Category Archives: Cremation

diamond from ashes

From Ashes to Diamonds

By Mandy Kennedy for 22 Words; Photo Credit: Bear Creek Funeral

A New Technology Creates This Bizarre and Beautiful Alternative To Burying Your Deceased Loved Ones

As traditional in our culture as funerals and burials of loved ones have become, it’s a pretty wasteful practice. A company out of Switzerland has recognized this and has offered up a brilliant and offbeat alternative to remembering your loved ones.

Algordanza has perfected a technology that will preserve the cremated remains of your loved ones into an elegant-looking diamond.

via: Algordanza

Whereas a funeral with a casket, headstone, and plot can cost more than $10,000, this alternative can cost less than half that. And it can travel with you!

via: Washingtonian

And, if you’re so inclined, you can even get the stone made into jewelry or anything else that’s wearable.

Here’s just one iteration of what the finished product can look like.

via: Memorial Technology

In fact, because carbon is pretty much all that remains after cremation, the end result is no different than the other realistic diamonds that are being created artificially these days. You won’t be able to pick the color of the diamond, however. The color will be determined by the characteristics of the ashes.

via: Insurance Finder

In fact, with this practice, you’re not just helping preserve land that would otherwise be used for wasteful burials, but you can actually start your family’s own collection of family jewels, just like the British Royal Family’s!

via: Telegraph

The process isn’t just earmarked for people. The same transformation can take place for cremated pets as well. If your dog’s permanent resting place is important to you, to the tune of $5,000, then this might be for you!

Pope Francis greets the crowd in St. Peter's square.

Vatican issues guidelines on cremation, says no to scattering ashes

According to new guidelines from the Vatican’s doctrinal office, cremated remains should be kept in a “sacred place” such as a church cemetery. Ashes should not be divided up between family members, “nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects.”

The church has allowed cremation for decades, but the guidelines make clear that the Vatican is concerned that the practice often involves “erroneous ideas about death.” Those ideas run the gauntlet from deeply nihilistic to New Age-y, the Vatican says, from the belief that death is the definitive end of life to the notion that our bodies fuse with nature or enter another cycle of rebirth.

So, in a sense, the Vatican’s new guidelines on cremation aren’t really about cremation. The church’s true targets are modern societies’ increasingly secular notions about the afterlife and the trivialization of dead bodies, making the departed into mementos for the living instead of temples made in the image and likeness of God.

Pope Francis greets the crowd in St. Peter's square.

“Struggle”

As cremation has become more popular — nearly half of Americans said they were at least “somewhat likely” to choose cremation upon their death — the Vatican, like other religious institutions, has struggled to keep pace with the trend.

In 1963, the Vatican said burial of deceased bodies should be the norm, but cremation is not “opposed per se to the Christian religion.” Catholic funeral rites should not be denied to those who had asked to be cremated, the church said.

But in recent years, “new ideas” contrary to the Catholic faith have become widespread, the Vatican said. The new statement names pantheism (the worship of nature), naturalism (the idea that all truths are derived from nature, not religion) and nihilism (a deep skepticism about all received truths) as particularly problematic. If cremation is chosen for any of those reasons, the deceased should not receive a Catholic burial, the new guidelines say.

In the United States, cremations have taken on a highly personalized and commercial aspect. Companies offer to load cremains into shotgun shells so that family members can take them on turkey hunts. Nature lovers ask that their ashes be scattered under a favorite tree or inserted into coral reefs. Cremains can be shot into space, or refashioned as diamonds.

A pilgrim holding a crucifix attends the Pope's Angelus Sunday prayer in St. Peter's square.

“Sacrilegious”

Such practices are sacrilegious, the Vatican’s new guidelines say.

Catholicism teaches that all people will be resurrected — both body and soul — at the end of days. Cremation does not “prevent God, in his omnipotence, from raising up the deceased body to new life,” the Vatican says, but it does raise the possibility that the deceased’s body, which the church believes is sacred, will not be properly respected by ancestors and relatives.

“By burying the bodies of the faithful, the Church confirms her faith in the resurrection of the body, and intends to show the great dignity of the human body as an integral part of the human person whose body forms part of their identity,” the new guidelines state.

The Vatican makes clear, however, that there are valid sanitary, economic and social reasons for cremation. But burial, the church says, is the best way to demonstrate “esteem” for the deceased, and cremains can only be kept at home with special permission from a bishop.

Preparing for Cremation

About 50% of the US population now opts for cremation as the final means of disposition. Though it is a straight-forward process, you should be prepared to make some decisions before the cremation takes place.

