practices. It seems generally agreed upon that the function of the linking object should shift from a more concrete form of a connection to a more abstract form. Critics of the use of linking objects reason that the static nature of the material object promotes stagnation in the relationship with the deceased. This study emerged out of a curiosity whether the (external) transformation of the remains into another physical state might aid with the (internal) transformation of the continuing bond from a bond of physical closeness to a more symbolic connection based in memory.

It is also possible that the unique double-function of the cremation diamond (as both presence and memorial) will prevent its becoming what Gibson calls a “melancholy object:” an object which memorializes the mourning, rather than the individual mourned (Gibson, 2004). Essentially, recent developments in the study of objects as “anchors” of continuing bonds affirms their therapeutic value during the grieving process, and the unique nature of the cremation diamond as both physical remains and symbolic memorials may allow them to serve multiple psychological functions throughout the course of bereavement.

The Distinctive Materiality of Cremation Diamonds

In the broadest sense, there is a certain advantage to the cremation diamond as a singular object. Kellaher et al. demonstrate that a sense of the deceased’s bodily integrity is important for the bereaved, even when the remains have been cremated (2005). Splitting the cremains can be viewed as a desecration of the corpse, akin to severing a limb. The singularity and indestructability of the diamond may ease some of this anxiety. Furthermore, its singularity may alleviate some of the disorientation that comes with the grieving process. In her essay on memorialized objects of mourning, Margaret Gibson suggests that “As concrete symbolic material, objects orient in time and space the often disorientating and displacing experiences of grief” (2004). That disorientation typically comes from the fact that grief, in its most basic description, is the experience of an absence, and in the absence of some material aspect of the deceased, there is no physical “place” where the mourner can direct his/her focus. This is certainly true in the day-to-day lives of those who choose a conventional burial plot (which is typically beyond the point of visibility), but also for those who choose to scatter the cremains of the deceased (Kellaher, Prendergast, and Hockey, 2005: 241–242).

Sørensen argues that the materiality of the cemetery “...may be seen as a material and spatial proxy for a void that can be difficult to deal with, because of the abstract and immaterial character of the deceased,” (2010: 117) but it can only function as a proxy for those who are physically present in the cemetery. In this regard, the mobility of the cremation diamond is also an asset. McCormick argues that the permanence of a traditional burial can negatively impact the lives of the bereaved who many not want to move away from the remains, or who may not ever find a final resting place for the remains, due to the fear of any future moves (2015: 213–214).

Another aspect of the materiality of the cremation diamonds is the possibility that some commissioners of diamonds might view the diamond as an appropriate extension of the personality of the deceased. Patkin lists cremation diamonds as one of several examples of a trend towards the personalization of funerary practices (Patkin, 2008). In this line of thinking, bereaved parties are now able to make individualized choices about the disposal of the cremains, and that decision is usually informed by the social characterization of the deceased individual (e.g.the ashes of an ecologically-minded individual might be transformed into a reef, and the ashes of a musician might be pressed into a vinyl record, etc.). Therefore, the cremation diamond qua diamond may attract those for whom a diamond has some special connection with the deceased.

The Distinctive Ontology of Cremation Diamonds

Finally, Heessels suggests that ashes are categorically liminal: neither subject nor object, neither living nor dead (2012: 76). McCormick incorporates this observation into Van Gennep’s anthropological schema from which “liminality” arose (2015). If the cremains represent the deceased individual in the liminal phase of a rite of passage, the ashes creation represents his/her re-incorporation into society in a new, transformed state. This is supported by several of the commissioners’ experience of separation anxiety while the cremains were being transformed.

One area that has not been fully explored is the points of connection that may exist between the cremains’ rite of passage into re-incorporation and the bereaved person’s parallel passage into integrated mourning. Incorporation/integration seems to be a recurring theme, and the confluence of the cremation diamond as both a transition object for the bereaved and as an incorporated subject seems significant.

The Eterneva Survey Study: Methods

Recruitment and Procedures

The initial number of subjects requested, and which Eterneva agreed to provide, was one hundred sample subjects—all current and past Eterneva clients whose data was already in the company database and who had already received a diamond. Clients included people who had lost people and animals, and then had diamonds made from their cremains. Clients agreed to take a survey and, if needed, complete an additional personal phone interview study regarding grief wellness. Study participants were recruited by Eterneva clientele and the faculty PI (me) and my student researcher. Once clients gave consent to participate in the survey study, they signed Eterneva consent forms.

