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From Headstones to Gemstones: A Guide to Permanent Memorials

Permanent memorials, ranging from headstones to gemstones, play a crucial role in how we remember and honor our loved ones.

What Is a Permanent Memorial?

The dictionary definition of “memorial” is “something that keeps remembrance alive.” After losing a loved one, many people want to keep their memory alive in some form. They want a special place or object that reminds them of the love and special connection. 

When it comes to commemorating the lives of our loved ones, the choices are never right or wrong. Permanent memorials should offer solace to the living and homage to those who've passed. Most people probably think first about the familiar, time-honored tombstone, with its sturdy engraved presence and epitaphs echoing love and legacy. Families that choose cremation are familiar with columbarium niches and memorial gardens. 

Yet, today’s funeral providers offer an array of options that provide the traditional (headstones, grave markers, mausoleums, and crypts) but embrace the touchable (urn necklace, ashes necklace, memorial tattoo, and ashes into diamonds).

A permanent memorial is an act of remembrance, whether through a touchable object, a final resting place, or a transformative experience. At Afterall, we help you find the perfect way to honor a loved one and to keep their spirit alive in your heart.

Is a Permanent Memorial a Place?

For centuries, families, cultures, and communities have carefully placed their loved one’s remains in sacred places. If you visit an older cemetery, you can see gravestones ranging from present-day to hundreds of years ago. It is comforting to have a unique space to gather and remember. 

A permanent memorial in a cemetery, memorial garden, or church graveyard is a timeless tribute that can be personalized to honor someone’s unique life and legacy. Many cemeteries and memorial parks have sections dedicated to specific religious beliefs, cultural ties, or military service (veterans). 

Burial Memorial Options

A casket burial is a timeless and traditional way to honor a loved one. Your loved one’s resting place might have an upright headstone made from marble, granite, bronze, or another weather-resistant material. Or it could have a flat marker level with the ground. 

The second option is a mausoleum. Mausoleums are above-ground structures into which caskets or cremation urns are placed for an individual, couple, or family. Typically, the interior of a mausoleum contains compartments or crypts, each marked with inscriptions or plaques, but some mausoleums have an exterior marker at the entrance. 

Cremation Memorial Options

There are numerous places to gather and remember your loved one’s life and legacy after cremation. You may bury your loved one’s ashes in a cemetery plot below the ground, with a marker or monument of your choosing. Some cemeteries allow more than one urn to be buried in a single gravesite. 

You can also select memorial gardens specifically for cremated remains. These gardens are often beautifully landscaped with a water feature, like a pond or fountain. You can inter cremation ashes below or above ground, within garden pedestals, cremation benches, or in a columbarium. 

A columbarium is similar to a mausoleum except that it is for cremated remains. It is an above-ground structure or wall with small spaces called “niches.” Your loved one’s urn is interred with a plaque or marker on the niche’s exterior. Some niches have glass fronts, with space for a photo, burial flag, or other memento. There are community columbariums for anyone who wishes, or private columbarium estates for families.

How Do You Choose a Permanent Memorial Place?

If you don’t have a family burial plot or other permanent arrangements, choosing a resting place for a loved one or yourself depends on several factors. 

  • Determine the preferred memorialization: It could be casket burial, interment, direct cremation, or any other form of memorialization. To learn more about the options available to you, take a look at our website page here.
  • Seek recommendations: Ask around your family, friends, and local funeral professionals to find a reputable cemetery or memorial garden. Look for locations with excellent maintenance standards and any specific offerings vital to you (or for your loved one), such as dedicated sections for veterans or the perfect landscape.
  • Request a tour: Ask the cemeteries or gardens you’re considering for a tour of their grounds. This will help you familiarize yourself with their facilities, as well as the regulations and restrictions they have in place. Understanding their policies regarding grave markers, decorations, and other guidelines will help you make informed decisions.
  • Ask about memorial items: Find out if you have to buy burial, cremation, and grave markers from a specific provider. Familiarize yourself with any height or size restrictions on markers.
  • Research cremation options: If you are considering cremation, don’t forget to look into different burial or inurnment options. Memorial parks may offer public or private niches and columbariums. 
  • Ask about their maintenance policies: Many cemeteries provide perpetual care services, which guarantee maintenance, upkeep, and restoration throughout the years. Find out if you must buy a perpetual care plan in advance or if it is an annual bill. 
  • Consider the cemetery’s public events: Some cemeteries and memorial parks host public events, like wreath-laying or flag-placing traditions. These events may influence your decision.

