The Unexpected Rise of Cremation Jewellery 1

cremation jewellery
If you stopped someone on the street 15 years ago and asked them whether they had any human ashes on them, they would have thought you were mad.
Now – well, they’ll probably still think you’re mad – but you’re far more likely to get a “yes” for an answer. More and more people are carrying a loved one’s ashes with them in ‘keepsake’ jewellery. A once-tiny industry is suddenly flourishing. But why this, and why now?

Memorial jewellery has a history

This is not a new thing. The Victorians (ever morbid) were keen on memorial jewellery of all kinds. Often made from jet and other black materials, these pieces fit with the strict mourning dress code of the day
At the time, British cremation was still in its infancy. So, Victorian memorial jewellery didn’t usually contain ashes. But many pieces contained a small memento, like a lock of hair. They were a way to show the world that you treasured a loved one’s memory.
Eventually, memorial jewellery fell out of fashion. People were living longer, and by WWI the culture around death and mourning had shifted. But the precedent was set…

Attitudes towards cremation have changed

Cremation was controversial at first. The British Home Office banned the first crematorium from use shortly after its construction. It took years (and lawsuits) before cremations could regularly take place.
But, by the late 1960s, the number of families choosing this option had overtaken burial. And as that number grew, there was a gradual shift in what people decided to do with the ashes, as well.
In the 60s, around 80% of families buried or scattered ashes in the remembrance garden at the crematorium. Now, that figure is completely reversed, with 80% of families taking the ashes away with them. 
Preferences have also shifted away from the big-urn-on-the-mantlepiece towards scattering. People often don’t want the ashes (and there are alot of ashes) in the house. While it can be comforting to keep a loved one close by, large urns can be intimidating, and the question of where to put them equally daunting
By comparison, scattering the ashes on a hillside or river has real romantic appeal. It can feel like more of a final resting place. A small ceremony, somewhere that resonates with the person they love, can offer a kind of closure. In fact, 79% of people who want a cremation would like their ashes scattered.

A happy medium

Ashes jewellery

But scattering does have drawbacks. More than a few people who have scattered ashes have found themselves missing them. By then, it’s too late to do anything about it. So, many of us have started to wonder if there was a way to do both: put the person to rest, but also keep them close. 

Enter ashes jewellery. Families can scatter most of the ashes, and keep a small amount back to place in a locket or ring. And over the last few years, this way of memorialising someone seems to have blossomed. Now, there is a wide selection of ashes jewellery to choose from. From hollow pendants to clever pieces with the ashes held in glass or resin, there’s something for everyone
But, unlike Victorian memorial pieces, these new designs are subtle. Rather than broadcasting the owner’s loss, they allow the wearer to feel close to their loved one – without anyone the wiser.

Future or fad?

Only time will tell if ashes jewellery is a brief fashion or here to stay. But most people are at least aware of the option, and a number of companies have sprung up to meet this need. It’s also possible we’ll never know quite how popular ashes jewellery is. After all, with the new pieces being so discreet, who else is to know you’re wearing them – unless you tell them …
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How to Arrange a Funeral: A Coronavirus Update 0

Flowers sit on a bench at a funeral during the coronavirus outbreak

Losing someone you love is always devastating. At the moment, it’s even more difficult. With coronavirus regulations changing funerals, it’s harder than ever to know what to do.

If you’re reading this because someone close to you has died, we’re so sorry for your loss. We hope these guidelines will make the next few weeks a little easier for you.


What should I do if someone has died at home?

If the death was expected, you can call their GP or 111 to get through to the nearest clinic. If the death was unexpected or sudden, call 999 and explain the situation. They will send an ambulance and police if necessary.

Remember: if the person who died had coronavirus symptoms, or if anyone else in the household has them, it’s important to mention it. Help will come to your home as soon as possible. 


Can I still arrange a funeral?

Yes: at the moment, funerals are still going ahead. There are just some changes to the way things are done. These rules might be hard to follow, but they are there to keep you and your family safe. They are covered in detail below.

The first thing you will need to do is choose a funeral director. You can search for funeral directors near you in our directory here.


Can I make arrangements from home?

Yes, of course. To help families maintain social distancing, funeral directors are happy to discuss all the arrangements over the phone or by email.

If you and the rest of your household are all well, and the death was unrelated to coronavirus, you may be able to come into the funeral home for a meeting. But many funeral homes are not offering face-to-face meetings right now, to keep families and staff safe. 

You will still get the same thoughtful service regardless.


Who can attend the funeral?

The government has laid out strict guidelines on this (see the full details here), and crematoria and cemetery staff have set their own limits based on what is safest. 

