Archeologists pinpointed the first use of cremation to the Stone Age around 3000 BC. It’s believed that cremation began in Europe and the Near East before spreading across Northern Europe where it was documented in pottery urns in western Russia. Moving into the Bronze Age, cremation found its way to the British Isles and Ireland.
The cremation movement as we know it today began during 1873 when a professor in Italy created a stable furnace. Shortly after, Queen Victoria’s surgeon was concerned about unstable health concerns and burial, so he built the first crematories in Europe in 1878.
The first crematory in the United States was built in 1876 in Washington, Pennsylvania. From there, the industry changed forever. So, now we know the history of cremation—but what is it exactly, and how does the process work?
When we’re making burial arrangements for a loved one, we want to honor their remarkable life to the best of our abilities. Understanding the cremation process and the reasons others have chosen cremation can help us decide whether cremation is the best decision for our loved ones.
The Step by Step Cremation Process
After making arrangements with a funeral director, the first step in the cremation process is to transport your loved one’s remains to a crematorium. A crematorium can be found in funeral homes, churches, or as their own stand-alone facility.
Before the cremation can begin, a family member must identify the remains at the crematorium. It is vital to note that each state may vary in its identification procedures, and paperwork like a death certificate is generally necessary.
A metal ID tag will be placed with your loved one for the remainder of the process and used for final verification after the cremation has been completed.
Next, cremation specialists need authorization to proceed. This is official permission usually given by a family member that involves the completion of final authorization documents. The paperwork will also specify what container or cremation casket the crematory will use and who will be picking up the final remains.
Before the remains are cremated, the body is cleaned and dressed in a special set of clothing, like your loved one’s favorite dress or their military uniform. The body does not undergo an embalming process unless a family member requests one for public viewing for funeral arrangements.
Any jewelry, metal objects like dental gold, valuable personal items, or other mementos are removed for loved ones to keep. Sometimes loved ones will choose leave jewelry with the deceased instead, although many crematoriums advise against it. Additional items like medical devices, pacemakers, or batteries are removed here as well to prevent combustion in the chamber. Finally, the body is placed either in a casket or a wooden box to prepare for the furnace.
During this step, the physical act of cremation occurs. The deceased is placed in an industrial furnace, or chamber, and the body is burned between 1400 and 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Bone fragments will be left behind and occasionally metals, like stainless steel, will be in the remains as well. The remains must cool before they can be processed any further.
After the furnace, only bone fragments are left and will be sent through a filter that removes any metals that were left behind from the casket such as implants. It essentially burns away all organic in the body, and we are left with the inorganic material or the bones. From here, the bone fragments will be made into the powder that we call ashes.
Over the course of our lives, we come into contact with metals and those metals eventually make their way into our bones. Whether our loved ones are a vegetarian or took certain supplements over the course of their life can be detected in the bone fragments. Therefore, our diet will affect what is left in our remains.
The crematorium is required to provide the ashes in a sturdy container, even if a specific urn or box has not been chosen by the deceased’s loved ones. The ashes will look and feel like sand, and you will have the option to choose from a large selection of urns that you can put inside your home, scatter in a special place, or turn into a portable memorial.
The cremation process can take around three hours to complete. Only one person’s remains will enter the furnace at a time, and there are labeling and identification procedures at each stage of the process. This way, we can feel comfortable entrusting the extraordinary people in our life to the capable hands of the cremation specialists.
What Is the Cremation Chamber?
The cremation furnace is also known as a retort, and it is designed to process one body at a time. Today, these chambers are automated and computerized, and they are required to follow environmental and ecological awareness and air quality standards. Natural gas, propane, or diesel are used to fuel the retort, which is lined with fire-resistant bricks.
Types of Cremation
There’s more than one kind of cremation, and it can be helpful to consider all of our options when making final arrangements for our loved ones. Below, we explain direct cremation and liquid cremation so you can feel more comfortable making your decision.
