Bradley Gallant likes to get personal with the memory rings he grinds out in his basement apartment in Charlottetown. How personal, you ask?
For one of his first projects a few years ago, Gallant actually put a little bit of himself into his work.
“I had made a ring for my mother for Mother’s Day using mine and my two older sisters’ crushed baby teeth in the inlay,” Gallant said. “She loved it.”
It seemed there was no end to the things Gallant could memorialize in a ring. “I actually took a piece of wood from my son’s first baby crib and put it into a ring.”
Gallant posted some of his rings on Instagram and soon the requests began rolling in. “One woman asked me if I could put her son’s ashes into a ring for an inlay,” Gallant said.
“I said I’d be honoured to try and ever since then, everyone’s been wanting them,” he said.
“I think you’re on to something here, Brad”
Gallant’s friend from high school and former roommate, Justin Somers, saw the potential.
“The one ring with the cremation remains, that’s what really grabbed my interest,” Somers said. “I kind of had a little bit of a thought process saying, ‘Oh, I think you’re on to something here, Brad.'”
A few months ago, the two formed the appropriately-named company, Memories on Hand. Gallant makes the rings while Somers takes care of business.
The cremation rings, at $160 each, are one of the company’s best sellers.
Sentimental transfer kit
“We’ve sent some to Iqaluit, we’ve sent some to Ontario, we’ve sent some to Alberta,” Somers said.
The company supplies the customer with what’s called a sentimental transfer kit — a prepaid package that includes vials to mail the ashes.
As it turns out, ashes aren’t the only odd things people want on their fingers.
“The person chose not to give me their name while discussing the project but she wanted to take her grandmother’s blood and put that into a ring,” Somers said.
“We kindly declined on that project, just given that there’s some health and safety matters.”
‘They’re sending their own strains’
Another request that’s become popular since Canada legalized marijuana last fall is cannabis.
“We started off by making a commemorative legalization ring and that has taken off as almost a culture and a lifestyle piece of jewelry,” Somers said. The ring sells for $130.
“It’s actually people who are part of the access to medicinal marijuana program who can grow their own marijuana that they’re sending their own strains over to us,” Somers said.
As long as the customer supplies the cannabis for their own ring, Somers said his lawyer is okay with selling the rings.
Advised not to travel abroad
Customers are advised not to travel abroad with the cannabis rings. “There were a few requests for wedding bands with the marijuana inside of the bands,” Somers said. “We had to decline because they were getting married in Mexico.”
Somers sees the market for cannabis rings growing rapidly, especially among Canada’s licensed producers. “If [companies] were interested in offering service awards to their staff, we can take their customer-provided strains or their genetics and actually place it into a band.”
While the cannabis rings are big sellers, Prince Edward Island sea glass rings are the top sellers. “It seems that everybody, whether they’re a tourist or a local loves to go down to the shores and find their own sea glass.”
The company has sold dozens of its sea glass rings in local tourist shops.
But some of the company’s rings carry much stronger emotions.
“People who have lost children, people that have been in boating accidents,” Somers said.
“We’ve taken a few different sentimental materials, for example a rubber boot that washed ashore after a boating accident up in Tignish,” Somers said.
“We were able to actually use a piece of the rubber boot in the design.”
‘Keep and cherish memories’
The company is honoured that it can offer customers a personal memory.
“They’ve recently experienced a hardship or a loss and this is a way for them to keep and cherish memories of a particular person, time or place and have it everywhere they go,” Somers said.
“The sky’s the limit for what people want on their ring fingers.”
Memories on Hand is now in talks with museums in the United States, including the Detroit Institute of Arts.
‘Sent us a slab of marble’
“They’re looking to create a one-of-a-kind unique item for their board of directors and their million dollar donor’s club, using an actual piece of marble from the original staircase from 1888,” Somers said.
“They’ve sent us a slab of marble to send them down a few test designs.”
The P.E.I. company is also looking closer to home for mementos. Somers has spoken to the Stompin’ Tom Centre in Skinners Pond, P.E.I., about using slivers of wood from the Canadian icon’s stomping board.
As well, Somers is talking with the province about using pieces of the old Prince Edward Home in Charlottetown that’s set to be demolished. The former palliative care centre once housed the P.E.I. Hospital.
‘A long way with a little bit’
“A lot of different bodies came into the world there and left the world there,” Somers said.
One piece he has his eye on is the wooden front desk of the nursing station.
“We can go a long way with a little bit since we’re only using a small, little piece on a ring.”
Memories on Hand must be doing something right. In February, the company walked away with the Best Product 2019 award at the Craft East Buyers’ Expo in Halifax.
Somers and Gallant received a beautiful slate plaque engraved with their company’s name.
Break off a chunk of the slate
And what’s the first thing they did with their award? Break off a chunk of the slate, grind it down and put it into two rings they now wear proudly.
With business booming, the two entrepreneurs hope to eventually work full time at making rings, and move out of the basement apartment shop to a larger location.