Unfortunately, during the recruitment process, it was discovered that the number of Eterneva clients with finished diamonds was lower than the number originally agreed upon, and the study was unexpectedly extended by approximately six months in order to procure a sufficient client base, for a final total of eighty-one clients, fifty-five who had diamonds made for human loss, and twenty-six who requisitioned diamonds for pets who had died. However, most of those clients had just received their diamonds, so extensive analysis of the impact of the diamond on their own grief journey could not be adequately conducted. Both survey questions and telephone interviews were designed specifically for this research and at this time there was nota control group so further research in this area needs to be conducted.

Subjects did not receive compensation or rewards, but participated because they wanted to help others in the grieving process, and were told they could terminate their participation in the study at any time and for any reason, and only included consenting adults who purchased Eterneva products. Because of the current COVID-19 restrictions, all surveys were conducted via email, and any subsequent interviews needed for survey clarification were conducted over the phone or via Zoom calls and or Video calls were recorded only with permission, and transcribed afterwards, with all signifying data erased and/or coded to ensure anonymity. While Eterneva employees helped procure the initial database of customers with diamonds who were willing to participate in the study, the actual interviews and surveys were conducted by the PI and StudentResearcher only.

* Also see Gibson, 2004: 285–299 for a connection between Van Gennep’s theory and hair jewelry.

Data Analysis

The data was collected with identifying markers removed from the survey, and then collated and aggregated. Questions were presented in ayes or no format or were answered on a sliding scale of 1–10, allowing respondents to quantify their own answers so that they could be easily quantified and compared. Additionally, respondents were given a qualitative survey in a google docs format, and in this survey, Eterneva clients were asked to respond to open-ended questions. All answers given in this article have received permission to be published, though all names have been changed in order to protect anonymity. This article primarily evaluates the responses from the qualitative data, and further findings regarding the quantitative data will be published in subsequent articles.

*The issue of course is that respondents often quantify their own answers in variable ways, though the survey attempted to provide clarification. See survey here:


Diamonds versus Ashes

Because Eterneva represents an emerging market of companies turn-ing ashes or cremains into solidified remains, survey respondents were asked how they felt about diamonds versus cremain ashes as a form of memorialization. Since the survey is strictly composed of those who chose to have diamonds made from their loved ones, the survey obviously skews towards those who demonstrate a strong preference for cremation diamonds over cremains. Eighty-two percent of the people whose cremated remains were turned into diamonds were unaware upon their death that their remains would undergo this process, and in some ways, this speaks to the way cremation diamonds are often made for the sake of the loved ones a person leaves behind, and not for the sake of the person who is dying.

That being said, this gave me an interesting opportunity to ask why customers preferred diamonds to cremains. Sixty people (82%) surveyed said they preferred cremation diamonds to ashes as a form of commemoration and memory. This is compared to none (0%) who said they felt that the ashes were preferable to the diamonds. The most common reason given in support of diamonds over ashes was that clients felt that the ashes reminded them of death, making them sad, while the diamonds seemed to be a way of bringing life back to the remains of the loved one.

Also, many customers referenced the way the diamond could be carried with them in a way ashes can’t, and felt that this celebrated the way the diamond’s beauty was a reminder of the life of the person, while the ashes are solely associated with their death. One person noted that a diamond is already considered an heirloom in a way that ashes are not. They said, “The diamonds will be a protected, treasured item and likely kept and passed down by whomever inherits/claims them after our death. The ashes will probably be discarded, so there is a sense of impermanence with the ashes.”

Thirteen people (18%) said they felt that diamonds and ashes were equally valuable, because both the diamonds and the ashes were only as valuable as they were connected to the deceased. Some people who report-ed equally valuing ashes and diamonds said that each form simply serves different purposes. One customer felt as though they were equal in mean-ing, but that each inspired different feelings. This customer wrote, “I still have the rest of his ashes and really do not know what to do with them. They seem like they should be ceremoniously disposed of in some manner, I don’t really feel the need to keep them, but throwing them away seems so horrible. So I just have a box of his ashes in a drawer. Similarly, his diamond just sits in a drawer because I’m so afraid to take it out and lose it. However, I love to look at the diamond and shine light through it to see the green. I obviously don’t sit and admire his ashes” (Eterneva Survey, 2021).

For this client, the beauty of the diamond made it more palatable, even though they did not regularly wear it, than the cremains. Another customer said the diamond allowed them to reflect on the life of the deceased, rather than the death of their loved one because of the beauty of the diamond. They wrote: “I do not feel the same way about the ashes as I do about the diamond. The ashes to me have no life... the diamond has life. I would never talk about the ashes but I will talk about the diamond and its meaning” (Eterneva Survey, 2021).

