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Eterneva CEO Adelle Archer on the Modern Death Care Industry

When you lose someone you love, Adelle Archer, co-founder of bereavement industry startup Eterneva says, “it’s really difficult because everybody around you stops talking about that person.” One of the most heartbreaking aspects of grieving the loss of a loved one, Archer says, is that “an amazing person isn’t remembered.”

Eterneva was born when Adelle lost a close friend, and she wanted to do something special for her. She went looking for a memorial, hit on the idea of transforming her friend’s cremation ashes into a diamond, and, she says, “there just really wasn’t that much out there.”

Adelle did find sites offering cremation diamonds, but she didn’t feel better after she investigated them. They didn’t provide an experience that was focused on the people suffering from a loss. Most services were too focused on the science, or the end product itself.

Adelle eventually decided to ask a friend who owned a diamond foundry to make her memorial stone. But in the process of commemorating her own friend’s death, Adelle recognized a need to humanize the memorial diamond industry. She and her business partner Garrett Ozar realized that there was a need to create something better than an urn to celebrate incredible people in a better way. To achieve that end, they founded Eterneva.

What Is Eterneva?

Eterneva helps mourners celebrate their loved ones by turning their ashes into real diamonds.

Eterneva’s process for creating diamonds from ashes is not like the usual industrial process of growing batches of artificial diamonds. Eterneva works on each person’s ashes individually.

After Eterneva creates a diamond from a loved one’s carefully sequestered ashes, clients know they have the deceased literally in their hands in the form of a diamond. They can hold that diamond. They can wear the diamond close to their hearts on a pendant or they can wear the diamond on their finger as a constant reminder of a life impactful on their own. They can look at that diamond every single day, holding their loved ones close to them for the rest of their life.

It takes about a cup of ashes to extract enough carbon to make a diamond. Eterneva places the ashes in a graphite crucible to apply heat and pressure to extract their carbon. The carbon is then placed in a machine that emulates the heat and pressure of the Earth’s crust to slowly create a gem.

Once the raw diamond is produced, it is sent to Eterneva’s master diamond cutter. The cutter chooses the specific cut that brings out the true beauty of the diamond depending upon its chosen purpose. Then the diamond is laser-engraved so the owner can just look under a jeweler’s loop and see a personal inscription to them.

Eterneva the care required when working with the physical remains of people who are unique and irreplaceable. Every step of the process is aimed at creating the perfect diamond to become the loved one’s legacy. And because the process of creating a diamond from ashes takes the better part of a year, there is ample time for Eterneva to help its clients to instill that diamond with meaning from their best memories of the person they loved.

Clients receive a monthly cadence of updates about the progress of the creation of their diamonds. As the company interacts with its client’s stories of happy life memories emerge.

Said, one client: “You have created a life-giving story that I can share with everyone. I can’t tell you now many times I have looked at my diamond and seen my son’s eyes.”

Another client said: “Thank you for making this so much more personal than just buying something. Knowing you are here to help makes a big difference.”

And another client said: “You make every step special. I just picked up my ring and it feels so right.”

Clearly, science isn’t the reason that people seek out Eterneva. Eterneva is a remarkable DeathTech company, but the company’s success isn’t all about its technology.

Adelle Archer believes that the death care industry is adopting a fundamentally different paradigm of public service. While traditional funeral homes are not going to disappear soon, increasing numbers of North American mourners are looking for new means of healing through their experience of grief.

Unplanned Innovation in Death Care

Adelle Archer says that she has always seen herself as an impact-driven person, but she did not see herself as the co-founder of a company that turns ashes into diamonds.

Coming from a family of entrepreneurial women who made a habit of making stereotypes passé, Archer plunged into innovative marketing early in her career.

Archer’s first job after earning a bachelor’s degree with honors at McGill University in Montreal and her MBA at the Acton School of Business in Austin was to run storytelling workshops for nonprofits. She identified the sales funnel for a unique donation-funded program for advanced yoga instruction, and she became the first non-engineer hire for a company providing a sales platform for subscription businesses.

Archer was making a career of connecting people to their passions when her life was moved by the tragedy. Her friend and mentor Tracey was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Just three months later, Tracey passed away, and Archer was left to deal with her grief.

