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Last Updated: Monday, 12 January, 2004, 12:38 GMT
Diamond memories of the dead
by Malcolm Prior
BBC News Online, Berkshire

To some, it's the perfect way of remembering a lost loved one.

One of the diamonds
The diamonds can be created from the carbon in human remains
To others, it borders on the morbid and tacky.

But bosses at LifeGem - the first UK firm to offer to turn cremated human remains into diamonds - say it all comes down to personal choice.

The company, operating in Hove, Sussex, but with a US parent, charges up to 11,000 to take a sample of ashes, extract the carbon and create a "memorial" diamond.

It has already signed up its first customers, the Tandy family from Reading, Berkshire, who contacted the firm through its website.

Some people may think it morbid or gimmicky. That is their choice, we think it's wonderful
Gayle Tandy
Gayle Tandy, 24, a crime analyst, is having the diamond created from the remains of her father, Brian, who died from heart disease in April 2003.

She said: "I miss dad every single day and I see having a part of his ashes made into a diamond as a way of keeping him close to me.

"We are not cranky people or looking for our five minutes of fame.

"We believe that this sort of thing is very personal and very personal to our family.

"Some people may think it morbid or gimmicky.

"That is their choice, we think it's wonderful."

Her mother, Lin, 51, said: "Brian was only 56 when he died suddenly in his sleep.

"When Gayle first mentioned the idea I was wary but the more you think about it, the more wonderful the idea becomes.

David Hampson
Mr Hampson is confident LifeGem will find a market in the UK
"Brian was a geologist and loved making jewellery from the stones he found so this couldn't be more of a fitting tribute."

A sample of Brian's ashes is currently in the US undergoing the six-month process needed to create the synthetic diamond.

During that process, the company says, the ashes are heated to produce graphite which is then placed into a diamond press and subjected to high pressures.

The diamond that comes out of the press is a raw crystal that is then polished and shaped.

The company guarantees that the diamond produced comes only from the relatives' ashes, which are dispatched by secure courier to America and given a 16-digit tracking number.

'Personal choice'

The managing director of LifeGem in the UK, David Hampson, told BBC News Online: "It's all about personal choice.

"Some people may think that it's not for them and we expect a lot of people will feel like that.

"But it really is a 21st Century version of Victorian mourning jewellery, of chopping off a piece of hair and putting it in a locket.

"People visit headstones and memorials because they act as a focal point.

"This gives people a mobile focal point. It's something that will never have to leave their sight."

Tim Morris, chief executive of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management, told BBC News Online: "The institute promotes choice and if this is something a bereaved person wants to do, who are we to say they shouldn't.

"We leave it to their discretion."


SEE ALSO:
Ashes turned into diamonds
22 Aug 02  |  Americas


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