The creation of artificial diamonds is by now a well established process. It has been around since the 1950’s, but until quite recently the production of sizeable gem-quality diamonds was prohibitively expensive. As of 2003, however, improvements in the process and new technologies have lowered costs so much that at least two US companies have started making artificial diamonds for the jewelry trade.

Or at least there were two. Since there is cheap available technology for making artificial diamonds, there would not seem to be much room in the field for an exclusive hold on the market. However, one company, LifeGem, has come up with a different way to corner a clientele. Wait until they die.

LifeGem holds a patent on a process for extracting carbon from cremated remains. Human or pet, they take a few ounces of ashes, process it into graphite, and then using a high-pressure system, turn the graphite into diamonds – one or many, however the customer prefers. The original LifeGems were canary diamonds – yellow – but the company has since added blue to its line, and is actively investigating other colors. They also offer settings, so the customer can choose to wear their loved one on a ring, broach, or necklace. Based on the customer commentary, some people are choosing to combine gems from several sources into one piece of jewelry. Mom and Dad together forever on a ring, for instance.

The result is somehow reminiscent of Victorian mourning jewelry. The Victorian era saw mourning become high art, with prescribed clothing and jewelry. Ornaments, including broaches and watch-fobs made from elaborately knotted hair, became a highly fashionable way of showing the bereaved’s continuing attachment to their lost spouse, parent, or child. LifeGems are promoted in exactly this way, their site refers to the gems as an “everlasting connection to the one you have lost”, while the carbon recovered from the remains is referred to as “the true essence of your loved ones”. While some people find the idea of wearing a piece of a dead person, however processed, thoroughly creepy, LifeGem appears to have been doing a respectable amount of business. They report steadily increasing sales since they opened their doors, and in 2004 they opened LifeGem UK. Should some suitably famous person suffer bereavement and choose this visible form of mourning, the popularity of the option could readily explode. That is, after all, what happened in the original Victorian Era, with the 40-year mourning of Queen Victoria for her husband, Prince Albert.

So don’t be surprised if the next time you go to a funeral home, you see something that looks suspiciously like a jewelry catalogue lurking about. It just might be a pamphlet offering to let you wear your relatives forever.