By Elisa Black-Taylor
I have a question for all of you today. Would you turn your deceased cat into jewelry? I sent Michael an email last week stating this could easily be the most bizarre story I’ve ever written. I’m not here to say I agree or disagree with this new form of “keepsake.” Only to report this option is available for those who like the idea and have lots of money to spare.
LifeGem has a website at lifegem.com, and has been reported on by popular shows such as Inside Edition, The Today Show, The Tonight Show(that one would REALLY have been interesting) and Live With Regis & Kelly. They are the worlds first company to offer synthesized diamonds made from the carbonized remains of humans or pets using hair and/or ashes to create memorial diamonds.
LifeGem was founded in 2001 by Greg Herro, Mike Herro, Rusty VandenBlesen and Dean VandenBlesen and was based out of Elk Grove Village, Illinois. The headquarters is now in Chicago and they also have branches in Hove, England under the name LifeGem UK. They also have an office in Australia, although I’m not sure of the exact location. Victoria is mentioned in one of their ads. In the U.S., their services are offered at more than 500 funeral homes.
I would like to tell the readers I’ve known about this company since the summer of 2009. There was a segment being done about the company on one of the shows I was watching with my ex as we sat together in his home. My ex was in the end stage of lung cancer and I stayed with him as much as possible. I still remember the segment coming on, as it immediately caught our attention. My ex. was still trying to decide how he wanted his “remains” handled after his death.
We were able to joke a lot at that point, so I turned to him and told him that’s what I wanted to do with his ashes after his cremation. I remember him looking at me and saying “you CAN’T be serious!” I started laughing and pointing out the benefits of turning him into a diamond. The main one being I wouldn’t have to visit his grave or keep up with an urn. I’d always have him with me, in the form of a diamond on my finger. Sometimes I believe that’s the sole reason he didn’t make me beneficiary of his life insurance policy. He was really afraid I’d do this. Especially after I added I’d turn him into a “black” diamond since most of his existence was spent in a bad mood.
Apparently a lot of families have the same thought in mind, including the companions of deceased cats. What better tribute to a cat than to have a piece of jewelry made and to wear that jewelry to celebrate your love for that pet? One lady who heard about LifeGems went so far as to dig up her deceased cat, had the cat cremated then made into a LifeGem. Others take cremation ashes they have of their cat and have done at a later time. I imagine turning your cat into a ring would take a bit of thinking about. Especially since the cost can range from $1400 (unverified-the LifeGem site lists lowest price as $2490) to over $25,000!
There’s a lot to consider to turning the deceased into a gemstone. First of all is the cost. A 1.5 carat red stone is listed at $24,000. Next there is wait time-six to nine months being average, as the stones have to mimic the carbon process of real diamonds. About eight ounces of ashes are needed, which are then combined with other carbons, then super-pressed and superheated to 3,000 degrees over months. The family can track the diamonds progress.
The company has come under fire a bit over the years. They do offer a guarantee and each stone includes a certificate of authenticity. Questions such as being sure one order isn’t done at the same time as another would be one concern.
The company does provide a service to those left behind to grieve. If I’d had the money to do so, my ex would be sitting happily on the ring finger of my left hand, and my dog Dreyfuss would be on my right hand. I believe cost rather than ethics would influence the purchase of a LifeGem keepsake for most of us. Let’s face it: $25,000 would be better spent on our living pets.
Family members now wearing the “family jewels” state it’s a comfort to know their loved one is so close at hand(excuse the pun). This includes those who turn their pets into jewelry. It’s a way of dealing with grief for those who choose this form of remembrance.
There’s plenty of info on the LifeGems website for those of you interested in this option. Far too much information to go into in this article. Along with prices, there are testimonials and samples of their work.
Comments anyone? Have any of you ever done this with a loved one or with a deceased pet? Or do you feel this is totally off the wall wrong, as well as disrespectful. I’m just curious.