Many customers expressed similar sentiments. One compared the ashes in their father’s urn to the diamond, stating that, "I was not able to open my dad’s urn for 5 years after he died. I wasn’t ready to look at the physical ashes, because that to me meant he was truly gone. But when I finally did look at the ashes... I was just sad. It was a pile of grey dust that gave no feelings. I look at this diamond and I’m not sad. I am able to remember the wonderful person my dad was" (Eterneva Survey, 2021).

The diamond’s altered appearance, then, is an important part of the mourning process and the reintegration of the deceased into the world of the living in their new form allows the griever to remember the life of their loved one, and not just center on their death.

* Anonymous Eterneva survey response, last accessed May 17, 2021. All quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from the Eterneva survey. All names have been changed for anonymity.

Also important is the divisible nature of cremains, which makes possible multiple ways to dispose of and honor the dead. Multiple people surveyed held memorials (sometimes multiple memorials) in addition to transforming the cremains into a diamond. One respondent wrote:

"Right after she died, we had a very small service at the funeral home when we received the ashes—just the chaplain, one of my brothers and my sister. Then I went with my best friend back to the last home she lived in and loved, in the mountains of NC, and we had a little ashes scattering there. And on my solo trip to New England after that, I stopped at one of her favorite stops on the Blue Ridge Parkway and scattered a few more there. But most of them we buried in the family cemetary (sic) in Massachusetts the following spring. We had a family reunion with all the generations there, we shared a lot of memories around the graves, said a few prayers, and then had a big family cookout like we had in the summers growing up. It was a really marvelous day" (Eterneva Survey, 2021).

Ashes allow for multiple and variable memorializations, while also allowing for them to divided among people for more personal, and personalized, ways of honoring the dead. Bodies do not have the ability tobe divided in the same way as cremains, and this might be an additional(and frequently overlooked) reason behind the rise in cremation practices. Cremains offer multiple ways to memorialize the dead, with diamonds functioning as only one of the more popular options. Also, they are highly portable, and can be transported easily across state lines, unlike corpses.

In her study on the contrast of diamonds to cremains, Samantha McCormick notes that domestically stored ashes tend to move from a place of prominent display to storage locations as time progresses, which she attributes to the fact that cremains serve no function other than as a marker of death (2015). In many cultures, there is no designated “place”in the home for remains, and thus ashes tend to “wander” within the home over time. When this occurs, they typically move to a place of low-er visibility, as the bereaved become less comfortable with the explicitly morbid associations of the cremains (McCormick, 2015). Cremation diamonds, on the other hand, offer an alternative materiality for the deceased that is abstracted from both the visual evidence of corporeality and the processes of bodily decay/disposal. Thus, they serve less as a reminder of the event or process of death, and more as a reminder of the deceased individual. This is closely related to the transformation of the cremains into a secondary state, allowing them to be divorced from an association with the most intense period of mourning, and avoiding the possibility of being a memorial to the bereavement rather than the deceased.

Cremains do not have a function beyond their presence as the trans-formed dead, while diamonds are highly recognized, and valued as objects in the realm of the living. Whether viewed as ornamental objects, art pieces, status symbols, or reflections of relationships status, diamonds operate on multiple levels in the world, with a widely recognized function—and often that function bestows value onto the wearer of the diamond. This stands in marked contrast to the function of cremains, which offer no added value status, and in fact, may be met with a mixture of indifference, or even repulsion.

The diamonds also offer an acceptable form of an embodied memorial that one can touch and caress.While one can theoretically touch cremains, they are messy, and their texture means that they cannot be repeatedly touched or caressed. As one survey respondent wrote of the difference between cremains versus diamonds: “You can only think of a memory [but] you can’t touch it. Now I can touch him" (Eterneva Survey, 2021).

Like cremains in their portability, diamonds offer a way for the dead to travel in the world of the living, and to participate with a sense of agency in everyday life in a way that ashes do not. One person wrote that while she divided her loved one’s ashes in multiple places, having him made into a diamond allowed her to carry him with her in ways that she was unable to do in the form of ashes. She describes this here:

‘Mike’ was killed on July 12, 2017. It was sudden and unexpected. He was only 53. I rode home with his ashes in a jar on my lap (from his party). It was the worst feeling I have ever had in my life. I spent the next year and a half or so spreading small amounts of ‘Mike’s’ ashes in the special places where I went.