What Is Direct Cremation?
Direct cremation occurs when the remains go directly to the crematorium without a funeral service. This is the most cost-effective option because a casket is not purchased, although loved ones often choose to have a memorial at a later date to honor the deceased.
Direct cremation uses heat to transform the body into bone fragments, as described above. Any metal prior to the cremation must be removed and the flames may create a mercury by-product. This option is legal everywhere in the United States and will produce smaller amounts of ashes when the process is complete.
What Is Liquid Cremation?
Did you know that there is another option for cremation that does not require a flame? Alkaline hydrolysis uses water, alkali, heat, and pressure to decompose remains and leave bone fragments behind which are then transformed into ash. This option results in 30% more ashes than cremation methods using a furnace.
Liquid cremation can take anywhere from three to 16 hours. This time period varies due to the size of the body and the equipment used, and medical devices do not need to be removed during liquid cremation.
Liquid cremation uses very little energy, and the sterile liquid can even be recycled and sent through the wastewater treatment system. Liquid cremation has not been approved everywhere in the United States yet, but half of the states allow liquid cremation as an option.
Liquid cremation is considered green, meaning it’s more environmentally friendly. Liquid cremation uses only one-eighth of the amount of energy that the furnace uses, and the sterile liquid can be recycled after use. This cremation process even reduces the process’s carbon footprint by 75%. Since there is no flame, there is zero concern for mercury emission and reduces greenhouse gases and fossil fuels.
Why Do People Choose Cremation?
Many factors influence whether people choose to cremate their loved ones. First, there may be religious or cultural beliefs to take into account, as some traditions require burial. Our loved ones may have also indicated whether they preferred to be cremated or buried before they passed.
Cremation has become more popular than burial for a few reasons. It can be less expensive than burial, and it’s better for the environment. At the same time, land is becoming less available for cemeteries. Cremation can be easier to arrange and provide more flexible service options. Regardless of whether we choose burial or cremation, funeral rites are an opportunity to celebrate our loved one’s remarkable lives and find meaning throughout the grieving process.
At Eterneva, we support people grieving the loss of their extraordinary loved ones by giving them a unique way to honor and cherish their memories through a beautiful cremation diamond.
Through our High-Pressure High-Temperature machines, we are able to use your loved one’s ashes or hair as the carbon source to grow your diamond. Then we find the perfect pressure, temperature, and time, just like the Earth’s natural process, to create a rough diamond. We will need one gram of carbon for our process and there is around 1 to 4% of carbon in cremated ashes. This equates to 2.5 to 8.5mg of carbon available to create your portable memorial.
We take the ashes or hair and put them through our proprietary carbon purification process. Once that is complete, we make sure the carbon is ground into a powder and placed with a diamond seed in our high-pressure high-temperature machines. Now that the diamond is created, it is assessed for quality then sent to a master cutter. After that, the gem is inspected and graded according to the International Gemological Institute and is certified as a 100% real diamond.
This entire process can take anywhere from seven to 11 months, depending on the options and how you choose to design your one-of-a-kind diamond.
In order for someone to be able to honor their loved one through diamond creation, we need to use their cremated remains or hair. We see daily how honoring a loved one by transforming their remains into an Eterneva diamond has changed our relationship with grief and gives us an opportunity to take our loved ones with us every single day.
Throughout the diamond process, we will update you each step of the way to ensure that you are there with us in each milestone. For example, when we complete the carbon purification process and open the crucible up for the first time, we document the entire experience to be able to share it with you all on video.
Cremation is a big decision. The days and weeks following the passing of a loved one can be difficult as we balance our grief with big decisions like cremation and burial. By researching our options and making an informed decision, we can remove one of the many stressors of memorial preparations.
Cremation is now more popular than burial, even thousands of years after its creation. If you choose to cremate your loved one, you have the option to turn their ashes into a diamond you can carry with you for life to honor their continued presence in your heart.