Mike Leidig
Phone: + 43 - 1 - 811 40 - 319
Fri, 07.03.2003
pte20030307021 Science/Technology, Health/Medicine
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Diamonds to remember the dead
'Lifegem' service turns corpses into keepsakes

Munich/ Chicago (pte021/07.03.2003/12:29) - Mourning relatives are turning to German lab technicians who have been turning the dearly departed into diamonds that last forever as part of a bizarre new funeral service.

Expensive artificial diamonds are nothing new since boffins first put pure carbon under enormous pressure in the 1950s to make man-made diamonds.

But the term man-made has taken on a whole new meaning with the idea of using carbon from the human body to make the precious jewels.

The company LifeGem is the first in the world to offer to immortalise friends and relatives by making them into diamonds that can be worn as jewellery. They have even worked out ways to colour the diamonds red, yellow or blue as well as the regular crystal clear variety and each body can make up to 100 gems.

The 'Lifegem' service is especially popular in the US where legal restrictions mean mourning relatives have to export their loved ones remains to Germany so that they can be made into diamonds.

The idea was the brainchild of two brothers from Chicago, Illinois, who founded the company and then teamed up with a German lab in Munich to turn human remains into diamonds. The company has refused to disclose the name of the German lab. They started offering the service after initial trials with dead pigs produced perfect diamonds and showed the process really worked.

Founder Dean Vanden Biesen (corr), 39, said: "It was my brother Russell who really came up with the idea. We were talking one day about mortality and ways of remembering the dead, and the traditional methods of burial or keeping ashes in an urn just didn't sit right with him. Russell believed that husbands, wives and other loved ones were to be cherished even after death and he didn't think that traditional ways enabled people to do that."

Russell, 33, added: "I just wanted something new and modern as a way of remembering loved ones.

"Carbon makes up around a quarter of the human body and diamonds are also made of carbon, so it made perfect sense to try to create a man-made diamond out of the body's carbon."

The body is cremated to extract the powdered carbon, which is then collected and sealed in an air-tight container marked with a serial number that corresponds to the deceased person. It is then sent to the German lab where the diamond is made by subjecting the carbon to enormous pressure.

Russell said: "Natural diamonds occur after millions of years. We recreate the same exact forces that nature uses, but speed them up to be able to make a diamond in as little as a week. A very high temperature of 3,000 degrees centigrade is needed and pressure of several thousand atmospheres."

He added that the total transformation from cremation to finished diamond took at least eight weeks. The company hopes to open a new office in the UK soon.

The cost of the procedure starts at 2,500 pounds for a single blue-coloured quarter carat diamond with discounts for multiple diamonds. The most expensive diamond on offer is a one and a quarter ruby-coloured diamond worth 18,000 pounds. Each stone comes with a certificate of authenticity by the European Gemological Laboratories - and a free grief counselling session for the bereaved.

The service is also available to pets. Russell said: "For many people pets are as much a part of the family as anyone else and they want to remember them in the same way. Every day we receive calls from people enquiring about our pet service. We have already had one woman signing up to have her 11-year-old dog transformed into a diamond when he dies."

Submitter: pressetext.europe
Contact: Mike Leidig
Phone: + 43 - 1 - 811 40 - 319