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Industry Diamonds
Founded 2001
Headquarters Chicago, Illinois, USA
Key people
CEO - Greg Herro
Products Synthetic diamonds created from the remains of humans and animals.
Revenue $7.5 million (2006)
Number of employees

LifeGem is a diamond company based in Chicago. Established as the International Research & Recovery Corporation,[1] LifeGem was the first U.S. company to develop a way to extract carbon from human remains.[2] According to Dean VandenBiesen, speaking on the Stan and Terry show May 7, 2007, the company is 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,[1] 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.[4] In 2006, LifeGem had US$7.5 million in revenue. Projections for 2007 included an increased sales of 15% to 20%.[2] LifeGem's services are offered at over 580 of the nearly 20,000 funeral homes in the United States.

The gems[edit]

These synthetic diamonds are touted as "memorial diamonds" and range in price from USD $3,499 for 0.20–0.29 carat (40 to 59 mg) stones to $19,999 for stones weighing 0.90–0.99 carats (180–199 mg). The company can extract enough purified carbon from a single cremated human body to synthesize up to 50 gems weighing one carat (200 mg) each, or up to 100 diamonds of smaller size, while sending remaining ashes to the family.[5] Diamonds made from the remains of pets are priced the same as those made from human remains, but the size of the animal may be a limiting factor. According to Rusty van den Biesen, when enough carbon is not present in the sample, extraneous carbon is added.[6] As of March 2005, LifeGem said it had served 1,000 customers since the company's founding.

The process[edit]

The carbon from the remains is converted to graphite after purification,[7] 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, and LifeGem now produces yellow, blue, white (clear), red, and green 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.[8]

Process controversy[edit]

The gem creation process they describe in their marketing literature and the technical process they describe in their patents have several important differences. This led to a discussion on the PriceScope forum (a gem industry board) about the feasibility of producing gems using the processes described in their marketing literature.[9] The PriceScope discussion runs for many pages and is summarized in a post on[10]

The corpse contact problem is a religious one especially for Jews and some Christians in matters concerning spiritual uncleanness issues in Numbers 9:6, 19:11-13, and Haggai 2:13 for example.


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] Three diamonds were created partially from 130 mg of carbon extracted from 10 strands of hair from the remains of Ludwig van Beethoven,[12] and partially from added carbon. One of the three diamonds was listed for auction on eBay for US $1,000,000.00, with the proceeds to be donated to assist underprivileged children. [11] The diamond was eventually sold for US $202,700[13] after 62 bids on eBay[citation needed]. One of the other two diamonds was given to John Reznikoff, provider of the Beethoven hair sample, to be stored at the University Archives,[12] and the final diamond is being kept by LifeGem to start a LifeGem "Chain of Fame".[14]


Several companies offer memorial diamonds, including:

  • Algordanza, a company based in Switzerland [15]
  • Heart-In Diamond, a company based in UK [16]
  • Instituto de Monocristales[17] (amber, yellow, green, blue, colorless)
  • New Life Diamonds and Gems[18]
  • Phoenix-Diamonds a company based in Macclesfield, United Kingdom [19]


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]