Solving Problems Justin McCarthy  | December 6, 2018

Loved Ones, Now Forever: Eterneva’s Cremation Diamonds Shine from the Ashes

Loved Ones, Now Forever: Eterneva’s Cremation Diamonds Shine from the Ashes

When Eterneva co-founder Adelle Archer’s friend and mentor Tracey Kaufman died of pancreatic cancer in 2015, Archer wanted to honor her memory in a personal way, a way that felt as significant and meaningful as Kaufman herself.

“In a lifetime, if you’re lucky, you probably have a couple of people who leave a huge handprint on your life,” Archer says.” “She was one of those people for me, and she passed away at 47. I wanted to do something special for her.”

Losing someone important often means experiencing a painful confrontation with the nature of mortality; suddenly, we recall that life is fleeting, and nothing last forever. At the time of Kaufman’s passing, Archer’s professional life in the artificial diamond industry was about as far removed from that mindset as can be—to work in the field of lab-grown diamond making is, in some ways, to have a hand in creating “forever” every day.

But after a conversation over dinner with a diamond scientist colleague in the wake of Kaufman’s death, Archer discovered that she could combine her personal mourning and professional abilities in a way that not only made for a fitting tribute to Kaufman, but could also be shared with the world at large. “There’s carbon in ashes,” Archer remembers the scientist saying, “and if we can get the carbon out, we can grow a diamond from that carbon.”

And just like that, Eterneva was born. Eterneva offers customers a revolutionary option for memorializing loved ones—by purifying their ashes and turning them into diamonds. With just half of a cup of ashes, Eterneva scientists can generate enough pure carbon to synthesize a rough diamond built from human DNA. With technology that replicates the high-pressure, high-temperature growing conditions of the earth, each jewelry-grade product is made in its own isolated machine, one at a time.

The rough stone is cut into a clear, high-clarity diamond. “If we don’t do it right the first time,” Archer says, “we regrow the diamond until it’s perfect.” Then, the diamond is cut, polished, graded, and certified. Handpicked artisanal designers take it from there, helping you choose from a curated selection of options for setting your bespoke piece. Laser engraving for inscriptions? Can do, Archer says—no matter what the customer requests to make the final product special, Eterneva will go above and beyond to make it happen.

With an MBA in entrepreneurship from the Acton School of Business in Austin, TX, Archer knew one day she would start her own business. Albeit under less than ideal circumstances, the right opportunity finally came along. If it felt so right to her, Archer thought, it would resonate for others too—as long as she made sure to keep compassion, care, and personal attention the main priorities at every stage of the process.

“The first thing we do is ask: who were they as a person? What made them really special? We really get to know who this person is. We put their picture on our wall, and our whole team knows their story. It’s very personalized.”

The technological aspect is important, but Archer stresses that taking care of the human element is the most critical component of her job. “When someone calls us, it means that one of the most special people in their lives has just passed away. So there needs to be incredible integrity in what we’re doing. One thing we do so that people can take the journey with us is film our work from end-to-end, and share with the customer. It becomes something they can look forward to after losing someone important. Because it’s not just a scientific process, it’s a healing process too.”

Where innovation meets personal care is the sweet spot for Eterneva, a rapidly growing enterprise that netted $280,000 in revenue last year and projecting $2 million for 2018—and in her industry at large, that’s a rare niche. Despite the fact that death care in the U.S. generated $14.2 billion in 2016 (according to the Department of Commerce), the industry landscape as a whole has remained largely insulated from disruption.

Archer isn’t sure if the success of Eterneva is indicative of a cultural sea change in the way people are choosing to mourn, or if Eterneva is simply offering a death care service that aligns with what we’ve always wanted when we lose loved ones: to honor them in a way that feels meaningful. She suspects it’s a combination of both. “I think there’s always been that sentiment of ‘gosh, I wish there were more options,’” she says, “but then, there are definitely people who prefer a traditional service and we think that’s wonderful. For me though, what I get passionate about is giving people choices.”

From Archer’s perspective, the purpose of an Eterneva diamond is to keep someone’s story alive. And as for her company’s position as a rising star in the industry, she sees it as a call to action for other entrepreneurs to add value in the space.

“These are amazing people that lived rich lives. We should be trying to figure out how to celebrate them in new ways all the time.”