Here are the basics:

  • Only close family members and people who lived with the person who has died can attend the funeral. Close friends can come if there are no family.
  • Numbers must be kept low — usually under 10 people. This is to make sure that people can stay 2 metres apart at all times.
  • If you have Covid-19 symptoms or have had contact with someone who has been infected, you must stay home. This includes contact with the person who has died, if they died due to the coronavirus.
  • If you are in a vulnerable or extremely vulnerable group, you must stay home. This includes people who are pregnant or over 70.

We know it can be incredibly difficult not to be there to say goodbye. If you are not allowed to go to the funeral, we have a guide to help you here.


Do we have to follow social distancing measures at the service?

Yes: at the service, and while you’re travelling to and from the service.

This means that you will need to:

  • Travel to and from the service with people from your household, no one else.
  • Stand 2 metres away from anyone you don’t live with at the service.
  • Avoid touching (hugging, shaking hands with) anyone you don’t live with.
  • Wash your hands frequently using the facilities provided.

We have a detailed guide on what you can expect the service to be like here.


How do I go about registering the death?

You’ll need to register the death with the local register office within five days (eight days in Scotland). It’s now possible to do this over the phone. Your chosen funeral director is also allowed to do it for you, if needed.

The doctor who attended your loved one when they died and signed the medical certificate of cause of death should tell you what to do. If not, you can contact the local council to find out the process.

Don’t worry: this will be very simple. It should be something like:

  1. The medical certificate of cause of death is sent to the register office. The hospital or GP clinic may email it over to them for you.
  2. Staff at the register office will contact you to organise a time to call you to register the death. This might take half an hour or so.
  3. After the call, the death certificate will be posted to you. 
  4. The green form for burial or cremation will be posted to your funeral director, if you have one, or to you if not.


Can I visit my loved one at the funeral home?

The government has said that viewing the person who has died is still allowed. However, it’s at the discretion of the funeral home, as they will need to assess whether they have the equipment and space to let you do so safely. If you are still in quarantine yourself, you’ll need to stay at home. 

If you do go to see the person who has died at the funeral home, staff may ask you to follow some of the following guidelines:

  • To wear protective equipment (PPE) before you approach the coffin
  • Not to touch the person who has died
  • To stay behind a glass screen for the viewing
  • To keep a 6ft distance from the coffin
  • The coffin may be closed
  • There may only be one or two people allowed in the room at a time

Which of these will apply — if any — will depend on the funeral home’s equipment, the viewing room available, and how the person died.

The government has strongly advised against certain funeral customs, like washing and dressing the person who has died. If you do wish to do this, you will likely be asked to wear full PPE. If you’re in one of the vulnerable or extremely vulnerable groups, you should not take part.


Where can we hold the service?

Almost all places of worship have closed, even for funeral services. This includes The Church of England, Scotland and Wales and Catholic Diocese.

However, you can still have a service at a crematorium or at the graveside with a small number of mourners.


What can we do if we can’t attend the service?

You could ask your funeral director to live stream the service. This means that anyone who can’t attend can still watch the funeral service from home.

The funeral director could also drive the hearse by the houses of anyone who wanted to attend, but couldn’t. This means you can wave or bow or clap to pay your respects.

You might find it also helps to find your own way to say goodbye from home. We have some advice on this here.


Can we still hire limousines to get to the funeral?

This is still up to the funeral director — but most are saying no in the interests of safety for their staff and bereaved families. If you are allowed to hire a limousine, the driver will likely:

  • Limit the number of people who can travel in the car
  • Only pick up people from one household
  • Keep a glass screen up 
  • Ask you to sit at the back of the car to maintain social distancing

You should wash your hands before and after getting in the limousine, and avoid touching your face.


Can I still hold a wake at my home?

Gatherings in your home are not allowed right now, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to celebrate your loved one. 

We recommend using an online video call service like Zoom or Houseparty to hold an online wake. Friends and family members can dial in and share memories and stories about the person who has died, just like at a normal wake.


What if I can’t afford the funeral?

Don’t worry, there is help available from the government, charities and from Beyond. You can find a round-up of all the different options in our guide here.

If you would like to crowdfund the funeral, you can make a free online donation page on Beyond here.

You can also get advice from Down to Earth, an organisation that supports people struggling with funeral costs. The number is 020 8983 5055.


Get the support you need

If you need someone to talk to about how you’re feeling, help is available.

  • Cruse Bereavement Care offer free advice for bereaved people and a support line to chat: 0808 808 1677.
  • The Samaritans help line is open 24/7 if you’d just like to talk: 116 123.

