Investigation Report: LifeGem 2007

Something to think about when you are at your most vulnerable time of your life?


As an insurance adjuster with several years in the field of forensic gemology and insurance fraud investigations, I admit that I have become a bit jaded to some of the unregulated claims of certain members of the jewelry industry.  But this one is something different. Something a bit more sinister, more macabre, than the usual.  Something that pulls at the heart strings of everyone who has lost a loved one, and that uses grief to sell what is purported to be diamonds made from human remains.  


But here are the questions that have been bugging me ever since the first report of this LifeGem® process was announced.


#1. I have handled jewelry salvage from home fires for years. And I know that many house fires can easily reach the 1400 to 1800 degree F temperature range. And diamonds (carbon) burn up at around 1800 degrees F. Meaning that when we looked for the salvage jewelry, the gold was there, the rubies were there, the sapphires were there, but the diamonds had burnt up in a flash of smoke in the fire.


So….if a human body is cremated at temperatures between 1400 degrees and 1800 degrees F according to the ICFA, and we know that carbon is burned and consumed at this same temperature, how can there be any carbon left in the cremated human body to create a diamond? But we’ll come back to this one.


#2. This is a tricky one. The processes used to create synthetic diamonds are difficult to produce and require very specific conditions. You either have to use High Temperature and High Pressure that emulates conditions below the earth. Or else you use what is called Chemical Vapor Deposition that uses methane gas and hydrogen to create carbon rain on a seed plate that creates a diamond.  You can use a peanut to make diamonds using HPHT. But the LifeGem® folks don’t say they use HPHT. They say they use “sublimation” which is a cool term for CVD. The only problem that we will see later is that the CVD process cannot use human tissue, cooked or otherwise, to create a diamond in the methods that LifeGem® claims in their brochures or their patent application.


So, I thought we would take a serious look at the LifeGem® claims and see if there is something we can uncover to get some answers. But very important……


Every insurance adjuster, underwriter, agent, jeweler, gemologist, and appraiser needs to read this very carefully. Because one day you are going to get asked to repair, grade, appraise, insure, or handle a claim for one of these….and you are going to need the information I am about to provide.

First, what is it?

 This is LifeGem®. A company that claims to offer solace to the grieving by turning your newly departed loved one into “a certified, high-quality diamond created from the carbon of your loved one as a memorial to their unique life.


And the process is presented as so loving, so easy, and so caring. They claim that you will have a diamond made exclusively from the carbon from your loved one:


LifeGem diamonds are created individually from your specific carbon source in our patented process.”

 And very important, they will use the ashes from any standard cremation to create your LifeGem:

 “This process of creating a LifeGem begins with a portion of the cremated remains from any standard cremation.  From here, we extract the carbon to begin the LifeGem diamond creation process.”

And they even give you a step by step rendition of the process that states:


Step 1. Carbon Capture

After extensive research and development, we have discovered how to extract the carbon from a lock of hair or existing cremated remains. This process begins with either an amount of hair collected during a routine hair cut, or a small portion of the remains from any standard cremation.



They claim to be able to make a HUGE number of diamonds from each of your dear departed’s:


“Our process is so streamlined, we are able to create over 100 certified, high-quality LifeGem diamonds as memorials for each family if they so choose.”

And the order instructions are easy as all you need to do is open up the urn with Dear Old Dad’s ashes and:

 Step 4 Package and Secure

 ….If sending cremated remains, separate out NO MORE THAN 8 ounces (about 1 Cup) and tightly secure in a plastic bag or other plastic container. DO NOT send all of the remains. 


And the Testimonials are just heart wrenching

"Just thinking about Gerry's diamond gives me a warm feeling; it's almost as though he's going to be coming home again."

"Thank you so very is absolutely stunning. I opened the box, and there it was..the exact color of my mother's eyes!"


"The Blue LifeGem sparkles with radiant light as my dear mother did while on earth."


Well, I hate to say it, lady, but that is most likely not your Mom that you are looking at. Seems that a serious look at the LifeGem® product is going to leave a lot of questions in a lot of people’s minds about exactly what they are wearing….not who.


What the LifeGem® documents really say:


If we let all of the promotional brochures go for now, and delve into the actual US Patent Office records, the story changes dramatically. And I mean very dramatically from the promotional brochure. All full of yucky stuff that I really don’t think the LifeGem® folks want consumers to know about. But you all as jewelers, gemologists, appraisers and insurance professionals really need to know this because repairs, appraisals and claims are coming your way based on the number of these diamonds being sold.


