You have probably seen glass memorials and keepsakes in industry magazines, at trade shows, and online, and you may even carry glass products at your funeral home. There are glass vessels to hold cremated remains, and memorials that infuse cremated remains permanently into glass. These products come in all shapes and sizes, from cremation jewelry to large scale urn pieces.
As cremation rates rise, so does the glass memorial trend. You might be surprised to know that some of the first ancient, human-produced glass actually contained cremated remains, so the growing trend in glass memorial and keepsake products within the funeral industry is kismet.
Glass Throughout History
Naturally occurring glass has been used since the Stone Age to create tools and weapons, so it’s no wonder that humans are drawn toward the mesmerizing qualities of glass products. Archaeological evidence suggests that the first glass produced by humans was in coastal Syria, or Ancient Egypt, and the earliest known glass objects (beads) have been dated to the third millennium BCE.
Ancient making glass formulas were crude at best, but most contained “bone ash” or “soda ash” as an ingredient, in addition to the more well-known ingredients, silica and quartz. What this means, is that one way or another, most ancient glass products are already cremation memorials. We just don’t know where the ancient bone ash came from and whether it was human or animal in origin.
Glass remained a luxury material up through the middle ages where it was used extensively in vessels, beads, windows and jewelry. After the 10th century AD, stained glass windows became increasingly popular throughout churches and cathedrals worldwide.
The 19th and 20th centuries brought new types of glass and techniques allowing for an explosion of glass applications in architecture and engineering (such as glass bricks, laminated glass for windshields, optical glass for vision correction, microscopes, and telescopes), as well as an increasing number of artists producing hand-made art pieces and sculptures.
Glass in the Funeral Industry
In 2000, the U.S. national cremation rate was below 20%. It was about this time that glass cremation products began to show up at funeral industry trade shows and conferences. Companies began to create glass memorials and keepsakes that incorporated cremated remains in some way. The smaller keepsake products allowed families to “share” the cremated remains without completely replacing the traditional urn sales.
At that time, there were certainly industry folks who scoffed at cremation products, believing that the rise in cremation was a passing “trend”, not to be taken seriously. Today, we all know that this could not be further from the truth. Walking the halls of any industry trade show, you will see that there are more options for cremated remains and cremation than EVER before, and that trend shows no sign of slowing down. The proliferation of glass products has been in response to our population’s changing demand.
What makes glass cremation memorials and keepsakes unique among other industry products is that funeral homes and clients are required to physically hand over cremated remains to the companies producing them. The instances of cremated remains being shipped through the mail has risen dramatically as a result. Cremated remains are handled by artists during the memorial creation process and can remain in their possession for weeks.
Many glass companies and artists have joined our industry on a whim, attempting to sell cremation products. Upon entering this industry, most artists don’t realize the levels of liability involved and the high-end security systems that must be in place to properly track cremated remains. Consistency of product is important as clients expect memorials to look like the samples you show them. This expectation is difficult to meet when a memorial is one of a kind. Shipping cremated remains is more complicated and expensive than shipping literally ANYTHING else. Additionally, the freedom artists once had to create anything they want is gone, as is their ability to throw a glass piece away if it is not perfect on the first try. Many have fallen by the wayside as a result.
Glass Memorials and You
With cremation and glass memorials trending up, all funeral homes should offer glass memorial products in their arrangement office. It is a lost opportunity for you if clients wind up turning to the internet for a product you do not carry. The BEST way to choose a manufacturer is to ask questions to discover:
• Whether they are TRANSPARENT when it comes to handling, storing, shipping, and processing cremated remains.
• Which company fits your funeral home’s procedures for handling cremated remains and completely satisfying your clients.
• What their insurance level is and whether you are covered.
• How they track cremated remains throughout their production process.
• Whether they put anything else in with the ashes.
If the company won’t tell you how something is done, why trust them with your business? FBA
Nick Savage is the President & Lead Glass Artist at Memory Glass, a glass memorial company specializing in the memorialization of cremated remains. He founded the company in 2001, growing it to become a well-established industry leader in cremation memorialization. His expertise includes business management, working with soft (molten) glass, building kilns and furnaces, woodworking, web design, computer programming, and housing construction. Contact Nick at [email protected], or visit Memory Glass at http://vendors.memoryglass.com.