Wear your heart on your sleeve

23 January 2018

Whether it’s a diamond pendant or a heart that you literally wear on your sleeve, memorial jewellery is a tradition once associated with mourning. Now it’s being rediscovered as a way of celebrating someone’s memory.

Silver lockets and jewellery made from intricately woven strands of hair were popular tokens of eternal love in your great-great-great granny’s day.

Today, all kinds of makers are keeping people’s memories alive, in beautiful and contemporary ways.

Helping people keep memories alive is why I do it

If you like the idea of keeping someone physically close, there are countless memorial jewellery options from makers that can include a little of someone’s funeral ashes, or a lock of their hair.

memorial glass pendantA beautiful memorial pendant made by Kenny Scott

“Memorial jewellery has always been there,” says Kenny Scott, who makes personalised glass memorial jewellery from his Ash Glass Design studio in Clovenford in the Scottish Borders.

“The internet has opened people’s minds to it a bit more.”

kenny ScottKenny in his workshop

“The younger generation are most open to it,” Kenny adds, “although I get orders from people in their seventies, too.

“People talk more about celebrating a life and like the idea of having someone close, for that wee bit of comfort.”

##Holding on to memories

There are memorial jewellery options to suit every budget – and your own memories are what can make a piece truly unique.

Diamonds from ashes are a very contemporary way to remember, starting at around £550 and up to an eye-watering £10,000 for a flawless gem.

Kenny Scott in his workshopHand-crafting a memorial glass bead

Makers who work with glass to capture memories take care to ensure that ashes are treated with great respect and care.

“For me, helping people keep memories alive is why I do it,” says Kenny.

“It’s a huge responsibility. When I make something, I want to make someone smile.”

Kenny Scott at work It’s a painstaking process

Artisan makers like Kenny are even happy to send you photos of them making your memorial jewellery.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, he advises, and take your time deciding whether memorial jewellery is the right way for you to remember.

##Take your time

“It’s something I don’t think people should rush,” he says.

“Some people come to the decision within a few weeks, while other people have come to me 10 years down the line.”

“You should always feel sure it’s right.”

Glass fragment and coloured pigments

Dr Lindsey Buster of Bradford University has been studying ways that we memorialise people. She says jewellery is a significant way of ‘continuing bonds’ with someone we love and miss.

“The transformation of cremation ashes into diamonds, or their incorporation into tattoo ink, transforms people into portable works of art,” she adds.

A gold ring being made in jewellery workshopMaking a band of gold for a memorial ring

Memorial jewellery includes hollow pendants for ashes, often available in heart-shapes which can be engraved with a special memory.

Handmade glass beads with ashes can be set in rings, charms, pendants or even keyrings. It can cost from around £50 to have a memorial-glass bead for a charm bracelet made.

##So many beautiful ways

There are many options and places to begin your search for the perfect piece of memorial jewellery, from big online specialists, to craftspeople like Kenny.

For him, it’s important to give everyone who gets in touch the time and attention they deserve.

“We want to keep it personal,” he says.

A gold memorial ring with blue glassMemorial glass contains tiny fragments of ash

Kenny understands, too, that while memorial jewellery can be a special way of keeping someone close, it’s not for everyone.

“Not everyone gets it,” he smiles.

“It can be a real Marmite moment when someone asks me about what I do!”