We traveled a lot and I wanted him traveling with me. Since I have received my diamonds, I no longer spread him like before. I feel like his is right there experiencing it with me. It just seems unnecessary. I will spread his remaining ashes on July 12, 2020 at sunrise on the beach here in North Carolina. I no longer need to hold onto in that way. He is free, and in a way, so am I." (Eterneva Survey, 2021).

*13 The remaining ten people in the study didn’t answer the question or were simply neutral on the subject of whether they preferred cremains versus diamonds.

For this respondent, the transformation from cremains into diamonds allowed them to carry their loved one in a way that allowed thedead to be present in life, rather than function only as an object of memorialization. Another respondent said that they were unsure what todo with the ashes, saying that “The ashes are still sitting here and I don’treally know what to do with them. That is something that will have to bedealt with eventually, maybe never. They are both part of Mary, but youcan’t really carry ashes around with you wherever you go” (Eterneva Survey, 2021). The portability of the diamond allows the diamond to function differently than the ashes, particularly since they are in a socially acceptable form.

The cremation diamonds as both remains and memorial might aid in the transition from acute to integrated grief. McCormick, for example, notes how commissioners/the bereaved will freely interchange subject and object pronouns when speaking of the ashes creations. For example, when one such commissioner was describing the ashes creation’s mobility, she says “...I will just go get him and put it on” (McCormick, 2015: 186).

Runia (2006) contrasts the function of a metaphor (which connotes some aspect of the source domain in the target) with metonymy (in which the target denotes the source in its entirety). Thus, the object metonymically becomes the “presence of absence.” This concept is perhaps best exemplified by what McCormick calls “performances of presence” (2015: 190). By this, she means the way in which the incorporation of the ashes creation into the daily routine of the bereaved is viewed as the deceased’s ongoing participation in the lives of the living. Customers will touch, refer to, speak with, or accompany the ashes creations in a way that very closely resembles behavior one might show the living. In many ways, the transformation of ashes into wearable jewelry transform the cremains into an active participant in the life of the living. It touches, it accompanies, it listens, and its presence affects the growth and development of the living, thus rendering it a kind of agency—particularly when overlaid with the notion of physical placement on the body and the symbolic meaning associated with that placement.

*Emphasis mine. McCormick expands on this grammatical phenomenon to develop an ex-tensive discussion of the ashes creations as both Object and Subject. In doing so, she draws heavily from two theoretical developments: the concept of metonymy in the field of history, and the concept of praesentia in the field of geography.

While many diamonds are assigned a sort of accidental agency, one must wonder whether the deceased loved ones chose, or were aware of, their future transformation into diamonds. I asked Eterneva clients if their loved one knew they would be become a diamond following their death.This prompted a wide variety of responses, ranging from humorous to frugal to introspective. Several clients mentioned the size or appearance of the diamonds, as though the size also reflected the enormity of their love for the person: “Harry was fine with the fact. I promised he’d be at least a carat” (Eterneva Survey, 2021).

This client referenced the beauty of the diamond as symbolic of the deceased: “It was something we had talked about in our teens, but I don’t think she would’ve ever thought that her wishes would come true. I honestly feel like she would be overjoyed to know she remains beautiful as always” (Eterneva Survey, 2021). Another client discussed the process and tied the process to some of the difficulties they experienced to their loved one’s imagined approval/disapproval:

Going through the process of finding a way to commemorate Dad, I always thought about what Dad would say... Dad would appreciate being made into a diamond. During the process, however, it took 3 tries to get him somewhat close to 1 ct. After the third try, Kerry had given me the option of trying another time to grow the size that I wanted. After thinking about it, I had a feeling that Dad was telling me 'enough already, just bring me home.' So, I brought him home..." (Eterneva Survey, 2021)

Several clients referenced the cost of creating diamonds out of cremains, stating that the deceased would have most likely disapproved of the cost of creating a diamond, but would have understood the choice to make them into a diamond anyway:

"LOL. This question made me laugh out loud. My brother would be appalled that we spent that much money on him or something like this, so he would be dismayed, but he would also understand why I did it."
"No. I think my grandmother would be very upset with how much money I spent to do this. She was very frugal. I think she probably would’ve been touched though to know that this is the way I would want to celebrate her" (Eterneva Survey, 2021.)

In the end, both of the clients here felt that their deceased loved ones would have understood, and hopefully approved of the choice. What is key here is the imagined approval of the deceased regarding the decision; in this way, the deceased still has some sort of agency even in their new state.Of course, those clients who had their dead pets made into diamonds did not grapple with the agency of the deceased, and responses were generally slightly humorous in reply to the survey question, with one respondent writing, “I can’t answer this question, but she was a cat,” and another client answering, “No—Bruiser was a dog :)” (Eterneva Survey, 2021).

