10 Unique Things to Do With Cremation Ashes to Honor a Loved One

Explore these creative ideas of what to do with a loved one's cremated ashes. There are lots of meaningful alternatives to traditional urns and scattering.

Published October 5, 2023
Woman wearing diamond ring

The funeral industry is deeply rooted in historic traditions; people often feel compelled to choose between a basic casket burial or cremation and urn package. Yet, some disruptors in the space want to help you embrace your loved one’s life and death in uniquely personal ways.

From pressed vinyl that actually plays music to tattooing their remains into your skin, these are ten unique yet meaningful things you can do with cremation remains.

1. Press Their Ashes Into a Record

When some people pass away, they gift their beloved record collections to family members who share their audiophile tendencies. Help them embrace their love of music even in death by pressing some of their cremated remains into a vinyl. A number of companies offer this service, such as And Vinyly.

Vinyly takes a few teaspoons of your loved one’s ashes and embeds them into a 12" or 7" vinyl during the pressing process. Send them custom audio files of your loved one’s voice or some of their favorite personal songs, or leave the vinyl blank for a purely aesthetic reason.

As a bespoke keepsake, these records can cost quite a bit. Vinyly’s pressed records average costs total about $1,200-$3,650 per record, but this can be a beautiful way to commemorate a lost loved one. 

2. Transform Their Ashes Into a Diamond

Diamonds are forever, so some will jump at the chance to press their loved one’s ashes into diamonds. Diamonds are just pieces of carbon that have been put under immense pressure, and since cremains contain carbon, they’re perfectly suited to being made into the shiny stone.

During the process, all you’ll have to do is order a size/setting from any one of the many companies out there and then mail over a small amount of the ashes. Generally, these companies send you secure packaging to ship the remains to them. From there, the carbon is extracted from the remains and the scientific process begins.

Pressing just the diamond will cost a sizable amount, but getting it placed into a setting of some kind will cost even more. For example, Algordanza’s starting price for a 0.3-carat diamond is just over $3,822. 

3. Use Their Ashes to Nurture a Plant

Given the environmental climate right now, Earth could do with as much support as possible. Send off your loved ones or pets into the great circle of life by using their remains to fertilize a plant, flower, or tree.

You can find several businesses that offer this service, such as The Living Urn. With The Living Urn, you order a specialty BioUrn system that includes all the necessary components you’d need to plant a baby tree with your loved one’s ashes.

Unlike some cremated ash keepsakes, you can use as much or as little of the ashes as you want. Currently, their BioUrn systems cost $129-$159 depending on which tree you select.

4. Encase Them in Wearable Cremation Jewelry

Sometimes, diamonds aren’t your thing, but you still want to carry your loved ones with you as you go about the day. A more affordable option is to have your loved one's or pet’s ashes encased in a piece of jewelry. This exposed look highlights your loved one’s ash’s natural colors. And because the process is less complicated, it costs quite a lot less than many other of these options.

For example, Close By Me Jewelry offers a wide range of necklaces, rings, bracelets, and earrings you can choose from. Much like the other options on this list, this wearable jewelry only requires a few teaspoons of the cremated remains.

Prices will vary from company to company, but Close By Me Jewelry’s prices are contingent on the size and metal you order. Naturally, gold is going to cost more than sterling silver, for example. Their prices range anywhere from $200-$1,850.

5. Transform Them Into Oceanic Reefs

Another eco-friendly way to celebrate a loved one’s life using their cremated remains is to use them to create an artificial reef. According to Eternal Reef — one of the companies that offers this service — the reefs are "made of environmentally safe cast concrete" and "placed on the ocean floor as a permanent memorial of a life well lived."

Your loved one’s ashes are added to the casting of the eternal reef systems. You can schedule a viewing a day or two later, and then attend the placement and dedication. You’ll get to travel on a boat and watch them set your loved one’s remains in their final resting place.

Because of this multi-day process involving a lot of equipment, prices range from $5,000-$9,000. It’s not something everyone can afford, but if you can, it can be an incredible way to honor your loved one. 

6. Commemorate Loved Ones With Glass Ash Art

Not everyone likes the solid, nondescript look of a wooden or metal urn. Instead, you might think about decorating your space with something beautiful and memorial. Tons of artisans put their special spin on cremains artwork, but only a handful blow their ashes into custom glass objects.

Artful Ashes is one of these companies. They, too, only need a small amount of your loved one’s remains to create glass sculptures in shapes like hearts, starfish, and angel wings. Depending on what design you choose, your costs can run from about $200-$350.

7. Carry Them With You in Ash-Decorated Pocket Knives

If memorial jewelry doesn’t jibe with your hands-on lifestyle, then something a bit more utilitarian might be in order. There are many small businesses that create this custom work, each with its own styles, wait times, and prices. Simply ship over a few tablespoons of the ash remains to the creator and they’ll bring your order to life.

For example, if you like bold pocket knife scales you could order a cremation knife keepsake from CherryCreekCharm’s Etsy shop. Their knives can range from $50-$100 depending on what you want, and their reported turnaround time is about two weeks.

8. Store Their Cremains in an Hourglass

Days of Our Lives says it best, "like sands through the hourglass, these are the days of our lives." So, when a loved one is gone, you might consider storing their cremated ashes in a unique way inspired by an hourglass. 

Hourglass jewelry and decorative hourglass urns are an admittedly out-of-the-box choice, but there’s something really cool in the metaphor of it all. You can find these specialty hourglass urns for around $100, and jewelry for $50 or less. The costs are lower than some jewelry and display options because you fill the hourglasses with the ashes yourself.

If you’re interested in getting a closer look, check out Just Hourglasses’s website.

9. Send Them Sky-High in a Fireworks Display

Want to celebrate someone’s life instead of commemorating their death? Send them off with a bang in a custom-made fireworks display. What actually happens is that companies like the Green Lawn Funeral Home load a few tablespoons of the cremains with the other ingredients into the fireworks shells before they’re set off.

Because these are pyrotechnics and special permits are involved, this commemorative option can get pretty pricey. We’re talking in the low thousands at the very least. What makes this option so appealing is that you can set them off at a celebration of life or memorial service as a final send-off.

10. Get Their Remains Tattooed in You

Beyond the artwork itself, there’s not a lot of room to break the mold in tattooing. Yet, people have started experimenting with different ink compositions. You might’ve heard of ephemeral ink, a formula that was supposed to last only a few months to years (which has actually turned out to be far from non-permanent).

Another development in the ink world is mixing cremated remains into the ink for a memorial tattoo. But it’s important to understand that the cremated remains won’t stay in the tattoo forever. Eventually, your body will absorb the remains and leave the ink behind. But if you’re more interested in the symbolism behind the experience, then this could be an awesome option for you.

Keep Your Loved Ones Close

Of course, cremated ash memorials and keepsakes won’t replace the person you lost. But, working with these companies and being directly involved with every step can bring you a unique sense of closure that's a bit different from scattering ashes or storing them in a traditional urn. If you want a distinctive way to pay tribute to your loved one, one of these unique keepsake services might be right for you.

10 Unique Things to Do With Cremation Ashes to Honor a Loved One