What happens to jewellery before, during and after cremation?
Precious and sentimental jewellery is often a cause for concern during the process of cremation. In many cases, families want a loved one to hold onto their most precious jewellery. It may be a necklace, ring or pair of earrings that the deceased wore every single day; however with the high temperatures in the incinerator or retort, only fragments of their jewellery may be left over and unable to be restored.
Before a cremation
Before the deceased is transported to a crematorium, the deceased’s body passes through the hands of medical practitioners. When completing the numerous forms that come with the passing of a person, a medical practitioner will go over the health issues the deceased has encountered. This includes things like how many hours the deceased was seen by a doctor before their death and even what bodily implants they may have. Internal body implants such as pacemakers, shunts, and joint replacements are relevant in the cremation services as they can cause problems during cremation, and the same applies to a person’s jewellery.
During a cremation
Crematoria receive requests from families that items of significance be kept with the loved one throughout the process. Some of these requests can be fulfilled however, not in all circumstances. This is due to safety reasons, and even though cremation occurs between 800 and 1,000 degrees celsius, not every material is combustible, and some may even damage the retort. Crematoria advise that jewellery is removed to prevent loss or irreparable damage and in the case valuables are left with the deceased, it is at the families own risk as crematoria do not have responsibility.
After a cremation
Metals left over after cremations are usually stainless steel, copper, gold and palladium. These often come from jewellery, gold teeth, fillings, hip implants and ornaments from coffins. The leftover metals are removed from the ashes, which go for further refinement, and are placed into a separate recycling container using tongs and a magnet.
Crematoria have varied policies on the utilisation of remaining metals, however regarding medical devices such as pacemakers, they are disassembled, melted down and disposed of using responsible methods. There is currently a recycling initiative that allows remaining metals to be collected and shipped to a Dutch company where the metals are further sorted, melted and re-purposed.
Gaining the permission of families of the bereaved is a priority and they are informed of the process via the crematorium. Should families choose to leave the deceased with their jewellery, it is nice to think that the repurposing of metals goes towards protecting the environment. More good news is that the recycling scheme allows for a healthy amount of profits to be donated to charities.