Friend's ashes used to create unique, beautiful jewelry
'It echoes the imprint that our loved ones leave on us'
When their silver rings and necklaces sparkle in the light, Leanne Cail's large group of friends think of her.
That's because they've had jewelry made embossed not only with sand from Cail's favourite North Shore beach, but also her ashes.
If you can take a small piece of somebody and have it with you all the time it's great.— Kelly Connolly
"We were looking for ways to memorialize her," said Maureen LeClair, one of eight friends who commissioned the jewelry. "This is one that's very personal to us."
Cail died four years ago in a traffic accident in Nova Scotia at age 42. The Charlottetown businesswoman left behind a large and loving group of lifelong friends.
They have done several things to remember Cail, including creating a bursary in her name at Holland College for young women studying business.
'A little apprehensive'
Then they heard that Charlottetown bespoke jewellers Kuriosities offered a special service — pieces embossed with cremated remains.
"I actually got my start making jewelry by making memorial jewelry for mothers who had lost babies during pregnancy or during birth," said Kuriosities' jewelry maker and co-owner Kimberly McIntrye. "It's been a focus or a passion of mine throughout my career."
McIntyre creates pieces embossed with the impression of sand from P.E.I. beaches in the metal, and said embossing with ashes seemed like a natural progression.
She was approached by a customer who wanted a piece made using her father's ashes a few years ago, and was happy with the results.
"At first I was a little apprehensive," at the prospect of touching actual human ashes, McIntyre said — but then she began to reflect on grief and love.
'Feels really sacred'
"I started to think of the symbolism of printing the ashes into the metal and how it echoes the imprint that our loved ones leave on us," McIntyre said. "This is amazing, meaningful, soulful work! This is what I need to be doing."
She's now made an estimated 100 items, sometimes with sand and other times just using ashes — that creates a more subtle, soft effect, she said.
"It's really kind of an honour," McIntyre said. "It just feels really sacred, working with human ashes."
McIntrye also works with ashes from beloved pets.
Cail's friends ordered the jewelry on Gold Cup Day in August — an auspicious day, since Cail loved the annual parade — and got the call that the order was ready on the eve of the anniversary of her death.
"So right then we said, well she obviously approves!" laughed Kelly Connolly.
"It was very emotional. We were all pretty pleased with how beautiful they were and how meaningful they were," LeClair said of seeing the jewelry for the first time.
'A small piece of somebody'
"She'd be loving that she's getting this attention," said LeClair when asked what their friend would think.
"She liked a lot of bling, she was our queen."
"It's a really nice thing to do, I think it's a great thing that they offer," said Connolly.
"A lot of people don't really know what to do with ashes, where to put them. So if you can take a small piece of somebody and have it with you all the time it's great."