I am going to simply cut and paste the information out of the United States Patent Office Application filed by the LAW OFFICES OF MARK E WIEMELT, PC  10 SOUTH LASALLE STREET #3500, CHICAGO    IL 60603 on behalf of VandenBiesen, Russell P.; (Naperville, IL) ; Herro, Gregory R.; (Chicago, IL) ; VandenBiesen, Dean T.; (Oshkosh, WI).

These involve two US Patent Applications: 20030017932 

Special 2007 Report on Life Gem claims....

United States Patent Application


Kind Code


VandenBiesen, Russell P. ;   et al.

January 23, 2003

And 20040031434 

United States Patent Application


Kind Code


VandenBiesen, Russell P. ;   et al.

February 19, 2004

And the World Intellectual Property Organization file

Pub. No.: 









International Application No.: 





Publication Date: 


International Filing Date: 


Chapter 2 Demand Filed: 06.02.2003








B01J 3/06 (2006.01), C30B 23/00 (2006.01)





1987 Golden Gate Lane
, Naperville , IL 60563 (US).
HERRO, Gregory, R. [US/US]; 2721 N. Wilton,
1N, Chicago , IL 60614 (US).
734 Powers Street
, Oshkosh , WI 54901 (US).


(US). [US/US]; 2721 N. Wilton, , Chicago , IL 60614 (US). [US/US]; (US). (US). [US/US]; 2721 N. Wilton, , Chicago , IL 60614 (US). [US/US]; (US). (US). [US/US]; 2721 N. Wilton, , Chicago , IL 60614 (US). [US/US]; (US).





1987 Golden Gate Lane
, Naperville , IL 60563 (US).
HERRO, Gregory, R. [US/US]; 2721 N. Wilton,
1N, Chicago , IL 60614 (US).
734 Powers Street
, Oshkosh , WI 54901 (US).


(US). [US/US]; 2721 N. Wilton, , Chicago , IL 60614 (US). [US/US]; (US). (US). [US/US]; 2721 N. Wilton, , Chicago , IL 60614 (US). [US/US]; (US). (US). [US/US]; 2721 N. Wilton, , Chicago , IL 60614 (US). [US/US]; (US).


WIEMELT, Mark, E.; Law Offices of Mark E. Wiemelt, P.C., Suite 3500, 10 South LaSalle Street, Chicago, IL 60603 (US).

Priority Data:

























With all of the legal stuff out of the way, here is a breakdown of what is really going on. And rather than try to go back and forth on this, I am simply going to go through and provide you with quotes right out of the patent applications. You can decide for yourself if you believe that you can really just dip up an 8 ounce cup of Dear Old Dad’s ashes and send him off to be made into as many diamonds as you want. First, a definition: Unabridged (v 1.1) - Cite This Source - Share This

graph·i·tize                                           /ˈgræf   ɪˌtaɪz/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[graf-i-tahyz]

to convert into graphite.  


Go look at your pencil to see some graphite.  Remember this, it will be important later.    

Now, the LifeGem folks claim that they use “any standard cremated remains” and “or a small portion of the remains from any standard cremation.” in their brochure.

But in their patent application they say this won’t work because: [0043] “Since conventional cremation eliminates most of the native carbon,….”


This is what I sort of thought to begin with. So what do they recommend?  Some very unconventional cremation actions that most families might not approve of if they knew about it being done to their loved ones. Here are a few recommended LifeGem® steps used in retrieving carbon from a loved one that may surprise you….

“The preferred process for collection begins with the oven operator positioning the body in the oven so that the head and chest area are not positioned directly underneath the main burner. This can be accomplished by positioning the body to the left or right side of the main burner, or positioning the body so that the legs and feet are underneath the main burner rather than the head and torso. Positioning the body in this manner assures that carbon will remain in the body's head area. The carbon can then be gathered by hand, or by using a metal shovel or scoop, or the like.”


Geez….let me get a mental image of that while wearing my LifeGem®. That’s a long way from just scooping up 8 ounces of Dear Old Dad’s ashes.


Or you can cremate just a part of Dear Old Dad and leave the rest for LifeGem:

“Alternatively, one or more body parts may be cremated.”


Or just cook until the good stuff starts to show:


“After combustion of the remains has progressed to the point of revealing carbonized remains such as organ tissue, the operator separates the carbonized remains from the rest of the remains.”


I guess that metal shovel will come in handy again.  And what about those cup full’s of ashes that you send in:


“…the remains can be cremated conventionally, mixed with additional carbon from another source, and purified as described above. It is contemplated that, using this technique, a gem containing at least some of the original carbon from the cremated remains can be prepared, even if the amount of carbon present in the remains alone is insufficient to make a gemstone of desired size or type.”


