Silver cufflinks with blue glass centres

From ashes into jewellery – how is it made?

For a unique and memorable tribute of a loved one, you can use a small amount of their ashes to create a bespoke piece of jewellery.

At Co-op we’ve partnered with craftsman James Watt who co-founded Ashes into Glass. Here he tells us how they make these bespoke pieces.

The boom in bespoke memorials

Just as funerals are becoming more personalised, the ways in which we can choose to keep someone’s ashes have too. In fact, there are now 12,000 Google searches a month for memorial jewellery ideas!

But this is no surprise to James. He believes the popularity of memorial jewellery has gone up as families have become more spread out. ‘Normally you could visit a grave, but it’s not that simple anymore,’ he says. ‘With these pieces, everyone in the family can have something as a reminder to keep with them.’

Step by step: what happens at every stage

If you want to turn your loved one’s ashes into jewellery, one way is to get in touch with your funeral home. Your funeral director will then arrange for some ashes – a teaspoon is enough to make several items – to be sent to Ashes to Glass. Each order is given a unique barcode, so the ashes can be tracked throughout the whole process.

The next step is creating the jewellery. Each item starts as a small amount of clear molten glass, which is then blended with coloured crystals and the ashes. ‘We spread a thin layer of ashes out onto a thick marble slab, called a marver, and roll the molten glass over them,’ James says. ‘The ashes work like glitter, so we don’t need much.’

Layers of clear and coloured glass, along with the ashes, are built up to create individual gems. Once cooled, the stones are cut and polished, then set into items of jewellery such as rings, pendants or cufflinks. Finally, the jewellery can be engraved with personal messages, song lyrics or significant dates.

If any ashes are left over, they are carefully collected and returned with the finished items of jewellery. ‘People often ask “How do I know they’re ‘my’ ashes?”,’ James says. ‘But (as well as the barcode) you can come and watch your pieces being made. I even picked up our first visitor to the workshop in my wife’s car!’

Can anything be made into glass?

Many of us may want to include different items within the glass jewellery, such as a lock of hair or sand from a beach, but this normally isn’t possible. James says, ‘Only a few things will mix with molten glass without burning because the temperature can reach 1,200°C.’

But ‘there’s nothing more personal than having someone’s ashes in a piece of bespoke blown glass,’ adds James. ‘Every item is different, as all the flecks of ash are different sizes and colours too.’

Changing attitudes

However beautiful the finished item is, memorial jewellery can still carry a stigma – wearing someone’s ashes is ‘weird’.

‘It is a bit of a Marmite thing, you either love the idea or you hate it,’ says James. ‘But it loses its ‘weirdness’ when it becomes relevant to you. My wife now has some of her mother’s ashes in a pendant, and I can see the comfort in it.’

So, is memorial jewellery any different to keeping a photo in a locket, or ashes in a traditional urn at home? As the choices for how to remember a loved one evolve, changing attitudes won’t be far behind. From park benches to glass pendants, there are now a number of unique ways to celebrate a life – in whichever way you choose.

• If you want help planning a funeral or need inspiration for personal touches, see our funeral ideas.