What don't people tell you about diamonds

"Resurrection made considerably more difficult" : This man turns dead into diamonds

She no longer wears any other jewelry, just this one big ring. A platinum clef and inside, in the upper oval, a white, really not quite small diamond. This is the man of her life, he was an opera singer. Ashes to diamond! Should we be talking about a small revolution in funeral culture?

Karla Schier looks at her ring, they often talk to each other, the woman and the stone. They say gemstones are cold. But that's not true. She gives him the warmth of her hand. Others go to the cemetery when they want to visit their dead. But she doesn't want to visit Sanders Schier at all, she always wants to carry him with her.

Somebody like that doesn't belong in the cemetery!

“You know, I had my first heart attack when I was 49, and the second two years later,” says the woman with the big ring. Even here it sparkles in the pale artificial light of the back room of Cara AG on Kurfürstendamm, which is a completely normal goldsmith's shop in front. She had the ring tightened. Cara is Celtic and means soul mate. Karla Schier is now over 70.

She knew that she had to change something if she wanted to have a future on this earth. She sold her house, which she had helped to build and which cost her too much life, too much strength, just like the men. And then, suddenly homeless, at the age of 50, after two heart attacks, she found the love of her life. Somebody like that doesn't belong in a cemetery, he belongs to her!

Karla Schier, with the beautiful charisma of moderate femininity, speaks about these things with almost cheerful ease. And which bereaved of over 70 is already wearing bright red shoes with a black, pearl-trimmed sweater?

Until you suddenly understand: It's gratitude. Grateful that her existence began all over again when it seemed almost over. It is as if their whole life together, almost 20 years, was in the sparkle of this stone. The baritone did not know that his wife would carry it on her finger in the future, but he would not have resisted this way of his post-mortem existence, she knows that very well. But isn't that still a high-profile mistake, the most sensible lack of taste, or isn't Karla Schier right after all? It is their grief. And who should give marks on such matters?

From the most ephemeral to the most imperishable

Patrick Zimmermann looks at the singer's widow with a deep benevolence. He's an undertaker, that's roughly how he imagined it when he turned to diamonds two and a half years ago. From the most fleeting material to the most imperishable. From the most destructible, softest to the most indestructible, to one of the hardest that nature has ever produced. And yet both of them, human and diamond, are made of the same material: carbon, the basic building block of life.

Zimmermann has that aura of calm and confidence that gives people confidence. And he has a very specific conception of his profession. He doesn't believe that an undertaker's primary responsibility is to care for the deceased. At least as much for the relatives, especially today when so many have to face death alone, without the pastor, the professional mediator between the banks. Also because they can no longer believe his consolation. “And I felt more and more that something was missing,” says Zimmermann. But he never felt it the way he did a few years ago in the Berlin-Friedrichshagen cemetery.

When the mourners stepped out of the chapel, they first walked past the representative graves from the time the cemetery was built. "What a self-confident dead!" Thought Zimmermann. But then, from decade to decade, the graves and the stones got smaller and smaller. It was a detour the pallbearers took that day, and it was like a journey through time. It was as if not only were the graves and the stones getting smaller and smaller, the dead were getting smaller and smaller, and in the end they didn't even have names anymore.

Communism of death

Or yes, the names were written on a sad wall, but no longer a piece of earth belonged to them. What a communism of death! It is probably nothing for the living, but it is more popular than ever among the dead. When someone comes to bring flowers, he brings flowers for everyone.

That is very nice, and yet Zimmermann knows of many relatives who later suffer from the fact that they can no longer find a grave to step on. I don't want to bother you with my absence! - that is always the thought of those who leave. A mistake, finds Zimmermann, because false absence is also a nuisance. “Many have nothing to catch them,” he says. So he first came across the memory crystal and then the diamonds. The memory crystal came first.

Flowing crystal glass also envelops the ashes

In Germany there is a compulsory burial. That's why nobody is allowed to simply take an urn home and put it on the shelf. But if the ashes were enclosed in a large glass crystal, it would no longer be an urn. Patrick Zimmermann came up with this idea in 2011 in the museum village of Baruther Glashütte in Brandenburg and immediately met open ears. Since then, whole families have been standing there and watching how flowing crystal glass begins to envelop the ashes of their dead.

Most want a ball or a heart. Zimmermann takes two sample crystals from the cupboard and turns off the light. The ashes glow in the dark. That makes a small addition of rare earths. Maybe there are two groups of people. The first finds this post-mortem mode of existence quite plausible, the main thing is to stay at home! The other does not want to end up as glowing ashes next to the television after death. Probably the form of existence of a diamond would also be too strange for the second group: I was never as pure and beautiful as that! And never so cold. Better to be blown away than ashes.

