In just 11 months, this lab can grow a memorial diamond from the ashes of a loved one. Can they change how we cope with loss?
- Transforming their customers’ loved ones from ashes to diamonds consists of an intricate seven stage process. Once the company has received the ashes, its team gets to work isolating carbon from other elements found in the ashes. Once the carbon is fully extracted, the resulting carbon graphite powder is placed into a machine that can replicate growing conditions found under the earth. Through intense heat and pressure, over time the carbon crystalizes and begins to turn into a raw diamond
- For people grieving the death of a loved one, a memorial diamond can serve as a constant reminder of the beauty of a life once lived. It not only helps keep positive memories alive for longer, but can be passed down through generations to enrich one’s connection to their family history.
ETERNEVA CLIENT: This is my mom, and the diamond was made from her ashes.
NARRATOR: This is a story about a radical death care company called Eterneva. With backing from Mark Cuban, Eterneva is turning people's lost loved ones into diamonds.
CLIENT: Wow! Welcome home, honey.
ADELLE ARCHER: The way people react when they hear about this, it was either like, "This is the most amazing and incredible idea I've ever heard," or like "I don't know, this is kind of weird."
NARRATOR: They believe that America's cultural response to loss is broken, leaving people without rituals to help them heal.
ADELLE: Grief is an experience we're all gonna go through. It's one of the most shared human experiences there is, and yet it's governed by just tradition and obligation. That's doing more harm than good. And so we have to overcome every obstacle because the cost of our mission not being seen out is too high.
PRODUCER: There's a slight lag. If I step on you at all, I apologize. I'm not trying to cut you off. There's just a little bit of a lag.
ADELLE: I'm literally fundraising right now, and all VCs do is cut you off, so I'm very used to it. This is one of our machines. This one is under pressure. So we are currently actively growing a diamond right now. At these stations...
NARRATOR: Adelle Archer is the co-founder and CEO of Eterneva, and she's on a mission to transform the way that we grieve. After completing her MBA, Adelle got the idea for Eterneva in 2015 after losing her good friend and mentor, Tracey.
ADELLE: When Tracey passed, she actually had her ashes split between three of us. And she was just like, "Hey, go do something meaningful that you think both of us would really like." So we started doing a ton of research. Everything felt really like trinket-y and cheap and transactional. And nothing kind of really spoke to me.
NARRATOR: But then Adelle had a conversation with a diamond scientist.
ADELLE: He's like, "Well, if we can get the carbon out of Tracey's ashes I think we could grow you a diamond." And I mean, as soon as he said it, I was like, "This is the idea. This is the thing that I'm meant to work on." She was the first diamond that we ever made. This is her black diamond. I wear it every single day.
ETERNEVA STAFF: I'm so excited to introduce y'all to Peggy. We are growing two beautiful diamonds, one for her daughter, Laurie and another for her grandson, Alex.
ETERNEVA TEAM: Yay, Peggy!
GARRETT OZAR: Any time you start a company it's like a huge rollercoaster. One of the challenging things about starting Eterneva was just, it was so unknown in so many different ways. I mean what we do has so much pressure, you know? We're handling someone's most valuable possession basically. And you have this incredibly difficult thing to do which is growing a diamond from carbon.
ADELLE: In the beginning when we started, this was a crazy supply chain to set up. A lot of these scientists don't even exist in the United States. We were hunting down scientists internationally. Flying to Europe, convincing them to get coffee with me and having to learn how to negotiate in completely different business cultures. A lot of this technology actually came out of Russia.So dealing with Russian business culture it's so different than the United States. Honestly, that was kind of my first encounter with a bit of misogyny. Gosh, I learned a lot. But Lord, the lows can be excruciating. We've had moments where our entire supply chain went away. They basically were like, "Good luck."
NARRATOR: And then in 2019, Eterneva caught a big break. A $600,000 deal with Mark Cuban.
ADELLE: Going on Shark Tank, I mean, that was a moment. We were the first death care company ever to go on Shark Tank. That was really a turning point, too, in how people started seeing this. They're like, "Oh wow! What if diamonds become the new urn?"
NARRATOR: Eterneva commissioned grief research from Baylor University to investigate the diamond's impact on the recipients' mourning experience.
CLIENT: This is like, John coming home.
ADELLE: John coming home.
NARRATOR: Early reports suggest that Eterneva's months-long diamond making process supports the vast majority of participants through their grief journey.
ADELLE: You know, going into this, we thought that this was all about the diamond, but what we ended up finding, was every time we shared an update with the family, we would just get these unbelievable responses.
CLIENT: I wanted something that when I had her diamond and people would ask me, "That's so beautiful, where'd you get it?" And I can say, "This is my daughter. And this is how beautiful she really was."
OZAR: Some of the biggest problems that we have are things that we don't talk about that much. Death and grief is one of those. That's what I think that we at Eterneva can make a mark on this planet is by helping remove that stigma.
And I can tell you that your dad would be so proud of who you are. And for that reason, we would love to grow his diamond for you.
Hey Cecilia, this is Garrett. This is going to be the starting point to create your beautiful diamond of Cali.
ADELLE: We have Cali's diamond. We are going to grade and certify her diamond.
CLIENT: It's really beautiful. Thank you so much.
ADELLE: A lot of death care has been transactional, right? You buy a coffin, you have a funeral, and then we're done. And that's not how grief works.
NARRATOR: The death care industry used to be funeral homes, burials and later cremations. In 2021, human composting, biodegradable coffins, trips to space. These are just some of the growing number of alternative options better suited to individual values.
ADELLE: I think what resonates with a lot of people about the diamond is you have that physical anchor to your loved one.
CLIENT: This is the most precious thing I own.
ADELLE: One of the things that I realized was that I really find a lot of purpose in helping somebody through a hard time and helping them find some brightness in it. Eterneva's mission is really to challenge culture and to shift people's perceptions of grief and loss. There's this window of time that they're forming meaning around what just happened. And if you can meet them in that window and you can help shape the messages that they tell themselves you can go and change the world.