Cremation Jewelry – Is It Cool or Creepy?
by Maggie Thompson
Wearing jewelry as a way to cherish a lost loved one is not a new contemporary ritual. Turns out the idea has been around for a while. As early as the 14th century, mourning rings were popular. In the Victorian-era people wore jewelry made from the hair of their loved ones as a way to mourn. Today there is a resurgence in the prevalence of memorial jewelry, though much of the jewelry and trinkets take different forms than their predecessors.
There are many options of jewelry and other ornamentation and even decor:
- Ashes, in nominal amounts, are placed in a piece of memorial jewelry, such as a pendant, bracelet, or other accessory.
- Human or pet ashes are incorporated into a certified diamond.
- Ashes are fused into glass – especially as jewelry, or also stained glass, a paperweight, blown glass vase, or another piece of art.
How does it feel to wear jewelry that holds ashes?
People who choose to wear cremation jewelry often say they feel a comforting presence. Why? The common answer is that when a tangible part of their loved one or pet is worn near their heart they simply feel comforted – perhaps it’s a sense of connection that the jewelry brings. When you notice the jewelry's weight or feel it shift you remember its purpose and think of your loved one. Some prefer to be discreet about the function of the jewelry and what it holds. Others enjoy it as a conversation piece, and as an invitation to share memories and stories.
Wearing a piece of cremation jewelry isn’t for everyone. What makes it creepy?
It’s a gut level reaction – while some welcome the ability to keep their loved ones close, others think it’s just plain weird to wear ashes around your neck. Whether it’s discomfort from childhood Halloween lore, various media portrayals, or our society’s general reluctance to talk openly about death and grieving, discomfort feels very real, the creepiness is tangible.
Also, some religious and spiritual traditions have strong teachings about cremation. The teachings in turn influence members of their faith communities on the inappropriateness of cremation and wearing cremation jewelry.
Is wearing cremation jewelry cool?
Everyone deals with loss and grief in their own way. If cremation jewelry brings comfort and peace, then why not go with it?
In doing a little research, I bumped into Casey who shared her story after her father had passed away. Casey’s experience is a good illustration. “When my father died, he didn’t have any heirloom necklaces or rings to pass on. Believe it or not, I got the idea for a cremation necklace from the show ‘The Deadliest Catch.’ I thought a necklace for ashes that I could wear everyday would be a cool way to remember him. I don’t tell a lot of people about this because it is a touchy subject, but to me, it’s cool.” Casey realizes that some might find it creepy, so opts for discretion, while finding personal meaning wearing the pendant.
Pet parents are often drawn to pet memorial jewelry, which seems less burdened with dogma (no pun intended). It brings a comforting, even playful, presence to the wearer, and people are generally more accepting of it.
What about “closure?”
In her TEDx talk, “Beyond Closure: The Space Between Joy and Grief,” Nancy Berns, Ph.D., posits that “closure” is a fabricated concept. We don’t need closure to heal. Furthermore, closure actually distorts grieving.
“As humans, we have the capacity to carry joy and grief at the same time. So what would happen if, rather that telling people to put a lid on their pain, we open the box and listen to people’s stories,” says Dr. Berns.
We don’t aim to leave grief behind by finding closure – instead, we lend a hand in learning to live and move forward with grief. In a poignant example, Dr. Berns says that in photography and art, it is the shadows that give depth and meaning. Thus, it is light and shadows, joy and grief, that entwine to enrich the dimensions or our humanity.
Are cremation urn retailers exploiting grief by selling cremation jewelry?
A talked-about component to beware of is the claim that people find closure by carrying an actual physical part of a loved one in the form of ashes sealed in a piece of jewelry. If Nancy Berns’ words resonate, claims for closure might be hollow.
But comfort is real, and cremation jewelry is something that can be a positive cue to recall a loved one’s presence. The offering of cremation jewelry is an option. If this physical presence or token you can keep with you always is what you feel will help get you through your grief, then it is worth finding the right jewel to work with.
For those drawn to cremation jewelry, there are many options
Jewelry can be chosen for its artistic design, for its relevant theme, or for its intrinsic beauty. Considerations include:
- Styles: pendants or bracelets. Example, the sterling silver pendant, Always in My Heart.
- Materials: gold, sterling silver, stainless steel, and titanium. Examples include the 14K White Gold Teardrop, the Sterling Silver Celtic Cross, Stainless Steel Heart Cremation Pendant, and the Narrow Titanium Cremation Bracelet.
- Stones: diamonds, pearls, crystals, rhinestones, or semi-precious stones
- Themes: nature, religious, patriotic, sports, flowers, pets, hearts. Examples: angel wing in stainless steel, and golden paw pet pendant in stainless steel.
So, now that you’ve read this far, is cremation jewelry creepy or cool?
At dinner tonight, telling my family about the topic of this article, my daughter had an immediate response. “Can’t it be both?” Today creepy is cool. Creepy and cool because wearing cremation jewelry with ashes is a bold statement acknowledging loving memories in a society that often shies away from death and expressions of grief.
What do you think about wearing jewelry with cremation ashes? Creepy? or Cool? Let us know!
Maggie Shopen Thompson, MFA, is a freelance writer and writing workshop facilitator in Montpelier, Vermont. She has had experience as a caregiver for her mother many years ago, and for her husband and daughter during their recent cancer treatments and recoveries. She is a contributing author/artist in Healing Art & Writing – using creativity to meet illness, curated and edited by Patricia Fontaine, published in August 2016.