Wear Your Memories | Beads of the Dead

Not as uncommon as it sounds, who hasn’t heard of people taking the ashes of their loved ones and having them made into “diamonds” and mounted in jewellery. Keeping a little piece of a loved one with you at all times is…well, it’s creepy. Why would you wear your dead? Well, it’s not a new practice, people have been doing it for centuries for many reasons.

Warriors would collect tokens from their kills to decorate their doorways, scare off the bad spirits and their enemies. Magi and Shamans have been known to use the bones of the dead for better sight into the other worlds and wear tokens as jewellery.

The Victorians, before photography, made commemorative jewellery as a way of remembering their recently deceased loved ones. Some people throughout history have even believed that parts of the dead should be eaten as a way to imbue their strength and knowledge.

It’s the difference between wearing Grandma’s necklace and wearing Grandma.

A Celebration of Life

Without death we may never truly experience life, and without life there is no death. A wearable reminder that life is fleeting.

The same way an artist might use animal bones, jewellery can be made from human bones. These are often from donated bodies that once served an educational purpose in a university or college, like the work of Sunspot Designs. But perhaps human bones are a step too far for you. How about jewellery made from human hair? Like the work of Sybille Paulson in her Tangible Truths designs. Where she took the hair of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and turned it into jewellery, an artefact of their experience and a beautiful conversation piece.

In most cases, memorial jewellery uses the ashes of your loved one, either turned into a “diamond” or preserved as part of a design in resin. However, it’s not always possible to obtain the ash and items like buttons from a favourite shirt, hair, or some other small token could be used in their place to create a commemorative piece for you to wear.

There is some emotional drive to want to retain a physical remnant of somebody once they’re gone,
a very personal indicator of self

Karen Bachmann, Morbid Anatomy Museum

Memorial Jewellery Doesn’t Always Hold A Piece of the Deceased

Some pieces of Jewellery are created as a memento that anyone can buy and wear to commemorate a loved one, a public figure, or a pet. Intricate designs that remind you of a date and a person, or even a saying or feeling that they brought to your life. And these items make money years after they’ve first been created and worn. Centuries after in some cases.

Other memory jewellery, or keepsake jewellery, holds memories of living things. Births, life, moments. There is a growing market for breast milk jewellery. A memory for mothers of the times they spent with the little one they carried and birthed and fed. When those little people were still learning and growing and snuggling in.

You could have a flower from the bouquet of a wedding, or give these tokens as a gift after a christening with the flowers that decorated the church or were part of the naming ceremony.

Or how about that beloved pet? A little cat hair, or dog hair, in a shaped charm on a bead around your wrist.

I often wonder though, for those who are sensitive to spirit do these mementoes provide a stronger connection to someone who has passed on? And can a spirit remain attached to the earthly plain as a result of not being fully buried? What do you think, would you wear the ashes of your loved ones in a piece of jewellery or a watch? For me, at least, I’m happy with the memories of that person in my head and the lessons they taught me. No need to wear them, Thomas.