The New Funeral Etiquette: A Coronavirus Update 1

To protect bereaved families during the current coronavirus outbreak, the government has laid out a number of strict guidelines for funerals. 

These often conflict with what’s instinctive during times of grief — to hug, to hold hands, to simply be together. It’s going to be hard. But these rules are also essential if we want to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe at this time. Following them now can save lives.

If you’re going to a funeral in the weeks to come, here’s what you can expect.


Who can go to the funeral?

Many local councils are limiting numbers at funerals at the moment to 10 people, sometimes less. The funeral director will warn you ahead of time if this is the case.

We have a detailed summing-up of the rules on who can attend here. But essentially, it’s:

  • Close family
  • Anyone who lived in the same house/flat as the person who has died
  • (If there aren’t any close family members) close friends

If you are pregnant, over 75, or have a condition that puts you at greater risk of serious illness, you should stay home to stay safe. If you’re not sure, check these lists of vulnerable groups and extremely vulnerable groups.

The same goes if you have any coronavirus symptoms at all, even mild. Or if you need to be self-isolating because you’ve had contact with someone with Covid-19. Stay home.

If the person died due to Covid-19, and you were living with them, you won’t be able to attend a funeral until the 2 week quarantine period is up.

We know it’s hard not to be there to say goodbye. If you’re struggling with this, we have some advice on other ways to pay tribute to the person you’ve lost here.


Travelling to the funeral

The government says that it’s important to only travel to the funeral with other people from your household — sharing a car can help a virus spread. 

For this reason, a lot of funeral homes are saying no to limousines at the moment to protect their staff and bereaved families. If you do have one, it’s really important to: 

  • Check that the funeral director will disinfect the car before and after.
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds before getting in, and the same after — try not to touch your face.
  • Follow any instructions the driver gives you.

If you like, you can ask the funeral director to change the route of the funeral procession so that it goes past the homes of people who wanted to go but couldn’t. This gives them a chance to say goodbye: they can step outside and wave or clap to pay their respects.


Before you go in to the service

Most crematoria are asking people to wait in their cars until a staff member tells them it’s okay to come in. So, each household comes in one after the other. This helps prevent crowding at the entrance.

If you’re going to an outdoor service at the graveside, it may be the same at the cemetery gates. The funeral director will tell you what to expect.

Remember, you need to stay 2 metres away from anyone you don’t live with. We know this is very difficult to bear when all you want to do right now is comfort each other, but it’s really important. 

You can find advice on social distancing here.


The funeral service

If you’re having the service indoors, at the crematoria for example, there are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Staff from the venue will usually hold the doors open for you, so you don’t have to touch them.
  • There will almost definitely be hand washing facilities and hand gel ready for your use when you get in. Don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Seats are usually placed two metres apart now, to help you maintain social distancing.

If the service is outdoors, perhaps at the graveside, you can stand together with people who are living with you during the service. But you’ll need to stay 2 metres away from anyone else.

For either kind of service, it can help to know that:

  • You can ask the funeral director ahead of time if they can live stream the funeral service. This means other friends and family can watch from home.
  • The coffin will most likely be carried by staff from the funeral home or brought in on a wheeled platform. This is so that family members can have safe social distancing.
  • You may be asked not to touch the coffin. For this reason, a lot of crematoria are closing the curtains around the coffin after it is brought in.
  • If you have to cough, sneeze, or blow your nose: cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, or your sleeve if you don’t have one. Then wash your hands or use hand gel as soon as you can.

Remember: even though the service is going to be small, it can still be really meaningful and special. And you can always hold a bigger service that everyone can attend later on, when larger gatherings are allowed again.


After the funeral service

As with travelling to the funeral, it’s important to only travel back with the people you live with. When you get home, take 20 seconds to wash your hands.

While it’s not possible to organise a wake at the moment, you could still hold an ‘online wake’. You can use a free video call service like Google Hangouts, the Houseparty app or Zoom to talk to friends and family. 

It’s a chance to share memories about the person who has died and talk about what happened at the service to those who couldn’t make it.

Bear in mind that some free video call services cut out after 40 minutes. It’s no problem: you just need to set up the call again to continue.


Get the support you need

Losing someone you love is always overwhelming. But it’s particularly hard right now.

If you need someone to talk to 

  • Cruse Bereavement Care offer free advice for bereaved people and a support line to chat: 0808 808 1677.
  • The Samaritans help line is open 24/7 if you’d just like to talk: 116 123.

If you need help with funeral costs

  • Beyond’s guide to government, charity and other sources of financial aid can be found here.
  • You can also get free advice from Down to Earth, an organisation that supports people struggling with funeral costs: 020 8983 5055.