Over the past several years, cremation has become an increasingly popular funeral trend. The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) predicts that by 2040, 78.7 percent of Americans will choose to be cremated. Meanwhile, only 15.7 percent of Americans will opt for more traditional burials.
But while cremation is on the rise, more families are figuring out what to do with ashes. For example, you have to decide whether you’re keeping the ashes or scattering them. And if you keep them, you have to decide if you’ll display them or keep them tucked away. And if you display them, you have to decide what kind of vessel you’ll keep the ashes in.
Here, we’ll explore some cost-effective ways to store or disperse the ashes of a loved one.
1. Display Ashes In An Urn
Probably the most classic way to keep and display a loved one’s ashes is to store them in an urn. Urns for ashes have become an industry unto themselves. There are different subtypes of urns, including keepsake and companion urns.
The cost of an urn can vary depending on the material used and the style you get. You can get a lovely urn for $100 or less, so the classic option can also be very cost-effective.
For something customized specifically for your loved one, Foreverence will create a custom, entirely unique urn using the latest printing technology. Though a bit more pricely, this is a timeless tribute designed to be passed down through generations.
2. Cremation Jewelry
Sometimes people like to keep their loved ones close to their hearts. Cremation jewelry allows you to do that quite literally. Here are just some of the many types of cremation jewelry:
Jewelry urn: These small urns can be affixed to a necklace, ring, or bracelet. They are just a miniaturized version of a larger urn that only carries a small amount of cremains. These tiny urns can be see-through, or they can be opaque if you want to be more discreet about the contents. They come in a variety of shapes and styles, from cylindrical to locket-shaped. You can find these on sites like Etsy for as little as $20.
Crystal urn: These are similar in style to the jewelry urn, but a little more camouflaged. These pendants are made out of crystals, rocks, or minerals like amethyst or rose quartz. They have been hollowed out so you can keep cremains inside. These necklaces aren’t just beautiful and thoughtful; for some people, they can be healing. They can be sourced online for as little as $70.
Memorial ring: Some companies make rings that incorporate a line of ashes layered between other materials like metal or wood. These can be a great memento for someone whose spouse has passed away. They can range in price from under $100 to upwards of $600, depending on your style.
Cremation diamond: A few companies can actually take cremated remains and turn them into real diamonds. This happens through a process that involves extreme heat and pressure. This differs from other cremation jewelry in that you’re not storing ashes in a vessel, as the ashes literally get transformed. Eterneva is the leading provider of memorial diamonds, and they make it simple to customize the size, shape, color, and setting to suit your loved one's legacy.
This is all just scratching the surface of cremation jewelry options. There are so many avenues to explore at a wide array of price points.
3. Cremation Hourglass Urn
Many companies now offer decorative hourglasses which you can fill with ashes instead of sand. While these won’t be accurate timepieces, they can be a really beautiful and symbolic memorial item.
They serve as a visual reminder that we all have a finite amount of time on the earth. These hourglasses can often be personalized with custom engravings. Putting ashes in a unique hourglass can be a thoughtful way to contain them, and can be acquired for under $200.
4. Dichroic Glass Suncatcher
A suncatcher is a small ornament that both reflects and refracts light. They often include bits of colored glass to add visual interest to the prisms they cast.
They have been described as the optical equivalent to a windchime — essentially a beautiful and soothing art piece. You can get suncatchers made from multicolored dichroic glass and infused with cremains.
You can hang these suncatchers in your window and be constantly reminded of the beauty your late loved one brought to the world.
5. Cremation Memorial Tree
Many people honor their loved ones by planting a tree in their memory. It can be comforting, watching something grow and flourish in tribute to a friend or family member.
You can take this one step farther by planting your loved one’s cremains along with a tree. At least one company makes a product that enables you to do this. The ashes infuse the soil where the tree grows from, lending it added significance. The base price for this is just $129 (plus the cost of whatever tree you pick out), making this tribute within reach for most people.
6. Eco-Friendly Urn
A lot of people who decide to be cremated want to have their ashes dispersed in a place that holds meaning for them. Scattering ashes isn’t always the most practical method of doing so, though.
A strong wind can end up blowing ashes into your hair or face. Several companies now make biodegradable urns that are designed to break down naturally in water or open air. These are a great option for people who want to honor their loved one’s wishes, but who don’t want to be as hands-on with their ashes. These are also an excellent green burial alternative.
7. Glass Keepsake Memorial
Glass is a fascinating medium to work in. Many artisans have begun incorporating ashes into their glasswork to serve as memorial pieces. They are a transformative way to display the ashes of a loved one, as the ashes are often visible as part of the piece.
They come in many different shapes, sizes, and designs. Some people opt for simple clear glass spheres. Others might gravitate towards a pyramid with colorful highlights. There are many businesses and independent artists who can help elevate cremains into lasting art.
8. Tattoo with Ash-Infused Ink
Many people choose to honor loved ones who have passed away by getting memorial tattoos in their honor. These tattoos can be portraits, footprints, or just your loved one’s name and the dates of their lifespan.
But some people take this to a whole new level by getting tattoos made out of ink that has been infused with cremains. Specialty third-party companies can mix up this niche specialty ink for around $200 a vial. This may be a bridge too far for some people, but there are definitely some who appreciate the opportunity to make this unique tribute.
9. Cremation Paintings
Tattoo ink isn’t the only artistic medium that can be infused with ashes. Cremains can also be incorporated into art that goes on a different kind of canvas. Some companies and individual artists alike offer an option to incorporate a loved one’s ashes into a painting.
You could commission a portrait of the deceased or a landscape of their favorite place. No matter where you go, you’ll always have this piece of art to commemorate a loved one.
10. Incorporate Ashes Into Pottery
Another way to incorporate ashes artistically is to include them in pottery glaze.
You can make plates, vases, mugs, and more that incorporate a custom cremains-infused glaze. You can sit and sip coffee in the morning and feel as though your loved one is right there with you.
11. Cremation Stones
Finally, you can transform your loved one's ashes into beautiful, natural-looking stones with Parting Stone. If you send in the full quantity of ashes, you'll receive back between 40 and 60 unique, solidified-ash stones. You can all or some of these stones in nature as an alternative to scattering the ashes, or you can keep them as a lasting memorial.
How to Decide What to Do with Ashes?
With so many inexpensive ways to store or display ashes for yourself or your loved ones, how do you decide what's best? While there is no one-size-fits-all, there are some things to consider:
- Final wishes: The first thing to consider is the final wishes of the deceased. These could be outlined in a will or other end-of-life planning document. To plan your own final wishes, create a legal will online with Trust & Will.
- Combination: You also don't have to only choose one option. You might plan to wear a small bit of one's cremation ashes in cremation jewelry, while you store the remainder safely at home.
- Memorial: If your planning a memorial service or to scatter some of the ashes, consider this in your decision.
There is no right or wrong choice. This is a highly personal decision, so make sure you're choosing something that is meaningful to you.
Cost-Effective Ways to Store or Disperse Ashes After Cremation
If your loved one has passed away, odds are higher than ever that they have opted to be cremated.
But not everyone will leave instructions on what to do with the ashes after the cremation has taken place. Whether you decide on keeping ashes at home or scattering them, there are inexpensive options to explore that are still incredibly meaningful.
- “Cremation is Here to Stay: Aging Baby Boomers Proved Catalyst in Shift Beyond Traditional Burial.” Nfda.org, National Funeral Directors Association, 15 July 2019, www.nfda.org/news/media-center/nfda-news-releases/id/4395/cremation-is-here-to-stay-aging-baby-boomers-proved-catalyst-in-shift-beyond-traditional-burial.