May 12, 2006

Hair-raising Beethoven piece: da-da-da Diamond!

By Brad Dorfman

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Beethoven composed many enduring
symphonies, but now a Chicago company wants to make a Beethoven
piece that lasts forever -- a diamond made out of strands of
the 18th-century composer's hair.

LifeGem Memorials, a company that first gained attention in
2002 by making diamonds out of the carbon from cremated human
remains, now says it can make diamonds out of human hair,
allowing people to bury their loved ones but still have a
memento they can carry with them.

To publicize this -- and to raise money for charity -- the
company has teamed with John Reznikoff, who is in the Guinness
Book of World Records for having the largest and most valuable
collection of celebrity hair.

Reznikoff is giving six to 10 strands of Beethoven's hair
to LifeGem, which will use it in a process to create three
diamonds of between 0.5 and 1 carat in weight.

Greg Herro, chief executive officer of LifeGem, said the
diamonds will initially be put on a worldwide tour of museums
and opera houses for about half a year as the company tries to
gain attention for its ability to make diamonds from hair.

"We thought, well, what better way to do it than with an
international icon who is known to millions," Herro said.

Eventually, the diamonds will be sold at auction, with the
proceeds donated to raise money for military families, Herro

Reznikoff, who has about 115 hair samples in his collection
-- including locks from Abraham Lincoln, Marilyn Monroe and
Charles Dickens -- noted that Beethoven has wide appeal. The
composer's music has been used in jazz, disco and rock songs,
including the use of the familiar da-da-da-dum beginning to
Symphony No. 5 in the Electric Light Orchestra's version of
"Roll Over Beethoven."

"Of all those that could be picked to spearhead this, I
think the one with the most cross appeal is Beethoven,"
Reznikoff said.

The Westport, Connecticut-based handwriting expert,
document examiner and manuscript dealer acquired Beethoven's
hair in 1997 from Eldred's auction house in East Dennis,
Massachusetts. Reznikoff said he could not recall how much he
paid for the hair purchased along with other items that day..

Since 2002, LifeGem has created diamonds from the remains
of loved ones for close to 2,000 families, Herro said, adding
that most families order several gems.

The process bonds the carbon to a microscopic crystal and
other minerals -- including boron and nitrogen --used to
catalyze the carbon into a diamond, under intense pressure and
heat. The diamonds are then faceted and polished into a
finished gem-quality diamond.

LifeGem plans to use other parts of Reznikoff's collections
to make diamonds that will be sold to raise funds for charity.
Herro said the company also hopes to convince some celebrities
to donate their hair to be made into diamonds and sold to
support the celebrity's favorite cause.

All of which could lead to the question: is a Carol
Channing diamond a girl's best friend?