Diamonds are forever, and now so is Angus the cat
Portland woman has the remains of her beloved pet made into a half-carat stone

By JANINE ROBBEN
Tue, Dec 9, 2003
The Tribune
It would be an easy thing to make jokes about: Hey, Harry, did you hear the one about the dead cat that was turned into a diamond?

But talk to Stephanie Hortsch, and spending $2,300 to have a deceased pet's carbon compressed into almost a one-half carat synthetic diamond begins to make a weird kind of sense.
"I'm going to be the crazy cat lady for the Tribune," Hortsch said, laughing comfortably as a photographer zoomed in on what is believed to be the first synthetic diamond in Oregon made from cremated pet remains.

"I recognize it's kind of wacky," she continued. "But keeping ashes in an urn is something people have been doing for a long time. Some people at work think it's neat, and others are like, 'You're the strangest person I know.' But when it comes down to their thinking about it, definitely more are supportive."

Hortsch, 37, is seated in an Old Portland-style house the house in which she was raised and which she recently purchased from her father near now-fashionably funky Northeast Alberta Street.
It is furnished eclectically, with an easy chair upholstered in a tiger stripe, an eggplant-purple chaise lounge and African art purchased on a trip to Tanzania. Like this conversation about dead cats, the combination makes a weird, even covetable, kind of sense.
Hortsch's beloved black cat, Angus, is present in dozens of photographs; a small, gold pyramid memorial, which contains some of his ashes; and the beautiful, brilliant yellow diamond made from more of his cremated remains that Hortsch received last week.
Hortsch had the stone made by LifeGem, a Chicago-based company that began selling the stones in August 2002, according to company spokeswoman Sara Girardi.
Girardi says carbon naturally produced during cremation is converted into a synthetic diamond by a process that uses intense heat and pressure to duplicate the way diamonds are created naturally in the earth.

Up to 3 carats
Sharrie Woodring, a gemologist for an independent gemological laboratory not affiliated with LifeGem, said that such a process definitely is possible and that other companies have reported making synthetic diamonds both larger 3 carats and more quickly 72 hours.
"Diamonds are almost pure carbon," said Woodring, who works for the New York office of the European Gemological Laboratory. "So, diamonds can be made out of anything carbon-based: humans, animals, anything organic."

Girardi said that her company has a patent pending on its process and that she knows of no other company making synthetic diamonds from remains of pets and humans.
Michael Remsing of Dignified Pet Services in Tualatin said LifeGem representatives told him that Hortsch's was the first stone made from pet remains ordered in Oregon. His pet crematory is the only one in Oregon listed on the company's Web site.
Girardi said she was unable to say how many stones, if any, have been made from human remains for clients in Oregon.
Girardi said the company understands that clients who have paid as much as $14,000 for a 1-carat stone want to be sure it was made from their pet or family member's remains. She said the company uses a 16-digit tracking number to trace remains through the process.
Girardi said more than 100 can be made from one set of cremated remains.

A 16-year relationship
Hortsch had Angus for almost 16 years, ever since she first saw him, "as just a little, teeny, teeny kitten," in a box outside a Bi-Mart near her college dorm. He lived with her through her last two years of college, law school at Willamette University Hortsch works as a public defender in Salem and her purchase of her childhood home in 2002.
But he couldn't survive the colon cancer that was diagnosed earlier this year.

"It all happened very fast," Hortsch said. "Angus died on Father's Day; technically the day after, after a late night run to Dove Lewis (Emergency Animal Hospital)."
While Hortsch had seen LifeGems featured on the ABC television program "20/20" long before Angus was sick, it was her father who did the Web research that revealed Dignified Pet Services' contractual relationship with the gem company.

"I got to chose the color," Hortsch said of the diamond. "I chose yellow because Angus' eyes were yellow."
Eventually, she said, she plans to have the diamond incorporated into a piece of jewelry. For now, it's in a small, handsome wooden display box.

"I called my friend Louise and said, 'Angus is beautiful,' Hortsch said of the stone's arrival. "It's just amazing that this is actually part of him.

"For a long time, it was just him and me. For me, he was that one special pet."
Well, I guess this cat was a diamond in the rough. Literally.

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I'm sorry but I just find that bizarre.
Karen
I'm sorry but I just find that bizarre. Karen

Yeah, I think it's a little too weird for me too.
Sherry
I'm sorry but I just find that bizarre. Karen

I do, too. That's not how I would want to remember mine.

MaryL
I'm sorry but I just find that bizarre. Karen

I do, too. That's not how I would want to remember mine. MaryL

Interestingly enough, I had a talk with a woman about this just the other day. She thought it was a neat idea because it was a way to keep your loved one close to your heart, sort of a variation on the urn necklace.
I personally had an urn custom made to put Harry's ashes in, it sits on my bookshelf. I also had a garden stone made with his name and a message engraved on it. I think it's however we feel is best to remember them by. Now, since I lose necklaces more frequently than I care to admit, this would not be a wise option for me. The bigger the item, the safer it is! Emotion: smile
Karen
I do, too. That's not how I would want to remember mine. MaryL

Interestingly enough, I had a talk with a woman about this just the other day. She thought it was a ... admit, this would not be a wise option for me. The bigger the item, the safer it is! Emotion: smile Karen

An urn necklace doesn't appeal to me either. but then i feel they live in memories not remains.
Karen
I'm sorry but I just find that bizarre. Karen

See, I think it is totally cool. I wouldn't mind being turned into a diamond. I mean, I plan to be turned into fish food, so why not a diamond?
-L.
circa 17 Dec 2003 14:16:27 -0800, in rec.pets.cats.health+behav, -L. (k3 (Email Removed)) said,
I'm sorry but I just find that bizarre. Karen

See, I think it is totally cool. I wouldn't mind being turned into a diamond. I mean, I plan to be turned into fish food, so why not a diamond?

I thought it was a better idea than having the little tins of kitty ashes lying around, personally. ;-)
Laura

I am Dyslexia of Borg,
Your ass will be laminated.