The sea is recognized as a cemetery, the air is not

But that is forbidden in Germany, just like the alpine meadow burial, the space burial or the rock burial. Because there is a cemetery obligation. Strangely enough, the sea is recognized as a cemetery, the air is not. And making crystals or diamonds out of dead, i.e. removing part of the ashes, is also not legal. Brandenburg wanted to liberalize its funeral law last year to change that, but then the crucial meeting took place during the German team's first game at the World Cup. It may be that the liberalizers in the state parliament were engaged in other ways, but the decision was made against it with a narrow majority. Although, according to surveys, the Brandenburgers want liberalization with a large majority.

Significant disturbance of the peace of the dead?

The churches resist new forms of burial, just as they once bitterly fought against cremation. Resurrection is much more difficult, and to rise from a diamond is bound to be impossible. In addition, there is a considerable disturbance of the peace of the dead. The carbon isolated from the ash is exposed to a pressure of up to 60,000 bar and a temperature of up to 1,600 degrees. Nature doesn't do it much differently, but it takes longer. Sometimes it takes millions of years to do what Zimmermann can do in a few days. And he doesn't insist on the ashes at all, on the contrary. Hair, he knows, is much better, much purer. And completely legal. A silent burial at sea is included with Zimmermann.

What also bothers the churches is the privatization of death. The former head of the Catholic Office in Berlin Martina Köppen said that the dead should not be turned into something that individuals take possession of. Zimmermann looks at his watch, he now has an appointment. The orphaned couple from Schlachtensee is there for a consultation.

She senses Nersa's absence every second

The grief almost takes the woman speechless. Those who remain silent can usually hold back tears. But she has to talk now, she has to tell Patrick Zimmermann what she wants. No, not a ring, certainly not earrings, she would like a necklace to be worn close to her neck. No, never on a sweater, always on the bare skin: “I want to feel it. I always want to be able to touch. It's all about the stone. "

She couldn't stand this sudden no longer being there, she felt Nersa's absence every second, from getting up to going to bed. Everything in the house is reminiscent of her, the little Spanish street cat, conveyed through an aid organization. Even the objects are orphaned. They lived together for more than ten years, and Nersa almost never left Gabriele Hösl's side, as if she wanted to be absolutely certain with every step: I have a family! Who has more?

Does great grief also include a large stone?

“You know, she was actually the head of the family,” explains the foreign language secretary.

Does a great grief also include a great stone? Even the individual cremation in the animal crematorium was not cheap. We're not rich, says Gabriele Hörl. Zimmermann fetches a pair of tweezers and a bowl from which it glitters strongly between black velvet. He grasps the smallest diamond with tweezers, 0.1 carat, and speaks the empathetic, encouraging words: "0.1 carat is not as small as it sounds."

The bereaved of a small Spanish street cat looks thoughtfully at the miniature diamond. Offering such a small one was very important to Zimmermann because of the communism of death. Diamonds, one could say succinctly, are for the rich, but mourning is not a privilege of the wealthy, its diamonds are meant to be potentially for everyone. So 0.1 carat for 1450 euros. This is how it starts.

He needs more presses now

Zimmermann's diamond smithy is in Salzgitter. Until now, anyone who wanted a commemorative diamond always had to go abroad. Three countries have the technology to produce artificial diamonds, Russia, the USA and China. So Russia! But the Russians were very reserved: What reasons should we have for selling Russian high-tech to you of all people? Zimmermann listed the reasons. The answer was no. And again no. And again ... Zimmermann imposed a state of siege on the Russians. And won. They couldn't have a happier customer than Patrick Zimmermann. Except that he now needs more presses.

The goldsmith Norbert Strahler is sitting next door in his office. This is actually his shop, his workshop, and it was also a completely normal goldsmith's shop until Zimmermann asked him the diamond question almost three years ago. The undertaker once had his wedding rings made by Strahler. Art diamonds? Asked the goldsmith, and there was certainly condescension in working with real diamonds. But then he learned that “real” is not an easy term at all. There may be an incredible amount of real time in Strahlers “real” diamonds, but in those of Zimmermanns there is real sadness. And that's exactly why his stones require a highly individual setting. Strahler saw that.

Death is the violent breaking off of a social relationship

And his new customers know what they want: his colleagues have just made a bracelet out of wave and spray, and the diamond is in the spray. Everyone here is very proud of the white gold wave with white gold spray. Nobody asked them to do things like that before. And how the new customers take the jewelry in their hands! It's much more than just jewelry. Strahler likes to exceed their expectations.

Death is the sudden, violent breaking off of a social relationship. What right does a vain guest like him have to destroy something so valuable? It is important to build bridges between the living and the dead. Shouldn't everything be allowed that helps, almost everything? Because grief is individual, it is not the grief of the church, not that of the state. And one thing is clear: Those who have not been loved may go underground, but they never become a diamond.

Nersa Consuela de la Saragossa's family advised for a long time. Then, suddenly quite certain, she chose a 0.2-carat diamond, simply set on a delicate white gold chain.

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page