Ashes To Ashes, Dust To Diamonds — “Eterneva” Is Turning Cremains Into Jewelry

By Andrew Sheeler The Tribune (San Luis Obispo, Calif.)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) "Eterneva" turns the ashes of friends, family members or even pets into diamonds.

The Tribune (San Luis Obispo, Calif.)

Death might mean the end of life, but that doesn't mean the end of choices: Will you be buried? Cremated? Donated to science? How about having your ashes turned into a diamond?

San Luis Obispo's own Adelle Archer, 27, who was recently named part of Inc.'s 2018 "30 Under 30" list of Rising Star entrepreneurs, says that not only do diamonds last a lot longer than ashes in an urn, but they give families a new way to celebrate a loved one's life from generation to generation.

And indeed, many seem to agree with Archer -- the company she co-founded, Eterneva, generated $280,000 in sales in the fourth quarter of 2017 and projects $2 million in sales for 2018.

Not bad for the SLO High grad, who said she was "honored and excited to represent my hometown."

But how does one get into the ashes-to-diamonds business?

After graduating from McGill University in Montreal, Archer said she had big plans.

"I've just always been impact-driven and wanting to do something that's bigger than myself," she said. "I thought originally it would be through politics."

But Washington, D.C., culture left Archer feeling burned out and looking for a change, and so she "pivoted out of politics," she said.

At 24, Archer decided to get an MBA, and after an intense nine-month curriculum, graduated from the Acton School of Business in Austin, Texas.

While working for a variety of tech companies, Archer said she began honing her "online marketing chops."

It was in that endeavor that she met Tracey Kaufman, a mentor who took Archer under her wing. The two became very close.

"She was just amazing," Archer said. "It's a really rare thing to have a mentor that's so invested in you. ... It was really something special."

But then Kaufman, who started experiencing back pain, was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer. Kaufman died in 2015.

Archer had been so close to Kaufman that, when she died, Kaufman's family entrusted Archer with some of her ashes.

She said serendipity struck when she was doing research on options for cremated remains.

"As (I was) exploring lab-grown diamonds, that was when Tracey passes," Archer said.

Thus was born Eterneva, which turns the ashes of friends, family members or even pets into diamonds; while traditional clear diamonds are an option, with a little bit of nitrogen or boron, Eterneva can create yellow or blue diamonds. Add some radiation to the mix, and red, pink, green, black and purple all become possibilities.

Archer said she is in the process of turning Kaufman's cremains into a black diamond.

Archer was motivated to create the business in part by frustration with the "death industry" and the lack of options.

"Literally you have an urn and a casket and nothing's changed in a hundred years," she said. "Nothing felt significant enough or special enough for (Kaufman)."

Archer said she wants to offer something with Eterneva that people can't get from traditional funeral homes. "There are lots of wonderful funeral directors, but I would say overall the death industry does it wrong," she said. "We're not in the death industry. We're in the 'life well-lived' industry."

From the beginning, Archer said her five-person team makes it a priority to learn about the life they are immortalizing in diamond.

"From the day that (the family) talk(s) to us, we want to know who their loved one is," she said.

While the length of time varies, Archer said that on average, the process of turning ashes into diamond takes about eight months. First, the family sends the ashes to Eterneva using a collection kit provided. Between a half a cup and a cup of ashes is enough.

"Anything we don't use we always return at the end of the process," she said.

The ashes then travel from Eterneva's office in Austin to a diamond-growing facility in Amsterdam, then to a diamond cutter in Antwerp. Finally, the diamond is sent back to Eterneva, where it is set in jewelry and delivered to the family.

Given that it involves diamonds, the process is not cheap. Archer said diamonds can cost between $2,400 and $16,000, depending on the size, cut and color.

"It's something you do for somebody really incredible and amazing," she said.

Archer said that a diamond can become a beloved keepsake, something that can be passed down between generations in a way that ashes can't.

"The thing about ashes is they don't last beyond a generation," she said. "They sit in a closet, and they're kind of a burden."

Archer said her business helps to "celebrate those incredible people and make sure they're not forgotten."

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