Remove Valuables Prior to Cremation

Cremation uses intense heat to break down the body to ashes and bone fragment. A typical flame-based cremation retort reaches temperatures between 1400-1800 degrees F. With that in mind, any clothing, jewelry, or valuables left on the deceased will be destroyed by the heat, so you should decide ahead of time whether you will want to remove those items for safe-keeping prior to cremation.

Body Preparation

If you are not having a public viewing, it is not necessary to have the body embalmed or further prepared with hair and makeup. The funeral director may require this if you choose to have a public viewing before the cremation takes place. Keep in mind that embalming and other body preparation will come at an additional cost.

You should also take care to notify the funeral director or crematory of any implanted medical devices, such pacemakers, or prosthetics. Pacemakers will need to be removed prior to cremation to avoid exploding and possibly damaging the retort.

Viewing Before Cremation

If a viewing or service is held prior to cremation, your funeral home may offer you the option to purchase a “rental casket” that has removable one-time use insert. Only the insert will go into retort with the body. Some crematories offer families the ability to attend, witness, or participate in the cremation, such as pushing the button to open the and start the retort.

ID Viewing

To prevent misidentification, a representative of the family may be asked to identify the deceased prior to the cremation taking place. This is often referred to as an “ID Viewing” by funeral directors. This is also the time that you can remove any valuables that you would like to keep. After the identification has taken place, the cremation container will be closed and prepared for cremation. Once this happens, the crematorium will not allow the opening of the container again, so be sure that all valuable you want removed have been and you’ve had enough time to say goodbye.

Cremation Containers

A funeral home or cremation provider will provide you with a price list outlining the cost of Direct Cremation with a container brought by the purchaser as well as with a basic one that they can provide for cremation.

Alternative Cremation Container

An example of an alternative container made of cardboard

You will need to decide if you will furnish your own cremation container such as a cardboard casket, another type of casket or coffin made of natural materials, or a shroud. If not, you can purchase the “alternative container” or another casket that the funeral home or cremation provider offers. The type and cost of alternative containers containers vary widely amongst providers from basic cardboard to basic  untreated wood. Be sure you inquire on the type and cost of the containers available before committing to use one provider or the next.

Once the cremation has taken place and the remains have cooled, they will be raked out into a container to be sifted to remove any remaining metals. The organic matter will then be placed in a pulverizor to grind the remaining bone fragments into a more consistent ash. The cremated remains are then placed into a “temporary” container such as a plastic bag, cardboard box, a tin, or a basic plastic urn at no extra cost. If you have an urn or other preferred vessel, you can provide it to the funeral home or cremation provider to use instead.


For more information on Paying for a Funeral, funeral planning and resources to guide you through planning a funeral, visit the I’m Sorry to Hear article library, download a Funeral Planning Checklist, review the Casket Guide, see your State by State Guide on End of Life issues, get information on How to Pay for a Funeral, view Funeral Planning Tips, and access Funeral Consumer Advocacy links all from our Resources area.

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The Cremation Process

What is cremation?

Cremation is a means of final body disposition that uses intense heat to break down the body to bone fragments which are often pulverized along with the other organic matter to an ash-like substance.

The Cremation Process

Cremation is performed by placing the deceased in a cremation container of your choice, then placing the container into a cremation chamber, referred to in the industry as a “retort”, where the cremation container and the remains are subject to intense heat and flame. Through the use of a suitable fuel, incineration of the container and contents is accomplished by raising the temperature to approximately 1600 degrees F. All substances are consumed except bone fragments (calcium components) and metal (including dental gold, silver and other non-human material), as the temperature is not sufficient to consume them.

Due to the nature of the cremation process any personal possessions or valuable materials, such as dental gold or jewelry, as well as any body prostheses or dental bridgework, that are left with the decedent and not removed from the casket or container prior to cremation will be destroyed or will otherwise not be recoverable. As the casket or container will not be opened by the crematory, to remove valuables, to allow for a final viewing or for any other reason, the Authorizing Agent understands that arrangements must be made with the funeral home to remove any such possessions or valuables prior to the time the decedent is transported to the crematory.

Following the cooling period, the cremated remains are then swept or raked from the cremation chamber. The crematory makes a reasonable effort to remove all of the remains, but some dust and other residue from the process are always left behind. In addition, while every effort will be made to avoid commingling, inadvertent or incidental commingling of minute particles of cremated remains from the residue of previous cremations is a possibility, and the Authorized Agent understands and accepts this fact.

