In the U.S., cremation now makes up for more than 53% of all post-funeral plans. In some states, like Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, and Hawaii, cremation rates are higher than 72%.
In Canada, 72% is the national average for cremation as the chosen option.
In total, cremation rates are skyrocketing in North America as more and more people look for more personal, cost-effective, and sustainable options than traditional burial.
To support that demand for better options, there has been a flurry of new memorial options available for those who have been cremated.
Prior to these newer options beginning to spring up within the last decade, there hadn’t been innovation within the death and memorial industry for more than 100 years.
Now, the memorial industry is seeing a rejuvenation as personalization options boom, and people yearn for better ways to remember the life of their loved, not the way they passed.
Many Desire to Memorialize Your Loved Ones Post-Cremation
Not much has changed in the way we memorialize loved ones.
And now, in our busy 24/7 world, we have less time to visit cemeteries and, although cremation rates are skyrocketing, ashes usually aren't passed down, so the memories of our loved ones are fading through the generations.
Many people believe our loved ones deserve better, so a few key companies are using new technology or ideas to radically redefine the way we memorialize. These new methods have been covered across the gamut of media, celebrities and more, from The New York Times to 2Chainz, and every outlet in between.
This is because these memorial options are new. It is also because of a massive wellness and mindfulness lifestyle shift across North America. As a result, death is being taken out of the “do not talk about” corner and brought to the forefront.
Nowadays, society is beginning to ask questions like:
- How do you want to live?
- How do you want to pass?
- How do you want to be memorialized?
These questions matter, because they get to the heart and soul of what it means to be a conscious, living being on this planet. All of our answers will vary. That’s the point.
Of course, in thinking through these questions or yourself and your loved ones (pets included!), it’s often helpful to have a few ideas. These more cultural conversation is brand new. We haven’t talked openly about this for more than 100 years. It will be a new muscle for us all, but one worth exercising.
After all, removing the stigma around death, dying, and grief is crucial for each of us living the best lives for who and where we are. That includes honoring the amazing connections we make along the way.
Here are some of the newest, coolest, most preferred ways to memorialize your loved one post-cremation, from ashes jewellery to memorial diamonds, and more.
13 Ways People Use Cremation Ashes to Commemorate Loved Ones
All right –– here is the real meat and potatoes you’ve been looking for.
- What is possible?
- What can you do with the ashes?
- Is it safe to plant ashes?
- What about scattering ashes?
- Do you need to know anything specific?
- Are there unique memorial options you might love, but haven’t heard of?
All great questions! Let’s dive in!
1. Turn their ashes into diamonds.
That’s right –– we are all made of carbon, and even after cremation, there is carbon that can be purified from your loved one’s ashes.
There are multiple companies, like Eterneva, that will work with you to turn your loved one’s ashes into a diamond, often through an 8-10 month process that replicates the conditions in the mantle of the earth.
You can choose the size, color, and the cut –– and then follow the journey along with your loved one as they are transformed into a precious stone you can carry with you for the next chapter of life.
You only need a half cup of ashes, so you can choose this option, as well as multiple others.
2. Scatter ashes far and wide.
This is one of the most popular activities to do with cremains –– mostly because it’s fairly easy and inexpensive.
But if this is the route you are going to go, note a few things no one tells you:
- Don’t stand up wind! Lest you end up with ashes in your eye lashes or in your lip gloss.
- Get permission! Most national parks require you get a permit –– and always make sure you aren’t trespassing!
- Ashes are sticky! So be sure to bring a bottle of water with you to wash any ash that gets off you off. It’s better than wiping it on your pants.
3. Plant their ashes.
Turn your loved one’s ashes into new plant life. There are several companies like Bios Urn which offer planting urns that mix the ashes with plant nutrients to grow a tree –– or other plants.
Just note: planting ashes around a tree yourself can be tricky. Ashes don’t decompose well, and can stop nutrients from reaching a plant –– and then killing it. To avoid this, just Google “planting ashes” and use one of the companies you find.
4. Turn their ashes into a memorial tattoo.
Cremation diamonds not permanent enough? You can work with a tattoo artist to mix in your loved one’s ashes with ink and have them tattooed physically into you.
5. Use their ashes in a painting.
Similarly to using ashes within tattoo ink, you can commission a painting that has mixed your loved one’s ashes into the paint. Many people choose to have them paint a portrait of their loved one, or of a landscape they loved.
