Parting Stone, a company based in New Mexico, offers an alternative to keeping tins of your loved one's ashes: turning them into "stones."
For $595, you can convert a dead loved one's remains into smooth objects that look and feel like river stones.
The average person becomes 40 to 60 stones after they die.
The coronavirus has killed more than 210,000 people in the US, bringing with it a surge in cremations to alleviate crushing demand on a funeral industry unprepared for a deadly pandemic. Traditional burials, predictably, took a nosedive.
In fact, about 37.5% of US decedents could be buried in 2020, down 7.7 percentage points from 2015, and about 56% will be cremated, a jump of 8.1 percentage points from five years ago, according to a July report by the National Funeral Directors Association.
But that's an acceleration of an ongoing trend: Around 2015, more decedents were cremated than buried for the first time in the US, and the NFDA data suggests there will be two cremations for every burial in 2025, growing to five cremations to one burial by 2040.
In this shift, entrepreneurs and technologists have seen opportunity: Instead of storing cremated remains of a loved one in an urn, to maybe someday be scattered, bodies can now be composted, turned into plant-food pods, converted to diamonds, or more recently, pressed into dozens of smooth, stone-like objects.
"Getting these has been sort of transformative, in a way," Garth Clark, who turned his parents into stones, said in a video for Parting Stone, the company that "solidifies" cremated remains. "I use them as a sort of worry bead."
The company developed the technology with the Los Alamos National Laboratory, later partnering with more than 200 funeral homes nationwide to take ash, bone fragments, and other materials found in cremated remains, then transform them into "parting stones."
Parting Stone Founder Justin Crowe told Business Insider about the technology his company developed, why people might choose parting stones over urns, and how he feels holding the remains of his own grandfather.
Note: The following answers have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
How do you make the stones?
The process of solidifying remains requires just a few basic steps following the cremation. After arriving at the Parting Stone lab, the full-amount of granular cremated remains are gently refined into powder. A small amount of binder is added to create a clay-like material from which the solids are formed. The solids are carefully placed into a kiln for solidification and then they are polished and returned to the family.
How much does it cost to turn a person into stones? How about a pet?
Our solidification service costs $595.00 for a human, $295.00 for a dog and $245.00 for a cat.
How do the stones feel?
The solidified remains act and feel very much like normal river stones. The material is clean and permanent like ceramic. The solids will not dissolve in water or scratch with your fingernail. They will outlast us on Earth.
How many stones does an average person become after death?
The solidification of an adult results in around 40 to 60 solids. Alternately, let's say we receive 8 cups of conventional cremated remains following cremation, our process returns about the same amount, 8 cups, of solidified remains.
What do people normally do with their stones? Do they distribute them among family members, or keep them in one container like ashes?
One of the most exciting aspects of developing this technology has been seeing all of the new ways in which people are staying connected with their loved ones. Many people will share the solidified remains with friends and family, travel with them, leave them in meaningful places, or carry the solidified remains' solids in their pocket every day.
One customer held a "reveal party" with their family where they got together, poured champagne, and opened the box of solidified remains together. Everyone got to see the shape and natural color of their loved one's remains for the first time. They passed them around the kitchen table, told stories about their loved one's life, and at the end of the night everyone got to take home the stones that they liked best.
How does a family planning a cremation find out about this alternative to conventional ash?
When planning a death with one of our funeral home partners, families are given the option of receiving either cremated remains or solidified remains following the cremation.
If a family is already living with ashes, they can also request our solidification service directly on our website and we will mail a collection kit to begin the process.
What is the return-to-ash guarantee?
If a family is not satisfied with the solidified remains, Parting Stone can re-process them into an ash-like material. We know that this form of remains is new for many people and that remains are often one of our most cherished possessions so we want to ensure that every family we work with feels confident choosing this option.
Isn't it a bit strange — maybe even creepy — to turn people into stones?
As a person who has lived with ashes, I feel that cremated remains are creepy and uncomfortable. You can see bone fragments, you are always nervous about spilling them or getting them on you, and it's sometimes embarrassing to have them out when people are visiting your home.
Solidified remains are nice to live with and have allowed me to feel a meaningful connection with the remains of my grandfather — something that I never felt towards the conventional ash.
Read the original article on Business Insider