After the cremated remains are removed from the cremation chamber, all noncombustible materials, insofar as possible such as bridgework, and materials from the casket or container, such as hinges, latches, nails, etc., to which some bone particles or other human residue may be affixed. They will then be separated and removed from the human bone fragments by visible or magnetic selection and will be disposed of by the crematory with similar materials from other cremations in a non-recoverable manner, so that only human bone fragments will remain.

When the cremated remains are removed from the cremation chamber, the skeletal remains often contain recognizable bone fragments. Unless otherwise specified, after the bone fragments have been separated from the other material, they will then be mechanically processed, also called “pulverized,” which includes crushing or grinding an incidental commingling of the remains with the residue from the processing of previously cremated remains, into granulated particles of unidentifiable dimensions, virtually unrecognizable as human remains, prior to placement into a designated container.

A special thank you to Romero Funeral Home for sharing this educational article with us.

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Cremation Not Included: FCA Study Reveals All

When a loved one passes away, those tasked with arranging funerals and settling estates have to make a multitude of decisions during a stressful time and on a deadline. Cremation? Burial? Embalming? Organ Donation? The possibilities are endless and the choices made often have a lasting effect and although we try to make the most informed decision possible, no one really knows all the questions to ask. So when the Federal Trade Commission created the Funeral Rule in 1984, which requires funeral homes and providers to disclose all their disposition option,rates and pricing on a General Price List, consumers were reassured and confident their rights were being protected. But when a funeral home falsifies or fails to disclose important pricing information, what happens?

Fineas Anton |Unsplash|

On September 12 the Consumer Federation of America’s Executive Director  Stephen Brobeck and Josh Slocum, the Executive Director of the Funeral Consumer Alliance held a teleconference following the spontaneous release of an in-depth study on the cost of dying, with a special report on the cost of simple cremation, in America. The results were nothing short of surprising.

The CFA and FCA investigated 142 funeral homes in the top ten metropolitan cities in America including Atlanta, Denver, D.C., Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Princeton, Seattle, Southern California, and Tucson. They examined the General Price Lists disclosed by the homes, compared them to the actual fees charged, as well as the practices and services provided and found a substantial difference in cremation pricing and blatant exploitation of a loophole revealed in the Funeral Rule laws.

Of 142 funeral homes and cremation businesses surveyed:

—prices for Direct Cremation ranged from $495 to $7,595.

— 33 of funeral homes failed to list legally required options and disclosures on their general price lists. This is a direct violation of the Funeral Rule.

—Of the 46 funeral homes that post Direct Cremation prices on their websites, 12 (26%) failed to offer these options and disclosures. If the Funeral Rule applied to websites, these would be in violation.

—Thirty-one of the surveyed funeral homes (22%) advertised a price for their Direct Cremation package that failed to include the cost of the cremation process itself, making the price for a simple cremation seem artificially low. Though this is not a direct violation of the Funeral Rule, it is inherently deceptive and the FTC should bar this practice.

According to the report, the Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to provide two options when selecting cremation as the chosen means of final disposition:

“The price of Direct Cremation when the customer supplies their own casket or cardboard “alternative container” to hold the body prior to cremation, such as a homemade casket or a container bought from a third-party retailer,”

And

“The price of Direct Cremation when the customer buys the funeral home’s least expensive alternative container.”

But of the 142 funeral homes investigated, 23% of them failed to list the legally required service options which is a direct violation of the Funeral Rule. In addition, the advertised prices for a simple cremation and the actual cost differed $200, at least, and $595 at most. With the cost of cremation not included in the GPL, low and middle-income consumers were at risk being blindsided by the exorbitant fees and unable to afford even the most simple method of disposition.

Olu Eletu |Unsplash|

Since the services provided with a simple cremation does not vary between one funeral home and another, the prices and the differences did not add up. A Direct Cremation consists of picking up and transporting the body, filing paperwork, and returning the ashes to the family. There are no ceremonies included, no casket, and no ornamental urn aside from the basic container when a direct or simple cremation is chosen and yet, prices could vary as much as 200 percent for the same service in the same city, according to the report. While many funeral homes use third-party crematories, as they do not have their own, these crematories charge somewhere between $250 and $400 for a cremation, pointing to a large discrepancy in ethical practices and pricing. But if the 2012, 2013 and 2014 lawsuits filed against a NY, Montgomery and D.C. funeral home by the FTC are any indication, the people will soon have their justice.

The full report can be accessed here.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

The FTC educates and provides comprehensive guidance services to businesses and consumers in how to comply. For more information read Shopping for Funeral Services, Paying Final Respects:  Your Rights When Buying Funeral Goods and Services, and Complying with the Funeral Rule.