6. Have them go out with a bang.
Some companies like Heavenly Stars Fireworks will use your loved one’s ashes in fireworks that you can explode to spread their ashes and use the event as a celebration of life.
7. Let them float out to sea.
Maybe your loved one was a bigger fan of the water than the air, and if so, you can buy an urn or other keepsake item from a variety of companies –– all that are made to be sent out to sea.
Eventually, the biodegradable urn will sink down into the ocean and naturally scatter the ashes.
8. Turn their ashes into new coral reef.
Companies like Eternal Reef will use the ashes to create new coral reefs by using a type of concrete that encourages marine life growth when placed in the ocean.
It’s a good way to know that you’re loved one will be giving back to the environment for generations to come.
9. Turns their ashes into pottery.
Pottery and glassware can be created with your loved one’s urns from mugs and plates to glass paperweights.
10. Their ashes can become a vinyl record.
Was your loved one a music lover? You can use their ashes to create a custom vinyl through companies like And Vinyly. You get to choose the songs you want on the record.
11. Send their ashes to outer space.
This is a send-off of a lifetime! Send your loved one out of this world with companies like Celetis which works with space flight companies to include ashes on missions.
You can track your loved one while on their trip and potentially fulfill a lifelong dream of theirs.
12. Bury them – of course.
This might be obvious, but you can of course bury your loved one’s ashes. This is the only option approved by the Catholic Church, though they recommend doing it in graveyards.
Either way, you can bury your loved one’s ashes so you have a place to go to visit them (though many people get concerned about what happens if they move away).
For many folks, this provides a great comfort. I know I still go to my grandparents graves up in Fort Worth. We buy flowers before we go, clean the grave and put the flowers down. Then, we go grab a little lunch – usually at Mexican Inn, if you are familiar with the area. It’s all a little visit ritual, if you will.
13. Artisan and keepsake urns.
Finally, maybe you like the idea of keeping an urn nearby with their ashes, but want something that is a little more pleasant to look at or better matches your style.
There are tons of artisan urns out there to fit your home aesthetic. In fact, many Eterneva customers like Phil have both diamonds and beautiful urns (one, in his case, that matches his hardwood floors!).
Real-world Examples of Ways People Used Loved One Ashes to Memorialize Them
1. A memorial diamond heirloom and the fanciest urn ever.
Phil and Alan’s love story is one for the books. You can’t possibly hear their story without both crying, laughing, and heading home to start to practice some of their love-keeping rituals with your own partner.
When Alan was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, his planner self went to work. After his cremation a month later, when Phil went to pick Alan up, he was given the most beautiful cremation urn –– one that perfectly matched he and Alan’s wood floor at home.
“After he passed away and was cremated, I went to go pick him up. The box he picked out matches our floors and cabinets to a T. It literally looks like it could have been made from the same wood.”
“And it's like, well of course it would match. We're gay! Why would it not match? He had it all down to a T.”
Phil also decided to do something even flashier for his late husband – to turn his ashes into a diamond.
The ring he set that diamond in contain both of their birthstones, and when Phil passes, he has already decided he also will become a diamond, and join Alan in that ring. It will go to Alan’s brother, who will pass it on with the story of their love for generations to come.
“I'm just as proud of this ring as anything in the whole wide world. I just absolutely adore it. It's a big piece, of course.”
“And I can hear Alan say, ‘You just have to be confident. Remember, I'm confident and I'm always with you.’ His confidence is always there, reminding me to be confident, to get up, to do things, to embrace the life I have. I carry that with me.”
2. A brighter memorial option, and a tattoo, to boot!
When Chelsea entered the #RememberingMom raffle, she was certain she wouldn’t win. After all, she’d been pretty hard on her luck for the last few years.
During that time, both her parents passed, within months of one another. And then, at the young age of 18, she began fighting for custody of her younger sibling.
It had all been a lot –– but the call came that she had won and immediately she knew this was the right memorial option for them.
“I never win anything,” says Chelsea. “I've got horrible luck.”
“I was really in shock when I found out, but also really excited because at that point in time I thought it was just going to be my mom*, but she was such a great person and to me she was like a diamond when she was living. I felt there's no better way to memorialize her than like that.”
*Chelsea found out after this that call that both of her parents’ ashes could be used in a single diamond.
