Diamonds emerge from cremated ashes

By Richard Snowden

Letting go of a lost loved one can be a painful and difficult process.

Dean VandenBiesen is working to make that process a little bit easier.

In 2001, VandenBiesen co-founded LifeGem, an Elk Grove Village-based company that provides a unique service to people who have lost a loved one.

“We create a diamond that is made by using carbon that is extracted from cremated remains,” VandenBiesen said. “It’s done as a memorial to a person who has died.”

So how much does it cost?

LifeGem offers these unusual diamonds in several different styles, ranging from a low-carat yellow diamond priced at $2,699 to a high-carat blue diamond that costs $19,999.

“We also offer pre-planning services, such as funeral planning for someone who wants to do a LifeGem,” VandenBiesen said. “But our mainstay is making the diamonds themselves.”

In terms of pricing, LifeGem’s service generally costs about the same as a traditional funeral service, according to VandenBiesen.

“People typically hold a service where they bury a loved one in a casket, which is comparable in price to our service,” he said. “That casket will be buried and left to decay, whereas a diamond made from cremated remains will last and can even be passed on to future generations.”

As opposed to a standard cremation, in which the ashen remains are usually kept or scattered, the LifeGem service is designed to provide a lasting memorial for the bereaved.

“In a typical cremation, people might scatter their loved one’s ashes, which can add to the grief of losing the physical connection with a loved one,” VandenBiesen said. “Others keep the ashes in an urn for years and wonder what to do with them. But having a diamond memorializes a loved one more permanently because diamonds are forever.”

Too bizarre for some?

Upon learning about the service provided by LifeGem, some people initially find the idea somewhat bizarre, VandenBiesen explained.

“When some people hear about our service, they think it’s a little crazy at first,” he said. “But with a lot of people, after they’re exposed to the idea and come to understand what we do and why, they change their minds, often pretty quickly. We see it all the time.”

Although LifeGem has served a wide variety of customers, VandenBiesen said the clientele tends to be mostly female.

“Our clients are mostly women who had a very close relationship with their husbands, even fathers in some cases,” he said. “They tend to want to keep that person close to them, so they appreciate the service we provide.”

Business has been brisk for LifeGem over the past couple of years, which is a trend the company expects to continue.

“Our business tripled between last year and this year,” VandenBiesen said. “I’d estimate that about 1,000 people will use our service this year and we expect the numbers to keep growing.”