Marble Urns - An Ancient Tradition

by Linda Banks

Etruscan Cinerary Urn - New York Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo Courtesy of the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art

Memorial cremation urns carved from marble have been used for thousands of years.  Ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks recognized the stone’s durability and used it for marble funeral urns, as well as to build roads, statues and monuments.  Among its collections, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has cinerary urns made of alabaster and marble dating from as early as the 1st century A.D.

What is the difference between cultured marble and natural marble?

Natural marble – an elegant, luxurious stone

Marble is quarried throughout the world, including in the United States. It is formed primarily of limestone, crystallized over millions of years through extreme heat and pressure. Marble is naturally a light-colored stone, however, it appears in many colors because of impurities present when the rock formed. White marble, as shown in the Taj Mahal marble cremation urn, is pure marble created with few impurities. Colors that appear in marble’s swirls or veins were created by minerals such as silt, sand or iron oxides present during formation. 

Cultured marble – a less-expensive luxurious choice

Cultured marble is a manufactured product invented several decades ago as a cost effective alternative to natural marble. It is created from a mixture of stone dust, acrylic resins and pigments made to resemble the color and quality of marble. The manufactured product is durable and maintenance-free. It can be easily molded and has many uses, such as in construction for counter tops, sinks, showers and floors. Cultured marble is less expensive than natural marble. The price of quarrying and transportation automatically increases the cost of natural marble. 

Why choose a marble cremation urn?

Canyon Marble Cremation Urn for AshesAlluvium Marble Cremation Urn - Large

Valued for its elegant beauty, natural marble is a favorite choice for cremation urns. Various colors and unique veins that run through certain marble provide a range of choices. A mosaic of colors distinguishes the Canyon Marble cremation urn. Other color choices for marble cremation urns include black, pebble, obsidian, blue onyx, and gray. The hand-carved Jade cremation urns are popular due to the soothing effect of the soft green and the graceful design. Natural marble is a relatively soft stone. It can be carved from one or many pieces, and polished to create a beautiful and unique urn for ashes.

In recent years cultured marble has also been used to make urns such as the Beige Cultured Marble cremation urn. They are easily molded and create long-lasting small urns or large urns for ashes. They are designed with a variety of colors and shapes. The glossy protective finish on the urns cannot be scratched or dented.

Choosing a natural marble cremation urn or a cultured marble cremation urn

Considerations on which to choose include:

  • Price – natural marble is more expensive since it’s quarried, cut, and carved
  • A preference for all natural products will direct you to the natural marble
  • Design and purpose – since natural marble is cut and carved, there are more designs to choose from that can be aesthetically pleasing when placed in a home environment. Cultured marble urns might be more appropriate for placement in a columbarium or in a cemetery

The distinct richness, weight and beauty of a cremation urn carved from natural marble create a timeless resting place for the final remains of a loved one, or for you. The durability of a cultured marble urn provides a cost efficient, yet pleasing, alternative.

Linda Banks provided extended end-of-life care for her beloved Aunt who was like her mother. When her brother suddenly died, she was instrumental in orchestrating all of the details of his final wishes to be cremated. Linda has been an active blogger for ten years, including blogging about Willie Nelson and his family. Willie told her recently that he reads her blog every day.  


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