*Names have been changed for anonymity.

Placement of Diamonds and Quantity Ordered

Eterneva diamonds do not come pre-set, although Eterneva does collaborate with several local jewellers to offer custom jewellery settings for cli-ents once the diamond is made. The placement of the diamond turned out to be an important aspect of the diamond process, as many clients turned their loved ones into diamonds for the express purpose of wearing themas a particular type of jewellery in a ring or as a necklace. Clients with rings also cited choosing a ring so they could see it often. People may also have chosen a ring over the other options because they felt this was a way their loved one could continue “doing” things with them. Since people use their hands most often in doing activities, having the diamond placed on their hands may help them to feel like the person they are mourning is taking an active part in participating in that activity with them.

Fifty-seven clients had their diamond(s) placed made into a ring. One customer who had a diamond made of their dog who died wrote that they only wear their diamond to dog shows, writing that, “Noel is mounted in a custom-designed ring and he is holding the diamond in his paw.You hold the show lead in your left hand, so Noel is on my left ring finger holding the lead of every dog I show” (Eterneva Survey, 2021).

In this way, the dog accompanies its owner in current activities even after its death.Additionally, diamonds may be frequently set into ring settings because of existent social expectations that expensive or large diamonds are frequently worn as rings, and sometimes clients added the cremation diamonds to existing settings in jewellery already worn.

There were several clients that placed their cremation diamond in their wedding rings even though the deceased relative they were honouring had no relation to their marriage. One customer wrote that, “I wear my ring every day. It does not come off my hand. It sits perfectly between my engagement ring and my wedding band” (Eterneva Survey, 2021). Since rings are already often used to signify important life events, it makes sense that cremation diamond rings would serve as another important life event signifier.

Thirty customers chose to have their diamond made into a necklace. One person indicated that a necklace seemed a more pragmatic choice for them: “I am always doing things with my hands and do not wear rings and bracelets tend to get caught on things. A necklace was the perfect solution” (Eterneva Survey, 2021). But the majority said they opted for a necklace because they wanted their loved one to be physically “close to their heart.” This somewhat corresponds to the existent practice of wear-ing ashes or other meaningful things hung around one’s neck (e.g. a pendant or a locket with photos of loved ones). Five people surveyed wear their diamonds as earrings and two people did something else with the diamonds or chose not to have them set.

*Several customers had multiple diamonds made from cremains, using the diamonds in different ways, so this is why there are more diamonds than customers.

Of the eligible responses, fifty-nine clients (or 82% of the total) reported that they either do, or plan to, wear their diamonds daily. Sever-al people wrote about how they worried they might lose the diamond, now that they have a way to “carry” their loved one with them, and that this affected the frequency with which they chose to wear the diamond.One customer wrote, “At first I wanted to wear her all the time, and I still do, but sometimes I’m afraid something might happen to her and I can’t afford to lose her twice. It would be really devastating for me. So now, I usually wear her when I have a special event or on those days when I feel a deep need of having her with me” (Eterneva Survey, 2021).

Only four people said that they intended to wear their diamonds only on certain occasions, while another four people said that they never wear their diamonds. However, in these cases the owner of the diamond almost always displays their diamond in another way, usually somewhere in their homes. As one customer wrote:

“The diamond is not set. But it is on the main floor where it can be seen and appreciated by anyone who visits the home. It comes up in conversation due to its uniqueness and keeps him in memory” (Eterneva Survey, 2021).

Thus, while not worn, this customer displays the diamond in the living room as a way to talk about their deceased loved one.

When Eterneva makes diamonds from carbon, it can sometimes take two or three tries, and the company gives the customers any diamonds that don’t meet the company standards, along with the final diamond. This means that some customers inadvertently end up with more than one diamond. That being said, the majority of customers surveyed (sixty clients) originally elected to have only one diamond made, while fifteen customers chose to have two diamonds created. Six people chose to have three or four diamonds made, and others gave diamonds to fam-ily members and friends as memorial gifts. However, customers most often cited that they chose to have only one diamond made because of the high cost, though those who received seconds and thirds of failed diamond attempts also seemed grateful to have these additional diamonds in their possession.

