Cremation Urns

A complete Guide to Buying a Cremation Urn

There is a wide array of Cremation Urns available on the market today, and as the cremation rate in the U.S. increases, so this market will expand.  In addition to the market for Cremation Urns for human remains, there is also a large market for keepsake urns for pets that have been cremated.

Due to the numerous types of Urns on the marketplace, this means there is a type of urn to fit every need.  Urns come in all shapes and sizes and a range of different materials.  There are individual urns and companion urns, and also keepsake urns, where ashes can be divided amongst a number of small urns to be shared between close family and friends.  Biodegradable urns are suitable for scattering or burial where the ashes need to be contained initially before dispersal. i.e. an ash scattering at sea.  Temporary urns are available for travel purposes, temporary containment or transport for ash scattering.

How do you choose the best type of cremation urn for your needs? We have outlined below a list of the different types of urns, with guidance on material, and how different urns may suit different purposes.

Marble Urns

These offer a natural and beautiful, solid stone encasement.  Marble is a stone that starts off as limestone, and through the marvel of geology transforms into what we know as marble.  Once highly polished it creates a smooth and organically grained finish.  Marble Urns offer a unique finish due to this ‘veining’ characteristic, and no two urns are alike. Limestone must be protected from acid, which may damage the surface, such as citric acid and vinegar.  Marble Urns typically range in price from $75-$600 depending on size, style, and supplier.

Bronze Urns

Cremation Urn Guide

Bronze Urns have a durable and classic appeal.  Bronze is the hardest material that a Cremation Urn can be manufactured from, and again they connote an ancient age when this valuable metal was considered highly revered.  In casting a bronze urn, the craftsman can sculpt to a variety of designs and colors.  Bronze Urns do not rust, but if exposed to the elements over a period of time, some discoloring will occur.  Bronze can make beautiful keepsake urns, which are often made sculpted as befitting tribute statues or shaped like a heart.

Bronze Urns again range in price and can start from as little as $100 but can cost up to in the region of $3000 depending on size, style, and supplier.

Wooden Urns

Wooden Urns offer a truly organic and natural encasement, which can feel warm and ‘alive’ in a sense that makes a wooden urn of great appeal to many bereaved.  Wood is perhaps one of the materials that mankind feels sustains life, and therefore offers a connotation of everlasting life.  Wood can feel soft, silky and smooth to the touch, and a range of hardwoods are employed in the making of wooden urns.  Dependent upon your preference you can choose between Oak, Mahogany, Cherry, Maple or exotics like Burmese Teak.

There are a variety of construction processes for wooden urns these include:

  • assembling solid flat pieces to make a rectangular or angled box-type urn
  • turning wood on a lathe to create cylindrical-shaped urns
  • inlaying wood to create beautiful designs
  • hand-carving for detailed and unique intricate designs
  • laser engraving to create complex designs

Wooden Urns typically range in price from $60-$800 depending on size, style, and supplier.

Cloisonne Urns

Cloisonne Urns are perfect for artistically memorializing a personality.  The unique process and special paints used to make Cloisonne Urns give them a special beauty and elegance.  The process involves using brass wire and moulding with ceramic pottery.  This provides the sturdiness of metal with the delicate finish of ceramic.  An ancient art thought to originate in ancient Greece and China, Cloisonne Urns if properly cared for will endure for generations as exquisite memorials.

Cloisonne Urns typically range in price from $70-$400 depending on size, style, and supplier.

Biodegradable Urns

This type of urn is fast growing in popularity as we become more environmentally conscious.  A Biodegradable Urn comes in a variety of forms – the common factor being that it is constructed of a biodegradable material.  This means that it will decompose into the environment without causing any harm.  In the main, they are hand made from non-toxic paper and meet all governmental requirements.  Biodegradable ash scattering tubes are ideal for an ash scattering at sea and prevent the ashes from dispersing too quickly or blowing away.

Most biodegradable urns include a biodegradable bag for storing the remains until the final scattering or burial.  In the case of sea or lake dispersions, the urn will usually remain on the surface of the water for up to 15 minutes before descending.  A biodegradable urn will normally fully degrade in water within 3 days; in a land burial, the urn will completely disintegrate within a year.

If the air transportation of cremated remains is required a biodegradable urn meets all airport transportation security administration legislation (TSA), and this solves any boarding issues carrying-on your ashes.

Biodegradable Urns typically range in price from $70-$260 depending on size, style, and supplier.

Ceramic Urns

Very popular and easy to find in a range of colors and designs, Ceramic Urns offer the opportunity to capture whatever artistic patterns you desire.  Pottery is yet again an age-old tradition that has held-fast over the years, essentially for the beauty and grace that fine ceramic art offers.

The history of human ashes being stored in ceramic urns dates back to early civilization, so there is an intrinsic legacy of eternal life entwined with the memorialization of ashes in ceramic urns.  Available in a number of finishes and glazes, Ceramic Urns can truly fulfill anyone’s imagination in terms of creativity.  Although there are many ready-available designs, Ceramic Urns can also be custom designed to your specifications.  Some Ceramic Urn Suppliers will offer this customization service, plus many local ceramic artists will happily craft a unique urn at your request.

Keepsake Urns

These are much smaller in size than a standard Urn, and serve to hold just a portion of cremated remains as a memento.  They can either be used to keep just a small memento in addition to maybe performing an ash scattering, or placing the cremated remains in a memorial garden, or can be used to share out the remains for remembrance and memorialization between family members.

