Proving that diamonds indeed are forever, a widower got a gem of a keepsake made from his late wife’s ashes this month: a 0.35-carat, round yellow diamond.

The synthetic stone, ordered by a man in his 40s shortly after his wife’s death from heart disease in May, is the handiwork of LifeGems.

“It was beautiful, really pretty,” funeral director Paul Baue said of the stone ordered by the widower, who requested privacy and declined to be interviewed for this story. “It’s a great way to pay tribute to someone’s life.”

That LifeGem was the first sold in the St. Louis area, according to the suburban Chicago-based company. Three-year-old LifeGems estimates it has crafted nearly 1,000 of the diamonds – what it calls “the most unique memorial product ever invented” – for about 500 families.

“I think more people are looking for more-personal ways to remember somebody,” says Dean VandenBiesen, LifeGem’s vice president of operations. “Rather than having ongoing mourning for someone’s loss, people are wanting to celebrate a life. The LifeGem is just another way to do that, versus having a weeping, somber occasion.”

To LifeGem, the synthetic diamonds offer a choice in a funeral industry that for years, by nature, offered limited choices for consumers – bury a body in a graveyard or have the body cremated, with the ashes stored in an urn or scattered in the wind.

LifeGem needs 8 ounces of human ashes to make a diamond the company prizes for its “closeness and mobility,” leaving the rest of the cremains to the family. Depending on size, LifeGem prices vary from about $2,500 for a quarter carat to about $14,000 for a full carat, VandenBiesen said.

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