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Everything You Need to Know about Direct Cremation

Whether you are tight on funds, like the simplicity of cremation, or are environmentally conscious, you may choose a direct cremation. By law, every funeral home and cremation provider must offer a Direct Cremation package as a “minimal service.”

What is Direct Cremation?

Direct Cremation is the cremation of a body in the days immediately following a death. Direct Cremation, sometimes called “simple cremation”, does not include the use of a funeral home or its staff to facilitate any viewing, visitation, funeral or memorial service at the funeral home or graveside.

Why Direct Cremation?

Direct Cremation is Affordable

Direct cremation does not include a funeral or memorial service at the funeral home, therefore, the use of the funeral home’s staff and facilities can be skipped avoiding many of the costs that come with a “traditional” or full service funeral. In some states, in addition to full service funeral homes there are direct cremation providers who exclusively offer direct cremation, further reducing costs.

Direct Cremation Is [Slightly More] Environmentally Conscious

Since direct cremation takes place in the days following death, it eliminates the need to preserve the body. By foregoing embalming you decrease the amount of harmful chemicals, such as formaldehyde and methanol, seeping into the earth.

You also don’t need to take up land resources via a cemetery plot or purchase a casket, vault or grave liner, saving additional resources. However, cremation requires intense energy, giving off high quantities of CO2, making it less environmentally-friendly than some expect. Alkaline hydrolysis, or water-cremation, is a greener option for cremation but is not yet widely available in the USA.

Cremation Saves Space

After the body is cremated, the ashes can be placed in a vessel of your choice or scattered, providing many options for long term storage of ashes or other creative ways to spread remains. By eliminating the use of a burial plot, you can reserve more land for later use.

What is Included in Direct Cremation?

Direct cremation includes:

  • the use of the funeral home or cremation provider to pick up the deceased from the place of death
  • transportation of the deceased to the funeral home and/or crematory
  • filing of the necessary paperwork for death certificates, cremation disposition permits, and Social Security

Depending on the state, the cost of the cremation (a crematory fee) may or may not be included. You should read the General Price List description carefully to see if the cost of cremation is included in the direct cremation price. If it is not stated, you should inquire with the funeral director and expect to pay the crematory fee in addition to the Direct Cremation. Crematory fees typically range from $200-$400.

What is Excluded in the cost of Direct Cremation?

Direct cremation is the least expensive disposition option as it eliminates some of the most costly expenses involving death – embalming, use of the facilities and staff of a funeral home, a casket, cemetery, and burial vault or grave liner.

When selected as the means of final disposition, the body is taken to a crematory from their place of death, and cremated in a simple container, often called an “alternative container” or “cremation container” which is typically made from cardboard or other lightweight fiberboard. You may provide your own container or the funeral home can provide you with a “minimal container” of their choice. These often cost from $25-$200.

There is no viewing, wake, or funeral service (body is present), memorial service (ashes may or may not be present), or graveside service (for interment of the urn) of any kind and no need to purchase a casket or cemetery plot.

If you elect to bury the cremated remains, there will be additional fees in order to purchase an urn and/or urn vault, tombstones or grave markers and to purchase a cemetery plot or niche.

Cost of a Direct Cremation

Prices for direct cremation vary widely between providers. In states where direct cremation or direct disposal establishments are allowed, you can find direct cremations as low as $700. Direct cremations offered by full-service funeral homes are generally more expensive (you still pay for their overhead) and can range from $750 to $3,000+.

As there is no actual service included in direct cremation, you don’t need to choose the closest one. Many funeral home and cremation providers will travel 25 miles without additional charge.

Arranging a Direct Cremation

A funeral home or cremation provider will be able to handle all aspects of a cremation. Many crematories operate on a “wholesale” basis meaning they do not work with the general public and will require you to obtain the assistance of a licensed funeral director. The funeral director can assist you with completing the death certificate, obtaining necessary permits and authorization and transporting the body to the crematory.

Service Options with a Direct Cremation

Columbarium of Pere Lachaise

If you are interested in a direct cremation but want to have a service as well, a memorial service or celebration of life can be held at a later date in your home, place of worship, park, or anywhere else of your choosing. If you chose to purchase a cemetery plot or niche at a columbarium, you may inquire about the cost of having a graveside service or small ceremony at the location you selected.


For more information on  funeral planning and resources to guide you through planning a funeral, visit the I’m Sorry to Hear article library, download a Funeral Planning Checklist, review the Casket Guide, see your State by State Guide on End of Life issues, get information on How to Pay for a Funeral, view Funeral Planning Tips, and access Funeral Consumer Advocacy links all from our Resources area.

