The LifeGem® Man Made Diamond
Man made or synthetic diamonds are “grown” in a laboratory via one of two methods: high pressure, high temperature (HPHT); or chemical vapor deposition (CVD). The processes produce different types of diamonds for different purposes. Both process produce diamonds mostly for industry and technology, although in 2001 a new company, LifeGem® emerged onto the jewelry market with a “gemstone” quality stone produced by HPHT.
HPHT simulates the earth’s conditions required in making a naturally occurring diamond, taking basic carbon, subjecting it to high heat and pressure to produce a synthetic diamond. LifeGem® has modified this method, and by using carbonized remains from a lost loved one, specifically from hair of the deceased, can create a memorial gemstone.
In an industry normally focused on gems for engagements, weddings and anniversaries, LifeGem® focuses instead on creating a tribute to lost loved ones. Founded in 2001 by Greg Herro, Mike Herro, Rusty VandenBiesen, and Dean VandenBiesen; the company is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, with a second office recently opened in Hove, England.
LifeGem® is available worldwide directly from the company, and through funeral home business partners. Specifically geared to provide families a unique and highly personalized way to honor loved ones, the company created the LifeGem diamond.
The diamonds, precise duplicates of natural diamonds in optical and physical properties, range in price from $2,500 for 0.20–0.29 carat stones to $14,000 for stones weighing 0.90–0.99 carats. The company can extract enough purified carbon from one human body to synthesize up to 50 gems weighing one carat each. As little as 227 grams of remains are needed to make one diamond. LifeGem® also offers memorial diamonds made from pets, but the size of the animal may be a limiting factor. As of March 2005, LifeGem reports that is has served 1,000 families since the company's founding.
The technology for creating a LifeGem® consists of a special high-nitrogen, low oxygen atmosphere. Carbon is extracted from the human hair and heated to extremely high temperatures to purify it. This process creates graphite which is then placed into the HPHT press. The diamonds are created at pressures of 5.0- 6.0 GPa (giga pascals) and temperatures of 1,600-2,000 degrees Celsius. The longer the graphite is in the press, the larger the rough diamond crystal that results.
Due to boron impurities present in the carbon, most LifeGem® synthetic diamonds produced up to 2003 were a light to medium blue. Iron flux inclusions within the stones also rendered them magnetic. The synthesis process has since been modified. Current production consists of strong yellow to golden yellow and blue diamonds.
Once the diamond is grown, skilled diamond cutters facet the LifeGem® according to the family’s specifications. Three standard diamond cuts are offered to customers: Round brilliant, radiant (rectangular), and princess (square). A unique identifier is laser etched onto the stone’s girdle. Then a gemologist trained by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), inspects, grades and identifies the stone. The LifeGem® is then given a certificate of authenticity. The process takes a long time, depending on the color of stone requested. Yellow stones require 24 weeks (6 months). Blue colored stones can take up to 9 months.
Unlike other man made diamonds that use a random carbon source, LifeGem® uses a human’s unique carbon structure and creates a one-of-a-kind gem. LifeGem® is truly a personalized tribute to love.
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