RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Ten years ago, Rinaldo Willy was reading about how to make synthetic diamonds from ashes when he realized any kind of ashes might work, even those of a human. Today, his company turns people into diamonds, or rather they take cremation ashes and compress them at very high heat, turning them into these precious gems. Rinaldo Willy joins us from Switzerland, where his company, Algordanza Memorial Diamonds, is based. Welcome to the show, Mr. Willy.
RINALDO WILLY: Thank you.
MARTIN: Can you break it down for us? How does this work?
WILLY: Well, the process is in two parts. The chemical part is to gain the carbon out of the cremation ashes. And the physical part is to imitate nature by using a machine, which is able to build up a lot of pressure and heat. The more time you give this process, the bigger the rough diamond starts to grow.
MARTIN: And I understand that the diamonds you're making don't all come out the same color.
WILLY: Yeah. We were also surprised at the beginning when every diamond got blue. And we figured out by analysis that it's the element boron who gives the diamond the bluish diamond. But one time the diamonds turned white and we were a bit irritated, not secure if we had done any mistake or if we got any impurity during the process. So, we repeat it and it turned again white. And after we have got information that this person died of cancer and was treated very aggressive with chemo...
MARTIN: Um-hum. Chemotherapy.
WILLY: ...and the chemistry was telling us, well, chemo has an influence on the amount of boron. So, we assumed that was the reason why the diamonds got white. But what we have is every diamond from each person, it's slightly different. So, it's always a unique diamond.
MARTIN: So, what do people do with these diamonds?
WILLY: What we know from Europe, the very favorite is to produce jewelry out of it. We know from Asia culture that they prefer a lot of pendants. So, it's always depending from culture.
MARTIN: Have you reached out or have you communicated at all from families who have received these diamonds?
WILLY: The most reaction, astonishing, is happiness. I don't know why. But say if the diamond is blue and the deceased had also blue eyes, I hear almost every time the diamond had the same color of the eyes. And they were happy that a family member comes back home.
MARTIN: Rinaldo Willy is the founder and CEO of Algordanza, a company that makes diamonds out of human remains. He joined us from Switzerland. Mr. Willy, thanks so much for talking with us.
WILLY: Was my pleasure.
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MARTIN: This is NPR News.