Keepsake Urns can be purchased individually or as a set.  Just like a standard Cremation Urn, they come in all sorts of shapes, designs, and themes.

There is such a variation in Keepsake Urns that it is difficult to provide a rough guide to pricing.  It can largely depend on the size and quantity you require.  Individual keepsake urns can start from around $28.  Boxed sets of six keepsake urns can start at around $115.

Silk Urns

A soft silk urn offers elegance and warmth, and an added bonus of providing a beautiful keepsake for keeping memorabilia of your loved one following an ash scattering.  For this reason, Silk Urns are often referred to as ‘Memory Chests’.

If the air transportation of cremated remains is required a silk urn is another alternative that meets all airport transportation security administration legislation (TSA), and this solves any boarding issues carrying-on your ashes.

Silk Urns typically range in price from $70-$90 depending on size, style, and supplier.

Leather Urns

Leather Urns are a little more unusual but again, like Silk Urns, double up as a ‘Memorial Chest’, and therefore can be very versatile when used for ash scattering purposes.  Leather is a more natural and warm material.

Leather Urns typically range in price from $120-$420 depending on size, style, and supplier.

Crystal and Glass Urns

If you are looking for something unusual, delicate and colorful, then maybe a crystal or glass cremation urn would be the choice for you.  A beautifully blown glass urn can make a very decorative memorial keepsake that will adorn any tabletop or mantle-piece.  Glass Urns are perhaps the best type of cremation urn for those interested in preserving the famous “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” tradition of the bible.  The main component of glass urns is sand that through a heating process is liquefied and then solidified to form a substance that we know as glass.

Crystal and Glass Urns can be purchased from as little as $40 but range up to $1500 depending on size, style, and supplier.  Simple designs can be quite reasonably priced, but the more exotic and exquisite the craftsmanship of the crystal or glass, the more expensive the urn will be.

Direct cremation

Simulated Synthetic Urns

Otherwise known as ‘Cultured’ cremation urns, they are formed from blends of natural and synthetic substances, cold-cast and fashioned to look and feel like stone, ceramic, or other traditional materials. The results are beautiful, elegant cremation urns at affordable prices, made to last forever.  The benefit is that in an ornamental way, they can be produced in all sorts of designs and are relatively cheap urns.   So if you wish to symbolize a favorite sport or hobby of your loved one, you will no doubt find a cheap decorative urn that is of a cultured origin.

Due to the synthetic nature of their material they are also very durable and easy to care for.

Prices for synthetic urns can start at around $25 and range up to about $250 depending on size, style, and supplier.

Photo Frame Cremation Urns

These provide a dual purpose enabling you to retain your loved one’s ashes along with a photograph.  They are available in individual or keepsake sizes and come in wood or cultured finishes.

Prices can range from around $65-$350 depending on size, style, and supplier.

Veteran, Military and Forces Urns

If your loved one served in the Forces, be it Army, Navy, Airforce, Marines or Police, then a tribute urn to reflect their service can be a befitting way to immortalize their remains.  As with other ranges of urns, there are urns on the market that are specifically designed for this purpose.  Whether you chose a wood, brass, bronze or biodegradable urn, you will find that there is an appropriate patriotic cremation urn.  Some will be embossed with flags, eagles or badges; others may be colored with the stars and stripes.

Veteran and Military Urns start in the region of $55, but you can spend up to $430 or upwards depending on size, style, and supplier.

Urn Medallions

The Urn Medallion is a way of decorating your urn.  They can provide an excellent way of personalizing an urn where the surface cannot be engraved or marked.  They also provide a great way to custom personalize an urn.

Heritage Capsule Urns

A Heritage capsule is a specially engineered from an aluminum alloy with a polymer coating to preserve the cremated remains of your loved one, including optional DNA samples and electronic storage.  It is designed to last forever, and the idea was borne out of observing the need for a resilient means for long-term interment of cremated remains, much similar to the interment of a body in a gasket-sealed casket.

The Heritage Capsule can safely be buried anywhere protecting the ashes of your loved one.  The capsule is hermetically sealed and impervious to all environmental agents.  Adding a DNA sample is an optional extra, but an ingenious way of allowing your loved one’s core identity to be locked in ‘time and space’.  The DNA sample is extracted from a hair sample.  Another option is the addition of an electronic data chip that can store up to 2MB of electronic files.

There are three options for the Heritage Capsule, starting at $249.00

Transporting Cremated Remains on Airlines

These days there is a growing need to move cremated remains across the U.S, indeed even internationally.  If a loved one has died away from home, many Americans are now finding it a much more practical, and cost-effective solution, to conduct a cremation at the place of death and then transport the ashes for a funeral or memorial service.

Since 9/11 the Transport Security Administration (TSA) has enforced strict regulations with regards to traveling with cremains.

There are two options for carrying a container with ashes with you on your flight.

  • Carry-on – allows you to carry-on your cremated remains as long as it is in a container that can easily pass through x-ray and the ashes can clearly be identified.  For this reason, either a temporary crematory container is preferable, or the purchase of a lighter weight urn such as a silk or biodegradable urn can be a solution.
  • Checked Luggage – checked luggage needs to be carefully screened.  As any container such as an urn could be suspected for explosives, it is again imperative to ensure the container will easily pass the airline screening process.

Note: Some airlines will NOT permit the transportation of cremated remains in checked luggage, so do check with your airline before making any arrangements, or purchasing a container.

Written by

Sara is the Editor in Chief for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death care industry in the US for the last 15 years.