Can I Bury a Loved One at Sea?

A permanent memorial does not have to be on land. You could create a unique monument by interring their loved ones in an artificial ocean reef. Your loved one’s ashes are placed in an environmentally safe concrete urn that can be marked with a plaque. The urn is lowered into the ocean, becoming a haven for all forms of sea life to live and flourish. If the reef provider does not have a locator method, you may use longitude and latitude coordinates to visit your loved one’s final resting place.

Is It Legal to Bury an Urn on Private Land?

If you or your family owns the land, you can bury an urn, provided it complies with local regulations. If you want to bury a loved one’s ashes on someone else’s land, you need their written permission. You can use an environmentally friendly urn that naturally breaks down without harming soil or water. 

Another option is purchasing specially prepared sapling kits to plant a living tree with your loved one’s ashes in your backyard or garden. A memorial tree is a thoughtful tribute that provides shade and beauty, as well as generating life-giving oxygen to all living things. 

What Is a Memorial Diamond?

Memorial diamonds, often called "cremation diamonds," are a poignant and innovative way to immortalize loved ones who have passed away. These unique gems are crafted by extracting carbon from cremated ashes or even a lock of hair, then subjected to intense heat and pressure, mirroring the natural diamond-formation process deep within the Earth. The resulting diamond serves as a lasting, sparkling tribute. With various cuts, colors, and settings available, each ashes-into-a-diamond gemstone is as individual as the life it represents, offering a deeply personal way to keep memories close. 

What Is Parting Stone (from “Shark Tank”)?

As seen on the television show “Shark Tank,” Parting Stones are becoming popular for families who want a tangible connection with loved ones to display, scatter, or share. Using their patented process, Parting Stone creates solidified spherical remains from your loved one’s ashes. The result is a collection of beautiful, polished “stones” as unique as your loved one.

From pure white to softly colored hues and textures, each stone is uniquely beautiful. Their service solidifies 100% of the ash into safe, touchable memorial stones. Some families create a memorial space in their homes or gardens. You should not handle cremated ashes, but parting stones are safe to touch, hold, and cherish. They are a unique way to permanently memorialize a loved one. 

Is Memorial Jewelry Only for Ashes?

Memorial or memory jewelry comes in many styles, designs, and metals. Cremation jewelry is one type of wearable keepsake, but there are others. 

Photo Lockets

These vintage-inspired pieces can be ornate or simple. They house a delicate compartment tailored to hold a cherished photograph of the deceased. Photo locket necklaces serve as intimate keepsakes, ensuring that the treasured image of a loved one remains perpetually close to one's heart, offering comfort and remembrance with every glance.

Fingerprint Jewelry

More than just a necklace, fingerprint jewelry captures the singular essence of a person through the unique ridges and patterns of their fingerprint. Whether engraved with laser precision or embossed for a tactile feel, these pieces translate a deeply personal identifier into a wearable memorial. 

Customized Jewelry

The beauty of customized jewelry lies in its ability to tell personal stories. Many skilled jewelers provide an array of customization options, creating a wearable keepsake that truly embodies the spirit of your loved one. Whether incorporating their initials in a distinctive font, setting a pendant with their birthstone, etching their signature, or integrating symbols of their passion or belief, bespoke memorial pieces weave sentiment and artistry into timeless tributes.

