Finding space to bury the dead is becoming a challenge in China. China’s enormous population and tradition of burying the dead is placing significant demands on its land use. Its Ministry of Civil Affairs predicts that available land for cemeteries in most provinces in China will be exhausted within 10 years. The average funeral in China costs about $6,500, and 85% of that fee is used to purchase the plot.
One of Beijing’s leading funeral homes, however, started offering new “ecofriendly” options for honoring a family’s loved one. Zhou Weihua, deputy director of Babaoshan Funeral Home, claims that it will soon be able to turn cremated remains (“cremains”) into wearable jewelry, including diamonds.
Although the funeral home’s proposal met jeers and skepticism, the process of turning cremains into diamonds is no joke. “Memorial diamonds” are synthetic diamonds made from extracting pure carbon from the hair and cremains of the deceased. Companies like Ever Dear (based in California) and LifeGem (based in Chicago) use the high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) process to turn cremains into diamonds. But they’re not cheap. A 2-carat cut memorial diamond will cost you over $53,000. This, of course, does not include the cost of setting the diamond in a ring or necklace.
Perhaps we place too much importance on respecting the human body in death. But I found the concept of transforming this perishable, carbon-based body into a sparkling diamond deeply symbolic. Diamonds are the hardest and most precious of all gems. Yet, they’re also the simplest.
Consider this. The Emerald consists of aluminum beryllium silicate–Al2Be3 (Si6O18). On the Mohs Scale, it has a hardness of 7 ½–8. The Opal (Quartz) consists of silicon dioxide, with a number of water molecules (SiO2..nH2O) and has a hardness of 5 ½–6 ½. Tanzanite (Red, blue, or silver Corundum) consists of calcium aluminum silicate Ca2Al3(O/OH/SiO4/Si2O7) and has a hardness of 9. And the chemical formula of Lapis Lazuli includes lazurite–a feldspathoid silicate mineral consisting of sodium, aluminum, silicon, oxygen, sulfur, and chloride (Na, Ca)8(Al,Si)12O24(S,S)4)—and has a hardness of 5–5 ½.
In contrast, none is as simple as the diamond. It is composed of one simple element: carbon (C). Yet it is the hardest (it measures 10 on the Mohs Scale) and the most precious of all gemstones. The secret of something so common and simple becoming something so precious requires the divine application of heat and extreme pressure for an extended period of time.
This is why diamonds are an appropriate symbol of a man or woman of God. They are made of the same stuff as everyone else. But the intense training, pressure, and affliction that God imposes on them transforms them into something priceless and durable.
You are a Gem
And Scripture frequently compares God’s people to gemstones. In Malachi 3:17 God refers to His people as “jewels” which He will gather. In fact, the High Priest symbolically carried the twelve tribes of Israel over his heart. They were symbolized by the twelve precious gems mounted in the High Priest’s breast piece (Exodus 28:17–19; 39:10–12). In other Scriptures, God tells His people that, if they will obey His commandments, He will make them His special treasure (Exodus 19:5–6). Saint Peter described both Christ and believers as precious and choice stones which God is building into a spiritual temple (1 Peter 2:4–6).
God’s people may be diamonds in the rough. But God is able to apply his divine chisel and hammer to increase our brilliance and luster. We may also be diamonds in the dust. But no matter how dirty we may be, the grime does not diminish our worth in God’s sight. And He is more than able to cleanse us.
Diamonds are also symbolic of the future glory and brilliance that will be revealed in us. When the prophet Daniel foretells of resurrection, he declares that those who lead others to God will shine like the stars forever and ever (Daniel 12:2–3). Jesus promises that “the righteous will shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43).
So don’t despair, child of God. Above all, no matter how ugly and dirty you may be, God is in the process of taking the crumbly chunk of charcoal and transforming it into a diamond, whose glory will never fade away.
Dear Father in heaven, into Your loving and capable hands I commit the dirty and raw material of my life. Please make me into the person of Your dreams and fit me for heaven. Amen.