Science Questions with Surprising Answers
Answers provided by
Dr. Christopher S. Baird

Can I turn my cat into a diamond?

Category: Biology      Published: December 30, 2015

Public Domain Image, source: Christopher S. Baird.

Yes. It is scientifically possible to turn your beloved deceased pet or human relative into a diamond that you wear on your finger as a token of remembrance. In fact, there are companies that exist right now that are willing to do this for you. Diamonds that are created from the remains of a loved one are called "memorial diamonds."

A diamond is just a collection of carbon atoms arranged in a tightly-packed crystalline pattern. If you press a chunk of carbon, such as graphite or coal, with enough pressure and at high enough temperature, then the carbon atoms are forced into this tightly-packed arrangement. As a result, you make a real diamond. This process is carried out routinely in diamond manufacturing plants. As long as you have a chunk of mostly carbon atoms, you can put it in a diamond press and make a diamond out of it. Your chunk of atoms can even contain some impurities because the diamond pressing process tends to drive out impurities. Diamonds can also be manufactured using chemical vapor deposition. In this process, the carbon atoms are vaporized into the gas state. The carbon atoms, along with some chemicals added to the mix to help along the process, are allowed to drift down and settle on top of each other. If done in a slow, clean, controlled way, the carbon atoms tend to settle into the diamond arrangement. Once the diamond material is created, it still needs to be cut and polished by an expert jeweler in order to give it that distinctive look that we expect.

Just like a chunk of coal, biological tissue can be turned into a diamond. Biological creatures are composed primarily of water and carbon-based molecules. For this reason, the three most abundant elements in biological tissue are hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon. If you take your deceased pet or relative and remove all of the hydrogen and oxygen atoms, most of the atoms in the remaining tissue will be carbon atoms. With some further filtering, the remains can be reduced down to almost pure carbon. This remaining tissue can therefore be placed in a diamond press and made into a diamond. A few companies have been in the business of turning the remains of beloved pets or relatives into diamonds for several years now. This service could cost you as much as the price of a new car, depending on how big you want the diamond to be.

Topics: carbon, cremation, diamond