What Is Cremation Jewelry? 

Cremation jewelry combines fashion and remembrance with a wearable memorial. These specially designed necklaces, rings, and bracelets look like fine jewelry but discretely contain a small amount of cremated ashes in a sealed compartment. You can also place a tiny lock of hair, dried flower fragments, or burial soil instead of cremated remains.

Cremation jewelry is for men and women. By caring for these precious keepsakes as you would other jewelry pieces, you have a permanent memorial that can be worn and treasured for generations. 

Types of Cremation Jewelry

Urn Necklace 

Like the traditional receptacle it's named after, the urn necklace has a secure interior for storing ashes or other items. Urn necklaces are available in various materials, metals, and sizes. Most urn vials can be personalized with names, dates, designs, or phrases to capture someone’s memory.

Locket Necklace

A locket necklace is a popular type of cremation jewelry. It has a hinged opening that lets you carry your loved one’s photo, ashes, or hair. Many associate a heart-shaped locket with memorial jewelry, but other shapes are used, too. You can find crosses, the Star of David, military emblems, and other symbols from specialty sellers.

Cremation Bracelet

Cremation bracelets securely hold ashes with an attached pendant, or they can have a hollow interior. Some cremation bracelets have a plate where you can engrave your loved one’s name or an image of their signature.

Cremation Rings

A cremation ring contains ashes within the hollow band or in an ornamental compartment. The band might be smooth or braided. Cremation rings are available for men, women, or gender-neutral designs. They can be made from stainless steel, sterling silver, or gold.


Memorial keychains are the ideal solution for someone who doesn’t wear jewelry but wants to keep a loved one with them. Ashes are securely encased in a hollowed interior or pendant. When you think about how often you carry your keys, you understand the popularity of memorial keychains. Your loved one is with you wherever you go.

Are Cremation Memorial Tattoos Safe? 

Memorial tattoos are not new. However, a new trend in permanent memorialization is getting a tattoo made with cremation ash ink. A tiny portion, less than a tablespoon, of cremated ashes is mixed with standard tattoo ink. 

Although cremated ashes are not certified sterile, there is minimal risk of infection. Flame cremations reach 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, effectively eliminating contamination. Cremation tattoos look identical to standard tattoos and are considered permanent.

Cremation Tattoo Designs

A tattoo artist can show you designs and give you ideas on what your memorial tattoo might look like. Your loved one’s name, birth, and passing dates are a timeless tribute, especially with the words “In Memory” or “In Memorium.” 

Here are a few popular memorial tattoo designs to consider:

  • A butterfly tattoo represents change and optimism, making it an appropriate choice for commemoration.
  • Incorporating religious icons or verses can express your beliefs while paying tribute to someone special.
  • Depictions of angels and cherubs are common choices for memorial tattoos.
  • The timeless infinity sign in a tattoo encapsulates the notion of "eternity."
  • Many choose to memorialize with tattoos of a dear one's favored flower or with a rose, a globally recognized emblem of affection.
  • Your tattoo can also feature your loved one’s favorite animal or possession, from a tiger to a teddy bear.

Gone But Never Forgotten

Permanent memorials, ranging from headstones to gemstones, play a crucial role in how we remember and honor our loved ones. They provide a physical reminder of the people who've left an indelible mark on our lives. Whether it's a traditional gravesite marker or a unique piece of jewelry, these memorials ensure that memories remain accessible and enduring. In a world that's constantly moving forward, it's essential to have anchors like these to ground us in remembrance and respect.

To learn about mausoleums, a unique and special form of permanent memorialization, take a look at our article From Pyramids to Palaces: Mind-Blowing Mausoleums That Will Astound You.

Afterall is here to provide experienced, compassionate care, whether you need us now or want to plan ahead. We have relationships with reliable vendors of many of the permanent memorial items in this article. Find a nearby location and let us know how we can help.