Now wait a minute, at no place in the brochure and website did LifeGem® say they were going to mix Dad with carbon from another source. In fact they specifically stated that:

LifeGem diamonds are created individually from your specific carbon source in our patented process.”

“Our process is so streamlined, we are able to create over 100 certified, high-quality LifeGem diamonds as memorials for each family if they so choose.”


Wait a minute!

What we are reading is that you have three options: #1 Have your loved one only partially cremated and have their innards scooped out with a metal shovel and sent to LifeGem®, or #2 cut them into body parts to be selectively cremated with the rest going to LifeGem®, or #3 do what they say and send an 8 ounce scoop of traditional ashes to LifeGem® which will not be enough to make even one diamond.


This sounds downright ghoulish to me. And I am not sure I want my loved ones scooped, cut up, dipped and falsified. And it sure seems a long way from the pictures painted by the brochure and website.


But, it gets better! The final question is this: Is LifeGem® really making the diamonds they claim?

There appears to be a fatal flaw in their claimed process. Here is the situation.


You remember the term graphitized that we learned above. Well the High Pressure High Temperature process of making synthetic diamonds uses graphite as the carbon source for making synthetic diamonds. And that is precisely the source that LifeGem® claims they use in their patent application:

“In addition to being pure within 10 ppm, the carbon also becomes graphitized by the high temperatures, which is necessary to provide graphite for the crystal growth process.”


But here is the problem, the actual process that they claim to use is sublimation, or Chemical Vapor Deposition.


“….by collecting substantially pure elemental carbon from the remains and creating gems from the carbon, as by using crystal growth sublimation to form diamonds.”


"It is necessary to provide graphite for the crystal growth process. "


But you don’t use graphite to make sublimation formed diamonds. You use a gas:

“Chemical vapor deposition of diamond is a method of growing diamond by creating the environment and circumstances necessary for carbon atoms in a gas to settle on a diamond substrate in diamond crystalline form.” 


So LifeGem® is claiming to use sublimation deposition that requires a gas, but they say they turn the carbon into graphite which is solid, to use in the sublimation process that requires a gas. Unabridged (v 1.1) - Cite This Source - Share This 

graph·ite             /ˈgræf   aɪt/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[graf-ahyt] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation 



a very common mineral, soft native carbon, occurring in black to dark-gray foliated masses, with metallic luster and greasy feel: used for pencil leads, as a lubricant, and for making crucibles and other refractories; plumbago; black lead. 

At no place in their US Patent Office Application did LifeGem® ever explain any of this. In fact they just glossed over the entire process by which the synthetic diamonds would be made. Leaving only these glaring contradictions that make it appear that what they claim to be doing…..cannot be happening.


In reality, the CVD process uses a gas such as methane that in the chamber, and by processes that no one could fully explain, separates out into elements with carbon raining out as diamond and graphite on the diamond seed plate. And the hydrogen cleans the graphite off the seed plate leaving the deposited diamond. But at no point in their US Patent Application was this clarified, or stated.  And the graphite is a by product of the CVD gas, not the other way around.


 There is a massive amount of information in these US Patent Documents, as well as a lot of discussions across the internet about LifeGem®. Far too much to include here. But perhaps someone out there in some position of authority can take a look at these claims.


But one more issue…… coverage and claims.


I don’t really care if LifeGem® is making $19,999.00 for a .90 carat synthetic diamond as long as they are properly representing their product. But I think that some of the insurance companies out there need to ask some questions. Because if these are not as represented there are some big insurance policies being written out there on some very questionable products. And given the claimed provenance on these diamonds, it is going to be impossible to offer a like/kind/quality replacement by your replacement service.


 And what are you going to do if Dear Old Dad gets hit on the kitchen sink and chipped?


 I have to tell you all that I lost my Dear Old Dad 5 years ago. And he is resting peacefully in a plot he picked out in Bowie , Texas . And he would think this whole article is cool, and would hope that no one out there is insulted by my calling this article by the name, Dead Dad’s a Diamond.  But there are a lot of folks walking around with what they believe is a LifeGem® diamond made out of their Dear Old Dad. And I am not personally sure that they have what they believe they have, or that they would be happy if all of this turns out to be true.


 I am really not sure why some Attorneys General office, some insurance company, one of the jewelry industry magazines, of just someone out there has not done some research on these folks already. They have a long, long list of famous nationwide television shows and dignitaries promoting them. But everyone just seems to accept their claims with no one doing any investigation.


