Memorial Jewellery

jodiegearingMemorial JewelleryLeave a Comment

When we lose someone incredibly special to us, the ways in which our grief presents itself can surprise us. It is not uncommon for people to want to carry some ashes of their loved one in a piece of jewellery to keep them nearby for comfort. It never ceases to amaze me how jewellery can act like a talisman for my clients – the comfort that a sensitively and symbolically designed piece of jewellery can provide is incredibly powerful.

“Grief is the last act of love we have to give to those we loved. Where this is deep grief, there was great love

The most commonly seen memorial jewellery option is that where a small amount of ashes are trapped inside resin, and that resin is treated like a gemstone. These are often online businesses where you select a design from a selection on their website, post off some ashes, and in a few week’s time, receive the finished item.

I do not offer this service because, to me, the ashes of your special person deserve to be trapped in a way that is truly permanent. Resin cannot withstand the wear and tear of everyday wear – water, chemicals, lotions, and potions will affect it over time, and the resin will, in the best-case scenario, be yellow and, in the worst-case scenario, crack and deteriorate. Rings with resin in them cannot be resized or re-finished. 

Therefore, my goldsmiths and I have devised a method to trap ashes inside your jewellery in a way that we feel is much more appropriate, respectful, and permanent. It works in all kinds of jewellery, but the most common option my clients select is inside a ring. 

How it works is that we make a solid band in whatever your design may be, and create a small hollow inside the band where the ashes are trapped, with a cap of metal soldered on top. The cap can be any shape your desire (hearts or circles work well), and can be engraved. Often my clients opt for a contrasting colour metal cap so it is really visible and a feature of the ring. 

Ashes and birthstone inside a dramatic dress ring. The ashes are underneath the yellow gold cap, which contrasts against the white gold of the ring.

There are no restrictions to the design of the ring (other than it being wide/deep enough to accommodate the ashes), and each one is completely unique. You can tell the story of your relationship with the person you are commemorating in the ring, and you can even use sentimental metal and/or gemstones to create the design. 

The ashes are trapped in a completely water tight well inside the ring, and the ring can be resized in the future without them being affected at all. 

Let’s look at some of the memorial jewellery projects I have designed over the years to show you what can be done and how the process works. I will also cover some other options you may wish to consider if incorporating ashes into your jewellery doesn’t feel right to you.

Wendy’s Forget-Me-Not Ring

After losing her husband Richard, Wendy came to me with an ashes ring she had bought online that she wasn’t very happy with. It did not fit well, and she wasn’t expecting the ashes to be as visible as they are in the resin. Her original plan was to alter the ring to include some forget me knot flowers inspired by a much-loved silver brooch, with the flowers covering up the resin. She also brought along her broken engagement ring and her wedding ring.

We were not going to be able to resize her silver and resin ring or add to the design without destroying the resin, so I suggested a different route. I loved her ‘forget-me-not’ concept, but instead create a new ring using the metal and stones from her engagement and wedding ring in memory of Richard, with some of his ashes inside the ring in my preferred way to preserve them and keep them close.

Wendy loved this forget me not brooch, so we used it as inspiration for her memorial ring

She loved the idea and so we came up with this design – forget me not flowers set with the diamonds from her engagement ring, with the aquamarine from her engagement ring in the centre. A yellow gold heart inside the band acts as a cap over the ashes, with a beautifully hand engraved sentiment inside.

Wendy now has a ring she can wear on her ring finger, full of history and symbolism, that will provide her with comfort in this new chapter of her life. Her engagement ring and wedding ring were otherwise likely to be hidden away unworn, so it was so special to rework them into a new piece she could love again. 

The added bonus was that the silver ring she ordered online when she felt really vulnerable and full of grief was gifted to her mother in law who loved it. 

It was so special to use the stones and metal from Wendy’s engagement and wedding rings in this memorial ring
The yellow gold heart shaped cap covers the ashes

See more images of this ring here.

Sam’s Ring Set

Wendy’s ring was a huge inspiration to Sam when she wanted to create a ring in memory of her mother. She was left two rings, and we were able to use all the stones and some of the yellow gold to create a truly beautiful and very meaningful set for her. 

The diamonds and emeralds worked perfectly to form a flower shape, but one emerald was left over, which we set inside the band next to where the ashes were trapped. We used some metal from the rings to create the heart shaped cap for the ashes, and to make the stamens in the centre of the flower, which was such a lovely touch to the design. 

We created a wrap-around enhancer ring to sit around the stone set ring, which we later engraved with a forget-me-not design. Sam wears this one on it’s own at work as she is a nurse and cannot wear stone set rings when working.

