If you are not aware, I have been making Memorial Orbs from cremation ashes for about 16 years now. In this past year, I've encounter a few sets of "ashes" that have reacted quite differently to the process, and we started investigating it. There is apparently a somewhat new process for cremation that eliminates the burning - instead, a strong Lye solution is used to dissolve the tissue. It's called "Aquamation". I'm trying to learn all I can about it, but DO know from personal experience that the process is NOT compatible with making Memorial Orbs with the resulting product.
With Aquamation, there is no burning of anything. It's touted as a "gentle process that uses water rather than flame" - which sound benign. But it's not just plain water - it's a strong aqueous solution of sodium hydroxide (i.e., lye) that does the work by simply dissolving all the non-bone parts. Also, I've seen mention of a follow-up addition of acid to neutralize the resulting product if necessary. There do seem to be some potential advantages to the approach, and it sounds like this process is growing in popularity. Obviously, I can offer no opinion on Aquamation vs flame cremation vs burial or anything else - that choice is up to you and your families. I'm not even sure yet which method I'd prefer for myself. However...
I CAN tell you from personal, extremely unpleasant, experience that Aquamation "ashes" are HIGHLY FLAMMABLE, and RELEASE A HORRIBLE-SMELLING and POTENTIALLY NOXIOUS SMOKE. Being created using strong acids and bases, I hate to think of what might be in that smoke! But these "ashes" are NOT SUITED for our Memorial Orbs, and I will not be making any more Orbs with them.
I've done 4-5 of them now, and I could tell that something was vastly different about these "ashes". The "ash" bursts into flame as soon as contacted with molten glass, and a huge plume of incredibly foul-smelling smoke bellows out of it. In addition, there are burn marks that remain on the aluminum scoop.
1. We will be asking everyone about the process used for their cremains.
2. If you have "ashes" from the Aquamation process, please don't ask us to make a Memorial Orb with them.
3. If you have brought in or sent us "ashes" from the Aquamation process, it will be evident as soon as the molten glass touches it. I will stop the process immediately, and pack your ashes back up for return to you. We will refund 50% of the Orb cost - the other 50% will be considered a handling/exposure charge. The shipping charge will be applied to returning your "ashes"). .
I can't emphasize enough how much of a "game-changer" this is in my world. I've always felt the Orbs were something special, having started doing them with a family member of my own. But I think it's apparent that dealing with these "ashes" actually constitutes significant health risks for me and anyone else nearby. I want to make it clear that I do NOT feel that the "ashes" themselves are toxic - I simply don't know. But I do know that when you heat anything to 2,000 degrees, you change it in ways you can't immediately predict.
If there is someone out there that can fill me in on some of these details, I'd welcome it. What does the "ash" actually consist of? What is it that burns so readily in the "ash"? What exactly is released in the smoke when the "ashes" burn? Is the process regulated in any way, and are there any specific standards in how the process is to be performed? I'd like to see some scientific, detailed, non-biased information.
Anyway, I have to even consider the possibility of not making Memorial Orbs anymore. Of the half-dozen or so sets of these "ashes" I've handled, not once has it been mentioned that these are NOT standard cremation ashes! My impression is that the Aquamation people focus on the "green" and "gentle" aspects of the process, and not on any of the concerns I have to consider. I feel that if they were really being as altruistic as they try to sound, they'd also be warning clients of things that SHOULD NOT be done with the "ashes".
Lastly, if you DO have "ashes" from the Aquamation process, you might want to consider our Memorial Floats as an alternative to the Orbs. The "ashes" are not subjected to higher temperatures at all with the Floats.
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