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HeadquartersChicago, Illinois
Key peopleCEO - Greg Herro
ProductsSynthetic diamonds created from the remains of humans and animals.
Revenue$7.5 million (2006)

LifeGem is the world's first company offering to synthesize diamonds from the carbonized remains of people or pets. Established as the International Research & Recovery Corporation,[1] LifeGem was the first U.S. company to develop a way to extract carbon from remains.[2] According to Dean VandenBiesen, speaking on the Stan and Terry show May 7, 2007, the company recently became able to create a diamond from a lock of hair[3]. The company was founded in 2001 by Greg Herro, Mike Herro, Rusty VandenBiesen, and Dean VandenBiesen[4], and was first based in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. It is now headquartered in Chicago and a second office, under the name LifeGem UK, was recently opened in Hove, England.[5] In 2006, LifeGem had US$ 7.5 million in revenue, and is experiencing more calls coming in from international customers in Japan, the Netherlands and Australia. Projections for 2007 included an increased sales of 15% to 20%.[6] LifeGem's services are offered at over 580 of the nearly 20,000 funeral homes in the United States. [7]


The gems

These synthetic diamonds—precisely duplicate natural diamonds in both optical and physical properties—are touted as "memorial diamonds" and range in price from USD $2,500 for 0.20–0.29 carat (40 to 59 mg) stones to $14,000 for stones weighing 0.90–0.99 carats (180–199 mg). The company can extract enough purified carbon from one human body to synthesize up to 50 gems weighing one carat (0.2 g) each. As little as 227 g of remains are needed to make one diamond, and up to 100 diamonds can be created from the remains of one individual.[8] Diamonds made from the cremains of pets are priced the same as those made from human remains, but the size of the animal may be a limiting factor. As of March 2005, LifeGem says it has served 1,000 families since the company's founding.

The process

The carbon from the remains is converted to graphite after purification[9], from which point it is placed in a diamond synthesis press. The diamonds are made via the thermal gradient method using alloys as a flux at pressures of 5.0–6.0 GPa and temperatures of 1,600–2,000 °C. The entire process, from cremation to finished stone, takes up to six months for yellow LifeGem diamonds and up to nine months for blue LifeGem diamonds.

Due to boron impurities present in the carbon, most LifeGem synthetic diamonds produced up to 2003 were Type IIb and were a light to medium blue in colour. Iron flux inclusions within the stones also rendered them magnetic. The synthesis process has since been modified: Current production consists of strong yellow to golden yellow and Type IIb blue diamonds.

Three standard diamond cuts are offered to customers: Round brilliant, radiant, and princess (the latter two cuts are rectangular and square in outline, respectively). The finished stones are laser inscribed with an identifier, graded by gemologists, and are given a signed certificate of authenticity which contains a LifeGem ID#. The client also gets a report with a GIA serial number, a description of the stone's color, and the fact that it was lab-produced.[10]


In September 2007, LifeGem announced the completion and auction of the Ludwig Van Beethoven LifeGem diamond - a blue .56 ct round brilliant diamond which was the first ever created from the carbon of a celebrity or historical figure.[11] Created from a lock of hair from the remains of Ludwig Van Beethoven, the Beethoven LifeGem was to be auctioned on eBay for US $1,000,000.00 with the proceeds donated to assist underprivileged children. [12]

The winning bid ended up being US $202,700 after 62 bids on Ebay. The diamond was one of three total created from Beethoven's remains, with the second one belonging to John Reznikoff, provider of the Beethoven hair sample, and the final diamond being kept by LifeGem to start a LifeGem "Chain of Fame". [13]


Some criticism occurred in an article on, however, Alex Grizenko, president of Lucent Diamonds Inc. - a manufacturer of synthetic diamonds - has stated that LifeGem will eventually evolve into an important component of the synthetic diamond market. [14] And experts in the field of grief recovery have stated that the 'gag reflex' criticism to LifeGem will not be enough to cause LifeGem or any imitator that comes along in its wake to fail.[15]


There appears to be only one other company that offers any competition to LifeGem. That company is GemSmart, a San Diego, California based company which has been in business since 2002.[16]


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  • Gallegos, D., Wolfe, R. (2005). Sparkling in memory. Retrieved 12 April, 2005 from,1413,36~33~2771085,00.html.
  • Laurs, B. M., Overton, T. W. (2003). LifeGem synthetic diamonds. Gems & Gemology, Vol. 39 No. 1., p. 62. Gemological Institute of America.
  • Novotny, M. (2005). The ultimate family jewel. MSNBC News: Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Retrieved 12 April, 2005 from
  • Jones, N. (2006). Blunt Ashes. Hip-Hop is Dead.

See also

  • Cremation
  • Memorial
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "LifeGem". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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