The human body is 18 percent carbon, which means that if you subject it to high enough pressures at high enough temperatures and hold it there for a long enough time, it will form diamonds. You can try this yourself, in a laboratory.
All it takes is, say, a pound of human ash, more than 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and 60,000 times the standard atmospheric pressure of Earth at sea level. Extract carbon, bake, compress. Check back in a few weeks. Not a DIYer? No problem. Just FedEx your burial urn to one of the many Internet-facing memorial-diamond companies that have sprung up in the last few years.
For between $2,500 and $25,000, outfits like Chicago’s LifeGem and Switzerland’s Algordanza will take the cremated remains of your loved ones and return them, presto chango, in the form of wearable jewelry. Diamonds created from human ashes often carry a blue tint.
This is because of the boron contained in bone. “I don’t know why,” the CEO of Algordanza has said, “but if the diamond is blue, and the deceased also had blue eyes, I hear almost every time that the diamond had the same color as the eyes of the deceased.”
Gems can also be synthesized from dead pets and, since the mid-2000s, from hair. Several memorial-diamond firms report revenue in the millions of dollars. In 2007, a diamond made from a lock of Beethoven’s hair sold on eBay for $202,700.
The World Cup tends to gather every thread of weirdness on the planet; as the largest human spectacle in existence, it rolls through every four years trailed by a vast peripheral freak show of psychic octopuses, celebrity witch doctors, and horse-placenta fetishists (otherwise known as soccer players).
So it’s no real surprise that the tournament’s 2014 edition is now officially the World Cup of diamonds made out of people. In late May, a Brazil-based memorial-diamond company called Brilho Infinito began selling a series of 1,283 diamonds made from the hair of Pelé, the most celebrated footballer in Brazil’s football-obsessed history, and widely regarded as the greatest soccer player of all time.
The 1,283 gemstones are one for every goal that’s claimed on Pelé’s (dubious) official record. The gemstones are selling for about $7,500 each. The proceeds will be donated to a pediatric complex in Brazil.
Diamonds in the Rough