Friends who were gems in life can now become jewels in death

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 May, 2009, 12:00am

Instead of burying a body six feet under the daisies, mourners can now get a diamond made from the dearly beloved's ashes for HK$150,000, and sport it on a finger.

Diamonds made from ashes, gold-coated coffins and biodegradable urns that can serve as plant fertiliser - these were among the more unconventional products being showcased at the Asia Funeral Expo.

The three-day expo, which runs until tomorrow at the Convention and Exhibition Centre, is the first of its kind in the city.

'We extract carbon from the ashes to make diamonds,' said Gene Chua, an exhibitor with Swiss company Algordanza. For a fee of HK$150,000, a one-carat diamond can be produced from 500 grams of ashes. Known as a 'human jewel', the diamond is made by using high temperatures and pressure. The resulting rough stone is then cut into any of various shapes to suit the customer's taste; the entire production process takes one year.

Another unusual funeral service is a 'tree burial', in which a biodegradable urn containing ashes is buried under a tree tagged with the dead person's name, Jay Li Chi-wai of Eco Urn Asia said.

Environmentally friendly funeral products are becoming popular. Paper and willow coffins - which are cheaper and lighter than the traditional wood - are gaining a share of the market.

Allen Chu, manager of Lunen Handicraft, said coffins made of willow, bamboo and grass released fewer harmful chemicals when burned. However, the Chinese had yet to accept such woven coffins because they believe 'a coffin should be sealed to show dignity to the deceased', he said.

A total of 150 exhibitors took part in the show, 70 per cent more than a year ago when it was held in Macau.