As Sam is deaf, her other senses are ultra sensitive, so she had concerns about the comfort of the leaf points and the elements inside the ring, but she put her trust in me and is delighted with the outcome. This design may have points, but they are soft, and very low profile so no matter what shape her hand is in, they never stand out.

It is a wonderful feeling to know I’ve designed something Sam would never have believed could have come from the two original rings, and that it will bring her so much comfort to have her mum close with her. 

Sam’s forget-me-not inspired ring set with her mother’s diamonds and emeralds from existing rings.
Emerald is Sam’s mother’s birthstone, so it was a lovely touch to set the left over emerald inside the band next to the ashes.

“Absolutely delighted with the ring. Just love my ring so much, so comfy to wear.” – Sam

See more images of this ring here.

Welsh Feathers Memorial Pendant

Pauline wanted to make a pendant in memory of her husband Allan, using both their birthstones and celebrating his Welsh heritage. We based the design on Welsh feathers, and added a beautiful briolette cut Amethyst to represent his birthstone (February) and a little blue zircon to represent Pauline (December) on the bail. A small amount of Allan’s ashes are tucked under the white gold cap on the reverse of the pendant.

See more of this pendant here.

Locket design

Of course it doesn’t have to just be ashes we trap inside your memorial jewellery. I designed this pendant for Alexis, which was to contain some of her late husband’s hair. She wanted the hair to be visible through a clear stone set over the top. We also planned to engrave his finger print to the front of the locket. 

Other Ways to Commemorate Someone in a Piece of Jewellery

If trapping ashes or hair inside a piece of jewellery doesn’t feel right to you, there are many other ways to honour your loved one through a piece of bespoke jewellery design. I regularly reimagine jewellery that has been passed down into new pieces so the stories and memories live on – take a look at this previous article about Sarah’s range of jewellery created from (and paid for!) by her mother’s jewellery for lots of inspiration.

Below are some other pieces I have designed in memory of loved ones, but not including ashes.

Wedding ring pendant

After the heartbreak of losing his wife Jayne, Paul, with the support of his son Michael, came to see me to design a pendant made from his and his wife’s wedding rings to keep them close to his heart.

We went for a circular design, made from Paul’s yellow gold wedding ring and a ring Jayne gave him in the early days of their relationship, made to measure the same diameter as Paul’s wedding ring. Jayne’s platinum wedding ring was melted down and formed into a frame to sit on one side of the pendant, again kept the same diameter as her wedding ring. This created a frame for a stunning piece of hand engraving of St Jude, based on a sculpture in Paul and Jayne’s house that they both adored.

On the reverse of the pendant, we copied Jayne’s handwriting from a card, and wrote the nickname her grandchildren affectionately called her – Bibby. The princess cut diamonds that were in Jayne’s wedding ring (with an additional matching one to make up the right number) have been star set around her name, to represent the seven grandchildren she loved so dearly.

This incredibly meaningful pendant now hangs with a cross around Paul’s neck.

Collection day happened to be Paul and Jayne’s anniversary. How special is that?

I know how much comfort this piece will provide to Paul and I’m so happy to have been able to make it happen for him.

BEFORE – Paul and Jayne’s wedding rings.
AFTER – the finished pendant ready to hang on his own chain.

See more of this pendant here.

Green Gemstone Ring

This ring was designed to honour Sarah’s father, who she sadly lost recently. His birthstone (peridot) snuggles up to the moss agate centrepiece, closely followed by Sarah’s own birthstone (alexandrite). The other green stones include emerald, green sapphire, prasiolite and tourmaline. A mixture of natural white gold and rose gold, the tones in this ring remind Sarah of her beloved father.

See more of this ring here.

Feather Wrap Ring

Laura wanted to do something with her mother’s jewellery that she could wear everyday in memory of her. We tweaked her mother’s engagement ring slightly to iron out some quirks from a historical repair and to make it secure to wear daily by changing the setting style.

We then melted down her other pieces to create this wrap around feather enhancer ring. The engagement ring slots into the feather ring so when worn together, the feather wrap the engagement ring in a hug.

Inside the feather ring is a hand engraved note in Laura’s mother’s handwriting.

This was an emotional hand over! Another hugely symbolic project that was a pleasure to bring to life.

The refurbished engagement ring with the new feather wrap ring
Laura’s mother’s handwriting engraved inside the band

See more of this ring here.

Memorial Jewellery

Which is your preferred way to commemorate someone in a piece of jewellery – including some ashes in the piece, reworking their jewellery into something new in their memory, or creating a new piece inspired by them? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

If you have any questions about the design or making process, send me a message and I would love to help you.

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