The Life Jewel Story

This is the story of how the Life Jewel was conceived and brought to fruition. My fascination with DNA and my bond with my animal companions are key ingredients. Humans have long felt the need to carry a small part of their loved ones near them. In a sense it immortalizes all of us. I don’t consider myself a superstitious person – but I feel comfort when I wear one of my Life Jewels – my good luck charm!

There is something mystical about DNA – it sits at the very core of not only who we humans are but of all living things on earth. Not only does it make each individual unique but, because we inherit it from our parents, it relates us to them, to our ancestors, to our ethnic origins.

DNA is the messenger of life, our biological souls. There is an elegant precision about DNA structure. When you look at purified DNA floating around in the test tube you can’t believe how incredibly orderly it is and how reliably its secrets can be uncovered. So to me DNA holds the secrets and also provides answers about who we are and where we came from. Maybe not all the way back to the beginning of the universe but pretty far.

Dustin – the inspiration for the Life Jewel

Dustin was a big copper-colored Rhodesian Ridgeback.  He had a beautiful ridge, a symmetric cowlick of hair running from just behind his shoulders to the top of his pelvis. He had silly ears that didn’t sit quite right. Despite his great size, he was considerate and could somehow place himself beside me and lay his head in my lap without disrupting my book or coffee cup. He knew he was beloved and beloved back. The day of his death he licked the tears I was crying as we waited for the house call veterinarian.

I have had seven dogs in my life so far. Sometimes it feels like they delineated the chapters of my life – Luv in high school (sorry-it was the 60s), Serge in college and vet school, etc. Some of them were more family dogs; all of us part of a pack but not really any favorites (except me as the source of food).

But when the heart opens its doors a dog can walk right in. The ones that are special are dogs just like the rest but they enter when the circumstances of our life are somehow in synch and become our “forever” dogs.  They are the dogs we remember, that maybe we still cry about now and then. That we wish they could somehow have lived longer than they did – probably the one great fault of dogs.

A few weeks after Dustin died I was out with his buddy Constance on our daily walk. The walk is in a fenced field so Constance was off-leash, allowing me to muse and ponder. The depression from his loss was starting to dissipate and I was allowing myself to think about where I would scatter his ashes. It made sense to cast them into a strong north wind (frequent where I live) and let them settle on the field where he used to run.

A Glimmer of Light in the Darkness

But I wanted something else of him. I had some pictures, his ID tag from his collar. But still something tangible that was uniquely him and special. And then I had a lightbulb moment – use Dustin’s DNA to create a memento that celebrated his unique and precious life. What could be better than the magical substance that made him my forever dog.

But first I needed to find his DNA sample in our repository. All the lab personnel’s dogs had their DNA tested at one time or another. But I couldn’t find it. After several moves over the years, his DNA sample had disappeared or been consumed with various projects. And he was three weeks gone and only his ashes remained.

That is the moment when the light bulb glowed a second time. I recalled that the day before he died, Dustin had a nosebleed;  he had bled on a sheepskin rug and that rug with his dried blood had not been washed. So I clipped the wool with the dried blood and purified his DNA from it. Then I put it in the refrigerator and started developing the Life Jewel.

Perfecting the Design

It took several years to create the process to make DNA into something beautiful and several more years to perfect the design to the point where it could be appreciated as much for its appearance as for its content. I found the perfect method to enhance the DNA with iridescent colors, form it into a Double Helix, and immerse it in clear acrylic resin. I used a scientific grade glass vial to create a clean simple design that tastefully showcased the pet’s DNA for all to see. Then I worked with a jewelry casting company to create a simple bail and the Classic was born.

I had originally envisioned a heart-shaped glass locket with a well for the DNA. We finally found a small company to make faceted glass hearts to create the Crystal Heart Life Jewel. Over several years the process of making Life Jewels has been refined and we have created additional design options such as the New Horizon Necklace and Bracelet, as well as non-jewelry designs.

I have Life Jewels now of Dustin and all my pets and it has been a real pleasure to see how much customers have loved their Life Jewels. Some let us know right away when it arrives, others when they order another for a family member or of a new pet, and others because they tell their friends. Some people just really “get it” – that there is more than a shining spiral ribbon inside. The Life Jewel’s Double Helix is a visible part of that unique and wonderful being so important in their lives.