"I wanted him with me at all times," she said.
Her husband was cremated at his request, and Biedenbach kept the ashes. But the Canton, Ohio, resident wanted something else that could be close to her wherever she was. That's when she remembered an article she read about LifeGem, a company in Elk Grove Village, Ill., that uses the carbon found in the cremated remains of a person's body or hair to create diamonds. She asked the Reed Funeral Home about it following her husband's cremation."I was hesitant at first, but my children told me to go for it," she said. "Now I can have him with me at all times. I chose a ring so I could wear it on my left hand and it (their love) will travel up to my heart."
She is wearing her wedding rings on her right hand. The cremains diamond weighs nearly a half-carat and was made from eight ounces of her husband's ashes. Arrangements with LifeGem were made through the funeral home.
"This is a created diamond made from carbon just like a diamond you would buy for an engagement ring," said Mark Bouffard, company spokesman.
HOW IT'S MADE
After the carbon is purified into a graphite powder, it is placed in a diamond press. In the press, the plug of carbon is subjected to pressure in excess of 800,000 pounds per square inch, and temperatures in the range of 2,000 to 3,000 degrees, replicating the forces beneath the earth that form natural diamonds. What takes nature millions of years to accomplish can be completed in the lab in a matter of months, Bouffard said.
The size of the diamond is controlled by how long the graphite stays in the press. The longer the press time, the larger the diamond. The final diamond, when removed from the press, is a rough crystal that still needs to be polished and faceted per customer specifications, he said, noting that each diamond is certified by technicians with the Gemological Institute of America. Each family that gets a LifeGem also receives a card with the rating of the cut, color and clarity.
"People who store cremated remains or who visit a memorial say these are not pleasurable experiences," Bouffard said. "But, it is refreshing and reassuring to them to look at a LifeGem, a diamond, and remember their loved one that way."
This is the way Biedenbach feels about her new diamond ring. She picked it up from John Gasser & Son Jewelers, where she took it to be certified and mounted.
"These are genuine diamonds," said Sharon Riley, a certified gemologist appraiser at the store. "It is definitely a lab-grown diamond, but the carbon in the ashes make it real. I tested it.
"Normally it is a hundred miles below the earth's surface that a diamond forms, but this is done in a lab so they have to simulate the conditions of the earth to form a diamond."
The difference is the LifeGem is a created diamond and is considered synthetic.
MARRIED 47 YEARS
It took about five months for the diamond to grow in the lab, according to Biedenbach, who was married 47 years. After her husband's death, she kept his ashes, minus the eight ounces she used to make the LifeGem, on her nightstand. The couple never was separated, she said, and that is how she wants to spend the rest of her life - connected to him.
"I'm feeling pretty good," Biedenbach said now that she is wearing the ring. "I wrote a letter to him (her husband) and told him that instead of bringing him home in a box, I brought him home on my left hand. Having this made gives me more comfort."
This is not the first request Reed Funeral Home has had for this service, said Beth Reed, a member of the owner-management team. Reed said the funeral home gets similar requests at least once a year. A LifeGem is only one of the memorialization items offered.
"Because the cremation option is becoming more popular, people are searching more and more for a way to memorialize their loved ones," she said.
She added that with a traditional burial, people have a monument to go to. With cremation, unless they are buried, they are looking for other means to remember them by.
The first LifeGem diamonds were yellow. They now come in blue and red. In Biedenbach's case, she wanted a blue diamond.
"My husband liked blue, and the blue diamond will forever remind me of his eyes."
Throughout the process, Biedenbach said LifeGem kept her informed about the progress of the diamond. And now that she has it, she is more at peace with her husband's passing.
"It is one of those things that isn't right for everybody, but for her, it has been a real healing," said Biedenbach's daughter, Robin Waers. "It has made a world of difference since she has taken him home. I think it is fantastic."