Buying Guide

Practical vs Symbolic

Cremation urns, keepsakes, grave markers and other memorial items serve both practical and emotional purposes. Urns have the practical purpose of holding cremated remains, commonly referred to as “ashes.” Grave markers provide information, they tell us who is buried or interred in a grave space. But the value of these items goes beyond their essential functions. They also have a memorial and symbolic value that is arguably greater than their functional value. They evoke memories of our loved ones, helping us hold on to and cherish those memories.

What is Most Important to You?

As a buyer, you need to weigh the functional and emotional value to you and, of course, balance that with your budget considerations. A $100 cremation urn can be as good a container as a $1,000 urn, but the beauty, style and artistic quality of the more expensive urn may make it a much more meaningful memorial.

Consider the woman who purchased a ceramic urn for her mother’s ashes from our store. The urn was adorned with beautiful hand-painted daisies. She said her mother loved daisies. It was meaningful to her and will serve as an ideal memorial to her mother, as well as a container for her ashes. The intrinsic value of a memorial item is unique to each of us. When selected a memorial for your loved one you need to decide what is meaningful to you. We endeavor to find unique items that you will cherish and help you keep the memory of your loved one alive.

Are You Buying a Memorial to Stand the Test of Time?

The memorial items in our store are forever – with the exception of our biodegradable urns. Permanent urns and keepsakes, as well as jewelry and grave markers serve a never-ending purpose -- to be passed on from generation to generation. If you are looking for an item that needs to stand the test of time, consider quality of materials and workmanship in your purchasing decision.

Types of Urns

Cremation urns come in a wide variety of styles. Despite the variety, urns fall into two basic categories: permanent and temporary. When ashes are returned from a crematory they are contained in a plastic bag that has been placed in an urn. If you have not provided the crematory with an urn, they will return the ashes in a temporary container, such as one made of cardboard. The plastic bag makes it easy to later transfer the ashes to an urn of your choosing.

Permanent urns are typically made of glass, hardwood, metal, ceramic, bronze or marble. You can find them in hundreds of styles. Biodegradable urns are a form of temporary urn because they will decompose over time. Biodegradable urns are typically made of paper but you may also find them made of salt, cornstarch, gelatin or other degradable materials. There are also urns specifically for use in water burials.

How to Choose an Urn

Here are a few questions you can consider to help you choose a cremation urn.

Will the urn be entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium niche?

If you will be placing your urn in a mausoleum or columbarium, the cemetery can provide you with the dimensions of the space to keep in mind when you make your selection. Some cemeteries offer niches that seal the urn behind a glass window so it can be viewed. The decorative style of the urn will be a consideration if it will be in view. If the urn will be buried at a cemetery you will most likely need to purchase an urn vault to protect the ground around the urn from collapsing.

Will you be keeping the urn at home?

If you are keeping the urn at home you will need to think about where it will be placed. If it will be on display, the size and style will be important considerations. Urns are available in styles for all tastes and preferences. In fact, many are beautiful works of art designed and crafted by skilled artisans.

Will you be traveling with or transporting the urn?

If you are traveling by plane, train or bus, be sure to check out their regulations. Also, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is a source for government requirements. For example, urns must be able to be x-ray scannable. Also, the U.S. Postal Service has specific regulations for the shipping of cremated remains.

Will you inter all the remains or will you distribute them among others?

If you will be distributing the cremains between family members you may prefer to buy several smaller urns or keepsake urns. Also, cremation jewelry is an option. Pendants containing a small portion of ashes are a popular choice these days.

Will you scatter the ashes?

Some cemeteries have “scattering gardens” for the scattering of ashes. Typically, they have memorial options such as a wall or benches for placement of memorial plaques. If you intend to scatter elsewhere on land or in the water it should be done in accordance with federal, state or local regulations. If you are scattering, a temporary container from the crematory may be all you need. However, you might consider small keepsake urns to retain a portion of the ashes while scattering the rest.

Would you like your urn personalized?

Some urns and keepsakes can be engraved. Depending on size, the engraving may include name, years of birth and death, and a short message.

Rule of Thumb for Choosing the Correct Size Urn

The most important consideration in buying an urn is to select the right size to hold the ashes. The capacity of urns is measured in cubic inches. One to one rule -- the general rule is 1 cubic inch of urn capacity for each 1 pound of body weight prior to death.

For example, the ashes of a 175 lb. man would need an urn of at least 175 cubic inches. Likewise, the ashes of a 25 lb. pet would require an urn of 25 cubic inches or more. You can use the 1 lb. to 1 cubic inch rule of thumb when purchasing smaller keepsake urns as well.

Other Memorial Options

There are many ways to honor the memory of someone you have lost with a memorial item. A favorite photo can be included in a pendant or in a glass crystal. Paintings and other artwork make excellent memorial items. Search for an item that has the most meaning to you.

For more information on buying urns, keepsakes, grave markers and other funeral-related products, check out our Guide to Funeral Products.