Religious Affiliation of Eterneva Clientele

Religious affiliation and belief did not seem to play as large a role in the decision to create diamonds, but the survey is already naturally skewed to those religions that permit or advocate cremation as a method of disposal since some religious traditions prefer to bury. Even among those religious traditions that cremate, some do not permit the division of the ashes and strongly discourage scattering, preferring to keep the cremains together in one place. In the Catholic and Orthodox Christian traditions, this is largely because it is believed that separating or dividing the ashes makes it more difficult for the body to be physically resurrected. As one Eterneva client noted, “I am not religious but I grew up in a catholic household. My mother actually asked me not to have the diamond made with his ashes because it’s against Catholicism to separate remains” (Eterneva Survey, 2021).

This client had a diamond made out of their loved one’s ashes, even though their mother requested them not to do so. Like this client who made the diamond in spite of their mother’s objections, many of the clients told stories of past religious affiliation or explaining religious deviations with personal stories to explain why they could accept one aspect of their religious tradition, but not another. With Eterneva located inAustin, Texas, and most of its clientele coming from the mainland UnitedStates, the majority of customers identified as either Christian or having no religious affiliation (“none”).

Of the total number of clients, thirty-one customers claimed to be Christian, thirty-one customers said they were either agnostic, or atheist, thirteen clients said they were “spiritual, and five of the respondents said they were Jewish, with one customer remaining unknown in religious affiliation (Eterneva Survey, 2021).

*Generally, the smallest diamond starts at around $3,000, depending on color and size, with one carat diamonds ranging in cost from $10,000–$15,000. See and click on Diamond pricing for more info.

The Diamond Journey as Grief Process?

Eterneva claims that the grief journey process is what distinguishes them from other cremation diamond companies, and that their sales people walk alongside their customers from the time they elect to turn their loved ones into diamonds until they receive their diamonds at home. During that time, customers are accompanied through an approximately eight-month to eighteen month-long process during which they are encouraged to share their stories with Eterneva employees. The process allows clientele to openly share in ways they may not be able to share in their own social circles, and customers are also added to Eterneva social media pages and welcomed into the cremation diamond community. Customers are encouraged to send pictures of their deceased loved ones, who are then memorialized on a wall at Eterneva, and every week, customers come together in a social media live-feed and welcome new customers to Eterneva and listen to the stories of life and loss.

The aesthetic of the memorial walls at Eterneva is important too; Eterneva takes small polaroid pictures of their clientele’s deceased loved ones, hanging them from little clips on the wall in between strings of little fairy lights. The effect is both cool and kitsch. The universality of the grief experience is visually mirrored in the display of similar photographs, while also honoring the loved ones in a way that provides a way to honor the dead that is neither religious or unapproachable. The weekly meetings inducting new members and remembering their losses are separated into two groups—pet loss and human loss—and each week’s gathering functions as a sort of impromptu support group for new customers. Customers share their stories, including specific details about their loved one or pet and favorite things that they loved about them. As one customer wrote:

"I think this journey did help me in my grief journey. They asked a lot of information about my mom, a photo, the obituary. Then they created a video where basically she was introduced to everyone on the team at Eterneva and then her photo goes up on the wall of all the ashes they’ve received and it was, strangers who don’t know us from anyone kind of honored her in a way that maybe wouldn’t have normally been there" (Eterneva Survey, 2021).

In this way, Eterneva does see itself as filling a particular niche beyond the making of a lab-manufactured diamond. In addition, Eterneva regularly hosts webinars on grief and loss to help its customers navigate their own grief journey.

*Multiple Eterneva respondents said they were told the process would take about eight months, but in actuality, took between eighteen months to two years.

On the survey, we asked customers, “Has the diamond process helped you in your grief journey? If yes, in what ways? If not, why?” (Eterneva Survey, 2021).

Sixty-three people (or 78% of the customers surveyed) reported the process to be beneficial to their grieving process. These clients often cited the special relationship they have to their diamond. One customer, who had lost a pet, said that the process helped her to come to terms with her grief and experience her grief in a way that she didn’t necessarily feel she could in her everyday world. She wrote: “In an odd way, it made my grief a little more real. When he died, I felt like he was just gone. Like no one would really care, he was just a cat. But watching his ashes make that transformation and then getting the finished diamond back was like watching his meaningless death become meaningful, and in a way making my grief more substantial” (Eterneva Survey, 2021).

Pet loss is often marginalized in everyday society, and many people don’t have a place or a standard ritual through which they can mourn or grieve the loss of a pet. Not surprisingly, about half of all Eterneva clients make diamonds for their pets—choosing diamond colors to match their pet’s eye color or coat color as a way to honor their more striking characteristics. Having a diamond made for their pets allowed these customers a place where they could share openly about their feelings regarding the loss of their animal, and how much they missed them.