But beyond the cremation diamond, Chelsea had already gotten a tattoo to memorialize her mother. The memorial tattoo is of a recording of her mom’s voice.
“There's only one recording I have of my mom’s voice. I got it from the house phone before our phone shut off. I got that recording tattooed. It's a sound wave and it takes up my entire forearm.”
3. Cremation jewelry for her jewelry-loving son.
Denise experienced a tragedy all of us hope to avoid. She lost her only son, mere weeks after his high school graduation.
All of the light in her world had been sucked out, and she was desperate to find ways to memorialize him that felt right, brought back some light, and honored who he was.
First, that was in a fingerprint ring she worked with a funeral home funeral director on creating. Then, she found that you could turn ashes into diamonds, and knew that was the perfect option for Austin.
“He always was a diamond in my eyes,” she says.
The cremation diamond journey helped give Denise something to look forward to in regard to her son, and when the diamond was ready, she drove from Louisiana to Austin, Texas to pick up her baby.
Her full story is both gut wrenching, and incredibly beautiful. You can see her go from pain to a remembering smile as she thinks back on the boy she so loved, who brought so much light to this world, and who’s memory she keeps both in her heart and takes with her wherever she goes.
Why Cremation Diamonds Are a Great Way to Commemorate
We’d be remiss here not to highlight how firm belief that cremation diamonds are a fantastic way to memorialize a loved one through cremation jewelry. Our co-founder Adelle started this company because she so fell in love with this process, with the journey, with the hope it brings, and how it helps in the mourning process and beyond.
Adelle effectively was Eterneva’s first customer.
She was blown away that in hundreds of years, there's been next-to-no innovation in this space. We're stuck with the same urns and caskets. She wanted to do this and felt others would too, so she put together a website, set a small Google Ads budget, and waited to see if people would be intrigued by this too.
It turns out, quite a few people were. Here are just a sample of some of the early customers.
Florian was a grand adventurer, as his wife of 22 years, celebrity esthetician Renee Rouleau describes.
Many people called Florian "the most interesting man in the world, and when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, one of his dying wishes was to have his ashes turned into a diamond so his beloved wife, daughter and son could have a piece of him with them forever and always.
Today, Renee keeps his spirit alive on her Instagram feed.
Florian is on my mind a lot today, for this would have been his first-ever 4th of July as a U.S. citizen—a day he wanted to be able to celebrate. However, his wish of dying as a U.S. citizen did come true and this is so worthy of a celebration. 🎉 Since Florian loved to make people laugh, here’s how he got his citizenship last year. It’s a good one. ... .. After applying for his citizenship a year earlier, he finally got notified that he was eligible for an interview in San Antonio. How the process works is that once that is complete, they send him home and he waits a month or so for the final decision. If he passed, he would go back to take the Oath and get his citizenship. Sadly, Florian’s days were running out and he knew he might not have that kind of time to wait. So in true Florian fashion, his perseverance and smarts would find a way to make this happen faster. The morning of the interview, I looked at his face and saw that he had missed a bunch of areas from his daily shave. His razor work was always perfection so this caught me by surprise. I said, “Florian, you have all these patches of hair that you missed?" He came up close to my face and in a soft, whispery, low voice (like Marlon Brando in the movie The Godfather), he said, “Renee…it’s all in the details...” Wink, wink. 😉 Florian had a grand plan which was to provide them not only the medical paperwork of his cancer diagnosis and the urgency of the situation, but pull out the “Awww…poor guy, he can’t even shave” card out of his bag of tricks. Well, it worked. He passed everything and they took him in the back and allowed him to become a U.S. citizen right on the spot. 🇺🇸September 19, 2018 was a beautiful and emotional day...and tears were flowing. (I’m leaving that out of the video.) The kind people working in this government office actually made his dream come true. Yes. 🙏🏻 Florian died bravely as a proud U.S. citizen seven weeks later and was cremated with the American flag shown in this picture. He was a good man who contributed GREATLY to America the 30+ years he lived here. If you get a chance, please give him a little toast today. I know I will. #thisisflorian
A post shared by Esthetician & Skincare Expert (@reneerouleau) on Jul 4, 2019 at 8:01am PDT
Karen fought breast cancer for 15 years, and now, her husband walks seven 60 mile walks with her pink diamond over his heart.
Here is a blog post telling her amazing story, or check out the video to see her husband, hear his story, and witness the light the journey brings.