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Alternatives to Embalming

Embalming is not the only means of temporarily preserving a body prior to burial or cremation. In fact, the United States and Canada are the only countries in which embalming is still considered common practice, with countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Luxembourg, and Scandinavia having banned it years ago. If you are seeking alternative ways to preserve yourself or a loved one prior to final disposition, you can consider any of the budget-friendly and effective methods below:  

Refrigeration & Cooling

Whether you are holding a home viewing, seeking ways to cut costs, or preserving your loved one for a burial at a later date, ensuring the body is kept cool is a proven and effective means of temporary preservation. Simply placing ice packs, gel packs, or dry-ice on critical points of the body slows the rate of decomposition. It is recommended to place the cooling agents beneath the body to cool it from below, changing the ice or gel packs every couple hours and dry-ice every 24 hours.

If you prefer refrigeration for temporary preservation, contact local funeral homes or cremation providers and inquire about their refrigeration units. Not all funeral homes will have a refrigeration unit, though most have access to one located off-site. If the deceased passed away in a hospital or donated their organs and you have yet to finalize the method or provider of death care, hospital morgues have refrigeration units that can be utilized, free of charge, while you decide.

Immediate Burial

Direct or immediate burials are offered by all funeral homes. Since immediate burials do not include a viewing or visitation at the funeral home, embalming is not required. The burial normally takes place shortly after the death and at a time most convenient to the funeral director. if the funeral is to occur after a few days, refrigeration, ice packs, or dry-ice may be used to temporarily preserve the body.

Funeral homes reserve the right to prohibit or decline to host a public viewing of an un-embalmed body, though some funeral directors will allow you to add on a graveside service to the direct burial package at the cost of a graveside service listed on the general price list. If immediate burial is chosen and you would like a family viewing or visitation, in most states you can opt to have one within 48 hours at home or you can have a memorial service at your location of choice following the burial.

Direct Cremation

Similar to immediate burials, direct cremation is required to be offered by all funeral homes and removes the need for embalming since there is no public viewing or funeral service prior to cremation. Nearly half of Americans choose to be cremated each year, making it one of the fastest growing methods of disposition in the funeral industry and a popular alternative to a full-service funeral and burial.

Prior to cremation, home viewings may take place without embalming, and memorials services (without the body present) can be held following it. In the time between death and cremation, refrigeration, ice packs, gel packs and dry-ice may be used to delay decomposition. If you are considering cremation, but are concerned about the environmental impact or cost, consider choosing a more fuel-efficient cremation container like a shroud, cardboard container, or cremation casket. You are not obligated to choose only from the containers offered to you by the crematorium and may supply them with a container of your choice from a third party (Funeral Rules).

Resomation & “Bio-Cremation”

The Resomator S750 is the world's first legal and operational funeral home Alkaline Hydrolysis human disposition system. (ALKALINE HYDROLYSIS)

The Resomator S750 is the world’s first legal and operational funeral home Alkaline Hydrolysis human disposition system. (ALKALINE HYDROLYSIS)

Resomation is an emerging alternative to burial and flame-based cremation. The process uses a mix of heated water, potassium hydroxide, and pressure to speed up the natural decomposition of muscle and tissue, leaving behind bones, which are then ground into a fine ash similar to the remains of flame-based cremation. It is sometimes referred to as “water-based cremation,” “bio-cremation,” or Alkaline Hydrolysis and is considered more eco-friendly than its flame-based counterpart. It uses only 10% of the energy used in flame-based cremation and produces no harmful air emissions. While its use is yet to be widespread in the USA, public knowledge and the ‘green burial‘ movement has caused it gain traction. Resomation, Alkaline Hydrolysis and “bio-cremation” are now legal in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Oregon with legislation being considered in New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

For more on this topic, see: Alkaline Hydrolysis: A Greener Cremation or Ashes to Ashes, A video on Cremation by Water.

Enigma

article-3If you still wish to have the body embalmed, but would prefer not to use formaldehyde, traditional embalming fluid can be replaced with non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, formaldehyde-free embalming fluid, such as Enigma, per your request. Enigma is made from bio-degradable essential oils, like glutaraldehyde, to temporarily preserve the body. Glutaraldehyde is used as a preservative, to sterilize medical and dental equipment, and in industrial water treating. While chemical exposure will not be completely eliminated with Enigma, it will be greatly reduced and it is the only preparation product certified by the Green Burial Council.


For more ways to have an eco-friendly funeral, read 5 Ways to Go Green at Your Funeral (and Save Money)Green Funerals – With Death Comes Life, and Green Burials – Going Green Until The End.

To learn more about the embalming process see Everything You Want to Know About Embalming…