Adelle Archer and her friend Garrett Ozar had been working on a plan to help a diamond foundry branch out into the consumer market. It occurred to Adelle that she could have the cremation ashes of her friend Tracey eternalized into a diamond.

Adelle entrusted part of her share of Tracey’s ashes to the foundry, and 10 months later a diamond was returned to her. Now Adelle had a beautiful, permanent, daily reminder of the history she had shared with her friend. The diamond helped stay connected to the reality of Tracey’s passing, but also gave her a token of attachment she could use to remember happy times.

Archer and Ozar recognized the business opportunity. Shortly thereafter Eterneva progressed on its way to $1,000,000 in sales. The company went on to raise $1.2 million in venture capital and another $600,000 from ABC Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban.

Archer and Ozar at first thought they had created a thriving death diamond business. But then Archer realized they had actually created a new model of emotional support for people suffering bereavement.

From Sympathy to Serenity

There wasn’t a point in Archer’s experience of grief over the death of her friend that the traditional death industry satisfied her.

Traditional funerals embalm the body to make it appear life-like as if the death weren’t real. Funeral directors sell metal caskets filled with carbon dioxide that they say will stop decay and recommend placing caskets in vaults to preserve the body.

All of these traditions deny the reality of death. Adelle Archer chose a different path to resolving her grief.

There’s no denying the reality of death when you are wearing a diamond created from the ashes of someone you loved. But Archer’s pain continued through the long months of waiting for the diamond to be created.

In the meantime, Archer and Ozar had begun organizing their new business, but they realized they weren’t really organizing a diamond company. They were organizing a grief support company. And Archer’s experience in storytelling gave her the insight that they were adding to the stories of the deceased, creating a new story of how the dead loved one became a permanent part of their clients’ lives in a new way.

Eterneva connects with its clients to understand what made the dead loved one remarkable and unique. They develop the story of the deceased. They interact with their clients at every step of the eight-to-ten-month process of creating the diamond to choose exactly the setting that reminds the wearer of the story of the person they loved and love.

Death researcher Dr. Candi Cann says that tokens of affection enable their wearers to accept the reality of death so they can sort through their memories and give greater weight to happy experiences. Eterneva diamonds don’t wipe out memories of bad experiences, but they enable happy memories to come through more strongly. But Adelle Archers says that three years of interaction with Eterneva customers have given her 10 important insights for living well in a time of loss.

What Adelle Archer Says About Living Well in Uncertain Times

Grief, Adelle Archer says, centers around the loss of normalcy. And for the world as a whole, 2020 has been anything but a normal year.

How does Adelle Archer recommend that we all cope with our grief about the loss of the normal rhythms of our lives?

● Cultivate gratitude as an antidote for fear. When we fear going ahead without lives after the loss of a loved one, a job, or a way of life, time in intentional gratitude can help force out feelings of fear.

● Simplify and magnify. Death diamonds are a simple tribute to a life well-lived, but they are also a magnificent tribute to the life of a loved one. Similarly, simplifying our daily lives to focus on what’s really important minimizes the grief of unmanageable change.

● Be careful about your language. Focus on what you want, not what you don’t. The old adage not to speak ill of the dead is for the living, not the departed. And with any other kind of grief, it is always best to focus on what is true, timely, and uplifting.

● Limit your consumption of bad news. Endless discussion of how a loved one died is not helpful. Neither is the consumption of the constant stream of distressing news on television and the Internet.

● Tell stories about the time before now. Whether you are mourning the loss of a loved one or mourning the loss of a lifestyle, remembering better times is emotionally soothing and strengthens you to deal with the present.

● Move your body and breathe. Movement helps you fight depression.

● Own your grief, but resolve to master it. Don’t give in to grieving.

● Hold space for grief. Death diamonds are a very tangible space for grief. But it’s OK to set aside some time to process your emotions around your loss.

● Foster a pet, or adopt a person. Focus your energies on helping an animal or a person who needs a different kind of support.

● Take on a cause bigger than yourself. Many of Eterneva’s clients found relief in sponsoring good works in memory of their loved ones. You can find the same emotional relief for “2020 blues” in public service.

Chances are that you have never heard a funeral director give the kind of advice for overcoming grief that Adelle Archer offers. But her uncanny ability to integrate compassion not just into bereavement support but for the people in her day to day life may explain much of her company’s success.