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Cremation diamonds: straw into gold; ashes into diamonds

Caveat Emptor: Let the buyer beware.

New Albany’s Van Atkins Jewelers, famous far and wide for beautiful creations, proves every day that the love of beauty added to the desire to commemorate a special occasion can equal the creation of something worthy of passing down through generations. The merchant’s integrity ensures value received for money spent. 

But what happens when the “integrity” catalyst is missing from that equation?

The darker side of sentiment

In answer to that question, we give you the LifeGem Company, proving yet again that “truth is stranger than fiction.”  Since 2007, this Australian firm with Chicago-based offices has been offering those who’ve lost loved ones the ability to have “certified, high-quality memorial diamonds” made from their beloved’s cremated remains, sometimes called “cremains.”  According to their website, LifeGem is there for those times when: “You have had someone truly special in your life and mere words simply will not do.” LifeGem is not the only provider of memorial diamonds, but is among the oldest and, for our purposes, will serve to represent the industry.

Choose your final product, wait a few weeks for the production, and wear your memorial diamond in the setting of our choice.

Choose your final product, wait a few weeks to a few months for the production, and wear your memorial diamond in the setting of our choice.

LifeGem customers can choose from selections of potential diamonds ranging from clear to red in color, from 0.2 to 1.5 carats in size and from roughly $3000 to over $25,000 in price. Unlike Mother Nature, LifeGem seems able to guarantee both the final color and the size of its diamonds. Blue diamonds take longer and cost more, so plan ahead if that is your choice. According to their literature, over 100 diamonds (of unspecified size) can be created from the entire created remains of a human being, but they can also use a lock of hair to perform this modern miracle. Other memorial diamond producers state that the diamonds vary in color depending on characteristics of the ashes, and are, more or less, beyond their control.

 Additionally, should the ash received contain insufficient carbon to produce the desired diamond, no problem. “Extraneous” carbon will be added. In the best case scenario, there is a little of your loved one’s carbon in the diamond; worst case scenario, you are paying dearly for a stone produced with extraneous carbon from unknown sources.

How about just finding a trustworthy jeweler, selecting  a nice piece of jewelry, and wearing it proudly in honor of your loved one?

Rumpelstiltskin, spinning straw into gold

Rumpelstiltskin, spinning straw into gold

“…we turn ashes into diamonds and hair into diamonds…”

From whence this vision of Rumpelstiltskin, spinning straw into gold?

If you have no usable settings available for this purpose, LifeGem has that covered, too. Straight from their web page we learn that, “Of course, not only do we turn ashes into diamonds and hair into diamonds, we also have a full line of cremation jewelry, rings, and pendants to accent your beautiful LifeGem cremation diamond.” Bless ’em, they’ve thought of everything! 

No worries, either, about the value and authenticity of your memorial, because LifeGem has its own gemologists who cut the stone and also certify its authenticity and value. Good to know.

These diamonds are basically industrial diamonds. High quality industrial diamonds cannot be differentiated from natural diamonds with the naked eye. They may even have less inclusions than natural stones, and carat for carat, can cost far less.  However, their long-term value is not as strong, so the client is largely paying for sentiment. The question then becomes how much, if any, of the deceased is actually present in that stone.

Veracity issues in the cremation memorial industry

LifeGEm touted this image as part of their diamond-producing labortories, but it was found that this image was actually taken in 2002 at a Russian diamond lab that disavowed any connection to LifeGem, and stated that this image has been in the public domain for years. When confronted with these facts, LifeGem admitted that they actually owned no diamond presses, and that ashes are "sent to Russia."

Early on, LifeGEm touted this image as part of their diamond-producing laboratories, but it was found that this image was actually taken in 2002 at a Russian diamond lab that disavowed any connection to LifeGem, and stated that this image has been in the public domain for years. When confronted with these facts, LifeGem admitted that they actually owned no diamond presses, and that ashes are “sent to Russia.”

LifeGem has had a problem narrowing down the exact location of its production labs in the past. Early images on the internet and in its advertising literature, which were purported to be photos of “part” of their labs, were proven to be ‘public domain’ images of a Russian laboratory that makes industrial diamonds, and which disavowed any knowledge of, or connection with, LifeGem. When confronted with the facts, LifeGem finally admitted that, in spite of their claims, that these were not their diamond making presses and that they did not actually own any diamond making presses. In fact, when you purchase a LifeGem cremation diamond, the ashes of your loved one are supposedly sent to Russia for processing. This original image, seen at left, is still featured in some of their on-line advertising, despite having been discredited.

The lack of specificity and standardization of required sample sizes, the varying collection techniques, the addition of “extraneous” carbon, etc. should all give any thinking person pause for thought. But that is the issue: people are not known to be especially clear thinking when it comes to the loss of a loved one.

Some of these “memorials” can be purchased for less than the cost of many funerals. Perhaps LifeGem could look into the option of accepting non-cremated human remains for their process. Their memorial diamonds would be much more affordable were the beloved’s  left-behind loved ones spared the expense of a funeral.

The ancestor-venerating  Japanese account for up to 25% of cremation diamond sales, often buying multiple stones to share among loved ones, but most buyers say the primary impetus behind their purchase is economic–to avoid the cost of purchasing and caring for burial sites over the years.

And don’t forget your pets

Phoenix Memorials: the DIgby diamond

Phoenix Memorials: the Digby diamond

If you are an animal lover, you may be happy to know that these memorial diamonds can also be produced from the remains of a beloved pet. Miraculously, available selections and prices for pet diamonds are the same as for humans. The Phoenix Memorials company advertises, “Loved ones and pets rising from the ashes.”  

Never mind the fact that all those dollars donated to a shelter or humane society could improve the lives of many animals still on this side of the “rainbow bridge.”

With all these choices, many possible scenarios come to mind. Think of the long-suffering widow,  now sporting a glamorous new cocktail ring derived from her coon-hunting husband and all his “beloved” dogs; jewels enough for a queen in the future of the neighborhood “cat lady”; no-kill pet shelters financed by selling diamonds from shelters that are…not so progressive. How big a leap can it be to mood rings whereby your former “beloved” guides your daily life choices?

The possibilities are endless. As Marilyn Monroe avowed in “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds,” it could even be true that your “Diamonds were a Girl’s Best Friend!”

 

For a few more details on the industry: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/the-man-who-transforms-corpses-into-diamonds

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