Several customers spoke of receiving the diamond as the time when they fully realized the death of their loved one. Eterneva calls this stage of the diamond process the “Homecoming,” and frames it in such a way that the deceased is “returning” to their loved one, but in an altered state. They even feature the “Homecoming” videos online, and customers are presented with beautiful keepsake boxes featuring the cremation diamond.One customer wrote of their feelings regarding the “Homecoming,”

It’s given me a little bit of closure, in the sense that it has given me more... the diamond process was a very difficult process and as I was going through the process, I still think it really didn’t hit home, and then I got the diamond andI had to really snap out of busying my mind, I would busy my mind so I didn’t have to think about it, and then you get that diamond and you have to go through the grieving process again and it really hits you and it’s like holy shit this is for real (Eterneva Survey, 2021).

The materiality of the diamond allows for the griever to realize the permanently transformed state of the deceased, and marks another mile-stone in the grieving process. Another customer wrote: “It did help in my grieving process. I cried a lot every time I got an update... I did cry when I finally had them back home with me” (Eterneva Survey, 2021). Eterneva’s Homecoming thus functions here as a return of the deceased to the world of the living in their permanently altered state—often inspiring a realization both of the finality of the death, and a recognition that the love of the deceased still remains. In this way, it can symbolize, in someways, the pinnacle of integrated grief, or the understanding that one must live with the loss. By highlighting these homecomings and creating rituals surrounding the diamond’s completion, Eterneva is offering a non-religious rite that seems to offer solace to its customers.

Almost all Eterneva customers noted the ways in which the diamond process, or the diamond itself, created a space for conversation about the dead, or their grief. Some customers found that the process gave them away to start and have conversations regarding their loss. One person who lost their dog wrote: “Absolutely! It was something to look forward to as the diamond grew in the process. I also talked with my husband and closest friends about the diamond growth and we would talk about my dog”(Eterneva Survey, 2021). So in this way, the process provided the space to discuss topics that are sometimes considered taboo, and customers felt they were given permission they might not otherwise have had access to in order to really mourn. As another client pointed out:

"Yes, it has helped mostly through the process of talking about the diamond and thus about Michael. One of the most difficult things that I believe happens after a loss is that people are sometimes uncomfortable talking about the per-son. Sometimes it is difficult for me and sometimes for others. My diamond has opened others and myself to more genuine and caring conversations" (Eterneva Survey, 2021).

The space that the diamond provides to allow for a conversation about the deceased is similar in some ways to memorial tattoos, and the fact that tattoo wearers often get tattoos in order to mark loss, but also to discuss it. In this way, diamonds also allow the wearer to start and have conversations about their loved ones, but like tattoos, the wearer can choose how much they want to disclose. The meaning and significance of the diamond is simultaneously material and symbolic, and the wearer of the diamond controls the narrative. This is an incredibly important aspect, since grief often makes one feel vulnerable, so being able to choose how, whether, and when to reveal one’s loss allows the diamond/tattoo wearer a sense of agency in an incredibly difficult and fragile time.

*For more on this, see my chapter on tattoos and memorialization in my book (Cann, 2014).

Fourteen Eterneva customers (17% of those clients surveyed) had neutral answers regarding the diamond process, stating that while this was something they are glad they did, they were unsure if it helped to accelerate their process in grieving, or merely integrated the death into their lives in a valuable way. As one customer wrote, regarding the death of their daughter:

"I would have to say that I remain neutral on that subject. Frankly, there is not a damn thing on Earth that could help us come to terms with my daughter’s loss. The diamonds were a necessity for me, much like breathing and drinking water. The idea that when we are gone there will be nothing left of Krysta is unbearable to both of us. The diamonds are just one part of our lifelong project to create a legacy for my daughter. At any one time I have three or four small projects going to create a lasting place for Krysta in this world. Banksy, the mysterious street artist once said “We all die twice, once when we stop breathing and the second time when your name is uttered for the last time.”(ie: you are completely forgotten)" (Eterneva Survey, 2021).

For this customer, the process of turning their loved one into a diamond was neither positive or negative, but rather one of the many ways in which they choose to memorialize and honor their child.

