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

Written by: Staff

CHICAGO, May 13 (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 publicise 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 said.

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? REUTERS SI ND0924

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