 I just have not found anyone who has compared their website and brochure claims, to their US Patent Applications.  Because the two entities just do not match up.


 I am not saying that LifeGem® is committing any kind of fraud. I am not saying don’t shop with them. And I am not saying don’t insure their product.


 But I am saying, someone needs to ask some serious questions of LifeGem®. Someone in the jewelry, insurance or legal industry.  Someone other than these beautiful people who honestly believe they are being provided a diamond made from their loved one’s ashes.


Final Note: I realize that I have injected some humor into a topic that is not very funny. But I am finishing up the final draft of this edition at 0645hrs on Tuesday morning. I sat down to begin working on this at 1100hrs Monday morning. Yes, over 19 hours straight of Google research, document reading, scientific study, document study,  document review, correlation of facts, write, rewrite, and rewrite again. So please forgive any formatting errors and spelling errors, its been a long day.  But the reason I could not stop is that the deeper I got into this research the more convinced I became that something is terribly wrong at LifeGem®.  Somewhere in all of these reams of documents is the truth. I’m not sure I have found it yet. But I could not stop until I had given it all I had. Which I did. The rest will be up to all of you.


 Robert James FGA, GG

 Fellow, Gemmological Association of Great Britain

 Graduate Gemologist, Gemological Institute of America

 Property and Casualty Adjuster, Texas Department of Insurance #1300433




The truth is in the US Patent Applications!


LifeGem Owner claims to be using HPHT, US Patent application says otherwise!

I knew the truth was in there somewhere. Just took some time to find it. The truth about the LifeGem® program is right there in black and white inside their US Patent Applications #20030017932 and #20040031434. 


 After a great deal more research into these US Patent applications I realized that the use of the term “sublimation” was not a misnomer to refer to the CVD synthesis process. Instead, LifeGem®  in fact applied for US Patents for a process claiming to make synthetic diamonds using the sublimation method of gemstone synthesis.


 “[0031] Using the process of crystal growth from sublimation according to techniques of the type described but not limited to the process described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 34,061, 6,200,917, 6,025,289, 6,045,613, 4,042.673 and 5,762,896”  US Patent Application # 20030017932


 [0037] In the preferred embodiment, the process of crystal growth from sublimation is used according to techniques of the type described but not limited to the process described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 34,061, 6,200,917, 6,025,289, 6,045,613, 4,042,673 and 5,762,896. US Patent Application # 20040031434  



After further review of their list of referenced US Patents from their applications, LifeGem® is indeed claiming to be using the sublimation technique and refers to several other patents that also create gemstones using sublimation, including a  1995 US Patent #5,762,896 held by Hunter; Charles Eric (Raleigh, NC), Verbiest; Dirk (Carrboro, NC), originally known as: C3. Now known as Charles and Colvard, Ltd.


 Makers of synthetic moissanite.


The problem: You cannot create synthetic diamonds by sublimation.


 Which brings us to the question: Exactly what is LifeGem® delivering to its clients?


I called LifeGem® and had a very nice talk to one of the principal owners, Dean VandenBiesen. He informed me that LifeGem® uses the HPHT process of diamond synthesis. But could not clearly explain to me why both of their US Patent Applications listed their process as sublimation, and referenced other US Patents using sublimation. His main response was that, the process of diamond production was not the important issue, that the carbon extraction process was the important issue of the patent.


 But I never could get a proper answer as to why the listed technology on their US Patent, and the claimed "patented technology" in their promotional materials, are so remarkably different. Particularly when their true and formal US Patented technology cannot make a synthetic diamond.


And their patented extraction methods listed in their US Patent Applications are no where to be found on their website and brochure. In fact, the one method of obtaining carbon from traditional cremation ashes listed on their website, is listed as not viable in their US Patent applications!


In the end, we are still left with questions.  The promotional claims of their brochure and the website do not equal the science of their documents. And their patent does not truly reflect a diamond making process by their own admission.


But I wanted to clarify the issue of the term sublimation in their US Patent Office Applications. As far as the rest, whenever I see a company with this many discrepancies in their official documents, it just makes me wonder if they have something to hide.


Makes me feel like Dorothy in Oz. I want to take a look to see if there's a man behind that curtain. 


 Robert James FGA, GG

 Fellow, Gemmological Association of Great Britain

 Graduate Gemologist, Gemological Institute of America

 Property and Casualty Adjuster, Texas Department of Insurance #1300433

 Certified Continuing Education Provider, Texas Department of Insurance #3391 (and others)


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