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Home --> Science --> Diamonds are Forever

Diamonds are Forever

Claim:   Your loved one's cremains can be turned into diamonds.

Status:   Undetermined.

Origins:   In August 2002, LifeGem, a company based in Chicago, announced that it had developed a Diamond process whereby cremated remains could be rendered into synthetic diamonds. According to the company, the process involves choice pickings from the dear departed's being subjected to lots of heat and high pressure and takes about four months to complete.

We don't know if LifeGem is for real or not, but what little it describes of the process it uses to render its "created diamonds" dovetails with how industrial diamonds are made, which is subjecting graphite to extremely high heat and pressure. Synthetic, or man-made, diamonds have been manufactured from carbon since the mid-1950s, when General Electric Co. developed the process for making small diamonds for industrial uses. In the mid-1990s, gemstone-quality synthetics began to appear.

Could cremains (which are a mixed bag of elements) be used as the raw material for fashioning synthetic diamonds? Kenneth Poeppelmeier, a chemistry professor at Northwestern University, said there's no reason the process shouldn't work, and Avrum Blumberg, a
chemistry professor at DePaul University in Chicago, maintained that it is feasible to make a "reasonably high-quality diamond" from the carbon in a cremated human. Greg Herro, head of LifeGem Memorials, claims that their diamonds are not just "reasonably high-quality," but are of the same quality as "you would find at Tiffany's."

Whatever the true feasibility of turning cremains into synthetic diamonds, it might be best to view that question as a bit of misdirection intended to distract attention from the query that should be forefront in anyone's mind. As Mark Gershburg, director of European Gemological Laboratory (an independent laboratory that vouches for the quality of diamonds), points out, it is impossible to distinguish LifeGem synthetic diamonds from other synthetic diamonds. If that's the case, what stops LifeGems from producing synthetic diamonds from ordinary graphite, then passing them off as a bit of your dear uncle Harry? Indeed, what stops them from buying synthetic diamonds from other suppliers and reselling them to the bereaved at large mark-ups? Given that LifeGem is offering its "created diamonds" for prices ranging from $4,000 to $22,000 for a quarter-carat up to a full carat, such a question should give any prospective buyer signficant pause.

Barbara "jewel of denial" Mikkelson

Additional information:
    LifeGem web site   LifeGem web site
Last updated:   21 July 2007

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  Sources Sources:
    Dorfman, Brad.   "Diamonds Are Forever, and You Could Be Too."
    Reuters.   21 August 2002.

    Kreiter, Marcella.   "Company to Make Diamonds Out of Cremations."
    United Press International.   21 August 2002.

    Tatum, Christine.   "Anyone Can Sparkle in the Afterlife, for a Price."
    Chicago Tribune.   20 August 2002.

    The Associated Press.   "For a Few Thousand Dollars, You Can Sparkle Forever."
    22 August 2002.