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Most memorials to people that have died are public or shared with others who have also lost them, but if you are uncomfortable with this, a private tribute, such as a piece of memorial jewellery, might be preferable. During the 19th century, black jewellery was an essential accessory to indicate that someone was mourning a loved one, but modern pieces can be a small and discrete reminder of them, with a significance known only to you.
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Any piece of jewellery, from rings, necklaces, and earrings, to watches and cufflinks, can be worn in remembrance of a loved one. You can have a message engraved on a watch or ring, perhaps in your loved one's handwriting, or keep a favourite photo of them or some strands of their hair in a memorial locket. Some jewellers can also make bespoke charms in the shape of awareness ribbons and other symbols important to your loved one that can be strung on a bracelet or necklace.
Lasting Touch Memorials produce jewellery and keepsakes marked with the impression of their fingerprints. You should send off for a kit and take the prints as soon as possible after your loved one has died. Funeral directors can also do this for you.
Several companies also design jewellery that can contain a small portion of your loved one’s ashes. The ashes can be embedded in rings, lockets, pendants, cufflinks and other pieces. You can usually find information on how to send the ashes to the jeweller on their website.
For the most personal memorial jewellery, some companies can make a unique diamond from your loved one's ashes. Carbon extracted from the ashes is heated and purified to convert it into graphite from which the diamond is produced. You can choose from a variety of different sizes, cuts, carats and colours and have the diamonds set into a necklace, ring, earring, watch or cufflinks. You can have this done at a later date by a different jeweller if you need some time to think about it.
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If your loved one was not cremated you can still immortalise them by having some of their DNA infused in jewellery or a keepsake. DNA was originally preserved to record medical information that might become useful in the future, but some companies can now infuse it into jewellery to commemorate the unique identity of a person that has died.
You can find more information about the process on the websites of the companies that make the pieces, but the most important thing to know is that DNA is very fragile, so it must be done as soon as possible after the death of your loved one. Most funeral directors would be happy to help you provide a sample of the DNA to whoever you choose to make the memorial.
If you are choosing a piece of memorial jewellery the most important consideration is that it is something that you are comfortable wearing and is a positive reminder of your loved one.
If you’ve recently lost a loved one you can find advice on coping with bereavement and grief in Help & Resources.