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US Company Creates Diamond Keepsakes of Loved Ones

North Carolina homebuilder William Lucas, 51, wears a wedding ring studded with a one-third carat diamond. While diamonds are somewhat unusual in men's rings, that is not what makes this one special.

You see, the blue diamond Mr. Lucas wears was not formed deep in the earth, millions or billions of years ago. But it is carbon, incredibly compressed. What makes this and two other diamonds that Bill Lucas owns unusual is the source of the carbon.

These gems were formed from his late mother's ashes. Bill Lucas says they keep her memory close...and that, in life, Momma Luke, as he calls her, was radiant and priceless -- just like a precious jewel.

The stones are the creation of a company called LifeGem, based in Illinois, with sales offices in six countries around the world. So far, it has made more than 1,000 diamonds from human remains, for about 500 families. One family ordered 11 stones. Presumably its loved one was a large person.

The company's five-step process involves heat of more than 3,000 degrees Celsius and pressure of 70,000 kilograms per square centimeter. During the process, the complex carbon molecules don't burn up. They break down into simple carbon, and actually expand into stones that are then cooled, cut and polished.

Prices range from about $2,500 for a quarter-carat stone to $14,000 for a full-carat jewel.

With this new diamonds-from-the-dead option, there may have to be a slight revision to the old Book of Common Prayer recitation at certain Christian funerals: not "ashes to ashes" any more, but ashes to gems.