And finally, three customers said that the process didn’t help, with one person stating that the process made their grief worse, citing issues in the diamond-making process (usually centered on delays ranging from a year and a half to two years), and their separation from the only material remains they had left of their loved one. One such client wrote that:

"I will say that the process took 3 tries and over 17 months. That made the grieving process harder as I had nothing left of him, and they had all of him(ashes). I feel that I am now just starting the grieving process fully since I sent all of his ashes in days after he died. It felt very hard to grieve and process without a physical reminder of him. It also was a very emotional set back each time I was told the diamond didn’t grow properly. It started to make the grieving process harder as it made me feel it was a “sign” I shouldn’t have turned him into a diamond" (Eterneva Survey, 2021).

For this client, the problems in making the diamond were possible signifiers from the deceased that perhaps they had made the wrong decision in turning their loved one into a diamond. The client interpreted the delays in the diamond process in a negative light, while grappling with questions whether they “had done the right thing.” Regardless of whether the delays had a greater metaphysical meaning, this client’s understanding of the turn of events reveals how fraught the process can be, and how simple supply chain delays can be mis/interpreted in affective terms.

Study Limitations

The data base only included participants who could afford cremation diamonds (retailing from $3,000–$10,000) though other companies (such as Parting Stone, which turns cremains into small pebbles for $595) have similarly anchoring objects for more affordable prices. Thus, while the data base included those who can afford the expense of a cremation diamond, there are other companies offering similar products at much lower prices, and the applicability of grieving theory should equally apply to other anchoring objects. The data thus skews towards those who are wealthy or credit-worthy enough to obtain the funding to purchase one or more memorial diamonds. The study qualified for IRB exemption since subjects were existing and voluntary clientele, and did not involve children, prisoners, or pregnant populations.


In conclusion, the performative process of creating diamonds out of the deceased may accompany the bereaved person’s process from acute mourning to integrated mourning. The diamond allows a marking of 21 In the United States, researchers conducting research on human subjects must apply for approval to conduct their research with their university’s Institutional Review Board for theProtection of Human Research Subjects. In cases where the risk is considered minimal, or does not involve research on prisoners, children or other people who do not have their own autonomy, the IRB case is considered to be ‘exempt’ as long as subjects willingly participate in the study, are notified in advance of their rights, and researchers acknowledge participants’ rights to withdraw consent at any time.

absence through presence, and the time needed to manufacture the diamond may also mirror/parallel the grief journey from acute to integrated grief. The “hidden” aspect of the diamond cremains allows for one to invest the diamond with varying, and often changing, meanings throughout that process. The transformation of the person into diamond can represent a reintegration of the deceased into the world of the liv-ing, and markers of the deceased through color, cut, etc., are sometimes manifested in the object itself. Similarly, the diamond may serve as a representation of the deceased in life, rather than a material reminder of death (unlike cremains or even a roadside memorial), and its accompaniment in many aspects of life give agency that many other forms of memorialization would not.

Through this qualitative analysis of a survey study of 81 Eterneva clients, the process of transforming cremains and hair into wearable diamonds may correspond to the grief journey moving from acute grief to integrated grief. Because of timeline variability, however, it was difficult to make definitive conclusions whether the diamond-making process simply coincided with, or actually contributed to, the grief journey process. Additionally, religious belief or practice was found to be insignificant in this particular study of lab-grown diamond customers. Various other outcomes—such as the importance of diamond placement, the portability and palatability of diamonds, and the role played by imagined views of the dead—also were found to impact the process. As the solidified remains market continues to grow, more studies are needed to examine the ways in which these new disposal offerings may impact the grieving process.

Future Research

More research needs to be completed to understand the possible underlying relationship between the grief journey process and its relationship to disposal choice—here, the solidified remains market. Additional studies need to be conducted regarding the role of attachment objects and materiality in integrating grief, and it would be interesting to examine whether certain customers are predisposed towards an attachment regarding material objects as both children and adults. Examining whether there is a correlation, for example, between those who elect to transform their loved ones’ ashes or hair into material objects and those for whom a teddy bear provided comfort as a child, might reveal a particular pre-disposition towards material anchoring objects as a source of comfort.

Like the outcomes regarding religious affiliation in this study, ultimately, the role of diamonds as anchoring objects might be related more to the customer who is predisposed towards linking objects as a method of self-comfort.

As the solidified remains market continues to grow, more studies are needed to examine the ways in which these new disposal offerings may impact the grieving process, and the ways in which cultural context may impact new disposal practices. As cremation rates in the United States continue to rise—as in Northern Europe—it will be fruitful to examine whether material memorials also continue to grow in demand, and to study how cultural differences between the American and Northern European contexts impact the decision to have a diamond made from cremains and hair.