Dec 5, 2012 4:10 PM by Beth Saboe
BOZEMAN - The National Funeral Directors Association reports that Montana has one of the highest rates of cremation in the country, at nearly 66%.
Your options for what to do with those ashes are also growing, including an option chosen by one family who turned their loved one into a memorial that's a real gem.
"Amazing" is how Lily Hagel describes her brother, and the diamond he now embodies.
"The gem for me shows me who he is. It makes me remember that he was such an amazing person, and now we have an amazing gem to see it," she said.
Alex Archer, 24, of Manhattan was killed last year in a car crash and his sudden death left the Archer family looking for ways to preserve his memory.
"One of my favorite things about Alex is the way he treated our mom. He always held her hand in public. He was never afraid to give her a kiss. Even as a 24-year-old man, he would hold her hand and give her a kiss, and didn't care who was watching," Hagel recalled.
Thanks to help from the Dokken Nelson Funeral Home in Bozeman, and a company called Lifegem, they turned Alex's ashes into a diamond.
"Obviously it was a tragic loss, it was an unexpected death. For Mrs. Archer it was the loss of her son, and so obviously with him being taken away so early this gives her something to remember him by and have that memorialization to where she can take that with her," the funeral home's Chris Remely said.
A cremation diamond is created with just one cup of ashes. But it can also be done with a lock of hair, so families who choose a traditional burial can still create a carbon copy of their loved one.
"It's available to everyone, actually. And they're very sharp. Obviously, a jeweler could tell the difference, but to the naked eye, I don't think they would have any idea of the difference," Remely explained.
The difference for some may not be in clarity, but in price. A cremation gem costs several times more, so while diamonds are forever, they may not be for every budget.
It's an investment, there's no doubt about that when you're talking $2,000, $3,000 or $4,000 - up to $17,000 for one of the gems.
But for the Archer family, having Alex always with them is priceless.
"I love it. Just because in my opinion my brother was a very beautiful person, and now I get to look at a beautiful diamond that was created from him, and it's just a great reminder of him. Something beautiful from a beautiful life," Hagel said.