John was a well-loved pharmacology professor. His wife made a blue diamond to match his eyes.
Cali was Cecelia's "first child." Cecelia is a badass female executive who never settled down to have a family, so Cali was her family. Our society doesn't allow you to mourn a pet like you do a person, so this is Cecelia's way to honor her Cali girl and hold her close.
Calista was an amazing young girl we lost too soon (18 years old). Her Dad launched the most remarkable legacy projects in her honor - from coins that travel the world to an international photography competition. Eterneva created her Mom a gorgeous ring with two large, bright red diamonds to carry her baby with her.
Common Questions About Things to Do With Cremation Ashes
Can you take cremated ashes on a plane?
Yes, you can take cremated ashes on a plane. It is recommended that you bring them with you in a carry-on item, as checked baggage can be subjected to more rough and tumble.
Do expect to be stopped at airport security checks, and asked about the remains.
TSA agents are trained on this type of item, and are prepared to work with you to make the transportation of your loved one’s ashes as easy –– and safe –– as possible.
Is it illegal to spread ashes?
It depends on where you are wanting to spread ashes.
- It is illegal to spread cremation ashes in any national parks without permits, for example.
- It’s also illegal to spread ashes on private property.
Always look into the legality of where you are wanting to spread ashes. Most places have a clear process for gaining a permit, if that is what is needed.
Are human ashes bad for the ocean?
No, human ashes are perfectly safe to spread in the ocean. However, laws require that you spread ashes in the ocean at least 3 nautical miles from land.
This means you’ll need to be on a boat to ensure you are the proper distance away. Also, if it isn’t your boat, you’ll need permission from the captain.
How long is the process of turning cremated ashes into a diamond?
It takes 8-10 months to turn cremated ashes into diamonds. This is because the process involves multiple steps including purification, diamond growth, diamond cutting, diamond coloring, diamond grading, and finally, homecoming.
How long it takes exactly will depend on the size memorial diamond you want and the color you want.
How much does it cost to turn cremated ashes into a diamond?
Cremation diamonds begin at $2,400. The price goes up from there depending on the color, cut, and size of the diamond you want.
Unlike lab-grown diamond, memorial diamonds (also known as cremation diamonds) are grown individually in isolation of one another. Lab-grown diamonds are grown in batches. This makes their two price points incomparable.
How do you make diamonds out of cremated ashes?
There is a multi-step process to creating diamonds from cremation ashes.
- First, the ashes to diamonds company needs a small amount of ashes.
- Those ashes then must be purified down to only the elemental carbon in the form of graphite.
- From there, that graphite will be added to a diamond growth cell that contains a microscopic diamond seed. That growth cell will be put into an HPHT machine to begin the diamond growth process.
- Once the diamond has grown, a diamond cutter must mine it out of its diamond growth cell and inspect it to see if the right carat and cut is possible with the current stone.
- Once the cutter determines how to cut the diamond to get the right carat and shape, he or she begins cutting the diamond.
- Once the diamond is cut, it goes to coloration. Blue, colorless and yellow diamonds are the colors that can be created in the growth phase. Red, pink, black, green, or brighter blues or yellows will need to go through another HPHT machine process.
- Once the diamond is colored, it goes to IGI, an independent 3rd party gemological institute, for diamond grading.
- Then, the diamond either comes home or goes to be set.
Can you keep cremated ashes at home?
Yes, absolutely. Many people choose to keep their loved one’s ashes at home, in an urn. This is one of the more traditional options –– and often still a choice for many who choose more permanent memorials options as well.
Keep in mind, most urns get thrown out with the next generation.
Is it legal to bury cremated remains on your property?
Yes, it is legal to bury cremated remains on your property.
Many people like to use a biodegradable urn, like a Bios Urn or something similar, to plant their loved one’s cremated ashes. It’s a great way to have a place to visit them, but also to give back to the earth in the form of a tree.
Keep in mind, some folks don’t like the thought of this option in case they ever move away from the home. Something to consider!
As cremation rates rise across North America, and more and more friends and family members look for personal and bright options for memorializing their loved ones, we are sure to see more and more options pop up.
One thing is for sure: the memorial industry is no longer dominated by only two options –– a cremation urn or a gravestone. And that’s a good thing!
Talking about end of life options, last wishes, and memorial ideas helps all of us cope with one of the only certainties in life –– that as you are, so too I will be.