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LifeGem turns cremated pets and loved ones into wearable jewelry

A 14k gold hand-engraved ring selling online at LifeGem for $1,690,000. (irrproducts.com)A 14k gold hand-engraved ring selling online at LifeGem for $1,690,000. (irrproducts.com)Losing a pet really is like losing a family member and people have different ways of coping with their grief.

Some prefer to bury them in the backyard or a specially cordoned pet cemetery. Others go the cremation route. And a select few spend thousands of dollars to have Sparky's ashes transformed into jewelry.

LifeGem is a Chicago-based company that claims to turn cremated remains into wearable gems by transforming the carbon from ashes into man-made diamonds.

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"The LifeGem process begins by capturing carbon from the existing remains of any standard cremation," reads the explanation on the company's website.

"Once captured, this carbon is heated to extremely high temperatures under special conditions. While removing the existing ash, this process removes your loved one's carbon to graphite with unique characteristics and elements that will create your one-of-a-kind LifeGem diamond."

Since launching this service in 2002, customers can choose from a variety of gem colours and cuts and select the pendant or ring setting of their preference.

It's not for the cheap either. These diamonds are a serious business and can set you back anywhere from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars.

While the bulk of LifeGem's business comes from the transference of human remains, the Wall Street Journal reports that over 1,000 pet owners have requested that their dearly departed cats, dogs, rabbits, horses and even a lone armadillo, be converted into expensive accessories.  

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One of these pet owners is Boston resident Katie Pilon, who had her beloved cat Meowy's ashes turned into a beautiful, blue, two-diamond ring.

"It's a little eccentric—not something everyone would do," she tells the paper. "It's a way for me to remember my cat, and have her with me all the time."

LifeGem's CEO Greg Herro can relate.

"If you are reading this, you are going through one of life's toughest times right now. I know because I've been there. I've even questioned whether the love was worth this pain… but it was. She added more to my life than words could ever say," he writes on the Precious Pets section of the website.

"Nothing will ever replace our special bond, but my LifeGem does provide comfort through an everlasting connection to the one I have lost… I hope it will do the same for you and your wonderful pet."

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Naturally, the company's practices have been called into question by skeptics, many of whom wonder if vulnerable grievers are handing their money over to a group of charlatans.

Popular myth debunking website Snopes.com tackled the subject.

"Kenneth Poeppelmeier, a chemistry professor at Northwestern University, said there's no reason the process shouldn't work, and Avrum Blumberg, chemistry professor at DePaul University in Chicago, maintained that it is feasible to make a 'reasonably high-quality diamond' from the carbon in a cremated human," master debunker Barbara Mikkelson writes.

However, she continues, "it is impossible to distinguish LifeGem synthetic diamonds from other synthetic diamonds," meaning they could very well be churning out gemstones made from ordinary graphite instead of poor old Poochy.

Consensus: undetermined.

But if this sparkly memento helps someone cope with a truly devastating loss, perhaps that's worth every penny. 

Watch the video below about how intense grief can be after the loss of a pet or loved one. 

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