Cremation Memorials: How It's Made
The cremation ashes of each person or pet are as unique as your loved one, and the ashes are distinctive in colour and texture. There really is no one else out there just like them. When your ashes arrive at the studio, they are carefully checked in, and processed with a label that follows them around from start to finish. On this label is your name and your order number, but even better is when I have the name of the person or pet that I'm working with -- it's important to me to be able to refer to each set of ashes by name whenever possible.
Once it's time to create your memorial stone that's to be set in the jewellery you've selected, the cremains undergo a unique journey in which they are combined with powdered diamonds, clear glass, and a few other bits of magic in a high-heat process. The cremation gem is then set beneath it's glass or natural gemstone within the setting that's been created just for you.
In the process of becoming a solid memorial stone, the ashes that you've sent will become a deeper, darker colour than when they are "dry", and the colours that appear once they are solidified into a gem have a wide range: from near-white, cream, tan, brown, grey, and black. Some may even have tiny flecks of blue, green, or other colours within them. Some ashes may be all powder or all solid pieces, and many are a mix of both, and the ratio of these different textures will change the final look as well.
The "fingerprint" of your loved one's ashes won't be exactly like anyone else's. This little chart shows a small sampling of some of the colours that you might expect to see if your finished gem. Neither you nor myself chooses the final colour. To honour and respect each set of ashes, I do not alter their unique colour in any way, but instead allows their beautiful individual tones and hues to shine through.
Cremation Memorials: More About Colours
Sometimes the final colour of the cremation gems can be a bit surprising. Certainly not all, but most cremated remains look a shade of pale grey or white in their "dry" state, and it isn't until they begin to be transformed into a solid keepsake stone that the colours that have been hiding inside are revealed. While after over a decade of working to bring my clients comfort through keepsake jewellery I've developed a fairly good eye for what colours will come through, even I'm surprised by the results sometimes. While it isn't unusual to have your gem turn out like you expected, it also isn't unusual for it to be different -- sometimes wildly so -- than the dry ashes appeared.
One way to find out at home what colours are within your loved one or pets ashes is to take a small amount and to add a few drops of water. I'm not sure I'd want to do this myself, but if you don't want to be surprised, this method will allow you to get a general idea of the colour and tone that your finished memorial jewellery will be. If you decide that you're comfortable with this and would like to try it out, make sure to allow the cremains to fully air dry before returning them to their urn or vessel.
While the collage of solid keepsake gems above helps give an idea of some of the colours that you might find in your completed gem, it's really important to understand that the way your ashes look in their dry state doesn't necessarily correlate that well to how your memorial jewellery will look. In this comparison chart, you'll see down the left column that there are 6 sets of ashes that, while some differences can be picked out with regards to exact shade and texture distinctions, could all be said to be fairly similar. Down the column on the right you'll see how each of those sets of ashes turned out once they were solidified into gems. A little unexpected, aren't they? None of these ashes were tinted or otherwise coloured in the studio -- the cremains simply had these colours already inside them.
Cremation Memorials: More Information
How much ashes are needed? A half tsp (2.5mL measure) to a maximum of 1 tsp (5mL measure) is requested for each gem. This is more than is actually required, and I go into detail on that below. Any unused portion of ashes will be returned home to you.
Can the ashes be from pets or only from humans? Both human and pet ashes are welcome with open arms in the North Faun studio. The cremated remains of both look and perform the same during the process.
Can more than one set of ashes be combined into one gem? Absolutely -- there is no problem at all combining multiple sets of ashes. You can package them separately and only the portions that are used will be combined in the studio. Alternately, if the ashes are already combined, that's perfectly fine too!
Can I add other items such as hair/fur into my gem? North Faun cremation gems are created under high heat. Unfortunately, this means that other materials, such as hair, will be heavily damaged if not completely destroyed in the process if they are added in. Locks of hair, dried flowers, and special fabrics can be used alone in some designs - for the time being please send me an email to find out your options if you'd like to have a piece created with materials other than cremation ashes.
How long does the process take? The most current turnaround times can always be found on the general studio information section of the website. If you are in need of memorial jewellery for an event or holiday, please be aware of my production time as well as the potential for postal delays.
How do I package and send (or drop off) my ashes? All details on how to package your cremation ashes and where to mail them to (or drop them off!) can be found below.
Cremation Memorials: How to Package + Send
Once you're ready, it's time to package up a small amount of ashes to send to the studio. For each average-size gem, I request approximately a half tsp (2.5mL measure) of your loved one or pets ashes, and up to a maximum of 1 tsp (5mL measure). This is actually more than is required for each gem, but having a bit extra is really helpful in the creation process. Because ashes are a mixture of powder and solid pieces, with some having much more of one texture than the other, having more cremains than is necessary means that I can choose the portion that will work best for your memorial stone. Please know, though, that every grain that isn't needed for the creation of your keepsake is carefully packaged and returned home to you where it belongs.
Place the 0.5 - 1 tsp of ashes inside a small, leak proof container, and then place this sealed container inside good quality resealable plastic bag. Place this packet into two additional sealed bags so that the end result is triple-bagged, fully sealed ashes. These extra layers ensure that should your packet have a weak seam or otherwise leak, your loved one or pets cremation ashes will remain safe. Once your ashes are fully sealed, write your name and order number on the outside, and then place inside a padded mailer or small box, seal it well, and send it off to the address below.
Mailing your package from the US? For orders originating from the United States, please complete your customs declaration form as a "gift" or "other" with a value of $1 due to the fact that North Faun has not purchased your inclusions from you. Do not mark your package with the value of the items you have ordered, as that is not what is inside your package. Please do not send your package by FedEx, UPS, or other couriers, as these couriers will charge a brokerage fee for "importing" your package into Canada, as well as any applicable taxes, and these packages will have to be denied and returned to you as North Faun cannot pay to receive your inclusions. Please label your customs declaration honestly (ie. 1/2 tsp human ashes, for jewellery making purposes), and please send your packages via USPS only.
USPS requires that you package your cremation ashes in a sift-proof container. This can be any container that the ashes can't leak out of under normal circumstances and does not have to be an official urn. Small, well sealing screw-top "craft" containers make wonderful tiny urns. Once sealed, place your container inside a ziplock type bag. You'll then place this inside a shipping box - USPS offers "kits" to send ashes, but these are quite large and not necessary. You can use any box of your chosing, but USPS requires that it have a special "cremated remains" label applied. You can learn more about sending your cremation ashes from the US to Canada on the USPS website: here(USPS: shipping cremated remains general info/FAQ) and here (USPS: how to package and ship cremated remains, PDF).
Mailing your package from within Canada? Packages originating from within Canada do not require any special handling or forms. Simply take your package to your local post office, add tracking, and send as usual.
Winnipeg local that would prefer to deliver your package? If you're local and want to deliver your inclusions instead of sending it by mail, you are welcome to do so. Deliveries can be made Monday-Friday from 8am-6pm & Saturday from 10am-4pm - the North Faun shipping address is a staffed UPS business mailbox which is only accessible to the public during these hours. You must package your inclusions as listed above and you must place your inclusions inside an addressed envelope, as improperly packaged materials may be refused at the counter. Please do not arrive to drop off your inclusions without them already being sealed inside an addressed envelope. Please note that I do not accept and store inclusions without an official order in place and that packages received without a corresponding order in the system will be returned.
The North Faun mailing address is:
Morgan Di Martino - North Faun
510-3336 Portage Ave