Ashes to ashes, dust to dust? Not if you’re California glassmaker Merry Coor. The Eureka resident specializes in making “ash beads”: tangible mementos of the deceased that incorporate cremated remains into their swirling designs. Coor crafts every orb herself using a torch and rods of Italian- and American-made glass. Her process is equally unique. In addition to the ashes, Coor asks her clients to forward a photo, letter, or story that allows her to hone a mental picture of the loved one. “I take making beads with ashes very seriously and begin each bead with the utmost respect,” she writes on her website. “When I go into my studio to make a bead, I am centered and my thoughts are clear. I only want good energy, love, and good thoughts incorporated into every bead I make.”

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To be sure, Coor didn’t set out to create memorial jewelry. And she might be making regular beads still if a young couple hadn’t broached a special request in 2014. The rest, as they say, is history.

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“It was 80 degrees in my studio that day, but I had the chills the entire time I was making the beads,” she remembers. “When the couple returned to pick up their beads, we felt we had connected, we cried, and we hugged each other. They had a tangible touchstone, housing the ashes of their loved one as a keepsake, and I had found a new dimension to my art.”

Coor now considers herself artist with a purpose. Her beadmaking, she says, is a way to “honor others,” both living and dead.

“It gives me great purpose and pleasure to make these beads for you,” Coor says to potential customers. “I hope that the beads give you comfort, and help with your grief.”

+ Ash Beads