Memorial Ash-Encased Glass Jewelry: Everything You Need to Know About These Beloved Cremation Keepsakes.
Losing a loved one is a challenging and overwhelming period. We, humans, are incredibly vulnerable during this time and experience intense emotions like grief, sorrow, and hopelessness. As soon as we’ve made it through this incredibly hard part though, the healing slowly begins.
Having a keepsake you can touch and run your fingertips over can be a tool in your healing by being a comforting reminder of the person or pet you miss. Handcrafted ash-encased glass and glass jewelry has been growing in popularity and has become the preferred option to mass-produced memorials. Glass jewelry keepsakes are a deeply personal and touching way to preserve the connection between you and your person or pet.
A Brief History of Memorial Jewelry in Western Society
Memorial jewelry, as we know it in Western society, really gained popularity in the 1800s during the Victorian era. When Prince Albert passed away in 1861, Queen Victoria experienced a sustained period of depression because she was so madly in love with him. For the majority of the following four decades, Queen Victoria wore mourning jewelry and black crepe dresses. She ordered busts, memorials, and pictures of Prince Albert as well as other remembrances of her late husband.
Memorial jewelry during this time was often engraved with the deceased’s name or their photo was set under a piece of quartz. Having jewelry made with the person’s hair was very popular. The hair would be braided and put into a ring that contained a hollow space inside or set under a stone or piece of quartz. This tradition has carried through to the present day and is joined by new ways to create memorial jewelry.
Ash-encased glass memorial jewelry: What is it?
Memorial glass jewelry also called cremation jewelry, remembrance jewelry, mourning jewelry, and funeral jewelry is made with the ashes/cremains of a deceased person or pet. Just like regular jewelry, memorial jewelry comes in all forms. Here at Silver Creek, I make heirloom quality, handcrafted, memorial glass jewelry using sterling and fine silver (100% recycled) and borosilicate glass.
Benefits of Ash-Encased Memorial Jewelry
The benefits of owning a piece of memorial jewelry are different for each person because it is dependent on where you’re at in your grief. The things you need when you are first grieving are different from when you’ve spent a few years navigating grief. This is not to say that it’s easier the longer you’ve been grieving, because often it’s not, but it is different.
Having a small trinket on your finger or around your neck when you’re attending an event can fill you with quiet confidence. Running your fingers across the ash-encased glass can soothe the anxiety of missing the milestones you expected to reach together. The joy you feel when someone asks about your memorial jewelry allowing you to share your stories, memories, and connection to your loved one.
How is Ash-Encased Glass Memorial Jewelry Made
When people think of ash-encased memorial glass they think about furnace glass where a large rod with a molten glob of ‘soft’ glass (soda lime – same as the jar of pickles in your fridge) on the end is rolled in cremains and then mixed into the glass with other colors. The results are beautiful and tend to be on the larger side, like sculptural orbs, eggs, and hearts.
Here at Silver Creek Glass & Jewelry, memorial glass is done a bit differently. I’m a flameworker so I work at a bench on a torch. I heat the end of a glass rod and lay it across the cremains to pick them up. Depending on what I’m making I’ll either twist the end of the rod to mix the cremains into the glass or I’ll apply another layer of glass over the cremains, encasing them. The glass is then shaped to finish and put into a digital kiln which cools the glass at a controlled rate, annealing the glass.
The next day the cooled, annealed glass comes out of the kiln and is ready to be made into jewelry. I use borosilicate glass, often referred to as ‘hard glass’ (think baking dishes), which is the ideal material to encase ashes in. Boro’s strength and durability allow it to easily stand up to the normal daily wear and tear that gemstone jewelry does. If you do accidentally scratch the glass it can easily be polished out and look as good as new.
What Types of Memorial Jewelry Can be Made?
Ash-encased memorial glass can be made into any type of jewelry you’d like. Memorial rings and necklaces are the most common memorial but memorial earrings are quickly gaining in popularity. Memorial bead charms are one of my best sellers because they’re small, can be worn alone or with your existing jewelry, and are budget-friendly. There are no rules for memorial jewelry so you can have whatever strikes your fancy, like body jewelry! I’ve even had the privilege of making memorial plugs for gauged ears.
Is Ash-Encased Glass Memorial Jewelry Expensive?
No. Yes. Maybe. Just like regular jewelry, memorial jewelry comes in a full range of prices. Mass-produced jewelry tends to be cheaper than handcrafted artisan jewelry, with custom items being a bit higher than available designs. I do my best to be sure that I have something for every budget. Sadly, there are plenty of artisans and mass producers that take advantage of folks by grossly overcharging for memorial work so be sure to shop around to find the best artist for you.
You should know that some artisans, like myself, offer some type of flexible, interest-free, layaway or payment plans, you just simply have to ask. We, artists, live in the real world and know times are hard for everyone and most of us don’t believe that price should prohibit you from having something that can provide comfort and healing.
There is one semi-hidden cost and that is shipping. I say it’s semi-hidden because I only charge shipping to send you your items, but you’ll have to pay to get the cremains to me and there is only one way to do that. The USPS is the only carrier in the US that will knowingly ship cremains and they require cremains to be shipped Priority Express. This includes any items made with cremains. At the time of writing the cost is about $23-$28 depending on your location. To learn more about the requirements to ship cremains please visit the USPS website.
Preserving Your Connection for a Lifetime
Memorial jewelry has helped folks navigate great losses for ages and it’s still providing comfort to people across the globe today. While this type of jewelry takes many different shapes and forms, from cremation cabochons to urn pendants, glass jewelry with encased ashes is the type that appeals to most people. With proper care, your Silver Creek memorial jewelry will become a treasured and interesting heirloom to be handed down.
Do you have any experience with memorial jewelry that you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!
If you want to know more about the history of mourning jewelry read In Death Lamented: The Tradition of Anglo-American Mourning Jewelry by Sarah Nehama. It’s an excellent reference guide for mourning jewelry.