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How Do I Select the Right Size Cremation Urn?


Image by Travis Wise*

On most cremation urn websites, you’ll find an urn sized by its dimensions and cubic inches. Height and width are easy enough. But imagine ashes in a one-inch cube and you’re not any closer to choosing the right size urn in cubic inches. Exactly how do cubic inches line up with the amount of cremation ashes?

Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a cubic inch as “a unit of volume equal to a cube one inch long on each side.” A cubic inch is the volume of a cube with each of its three dimensions (length, width, and depth) being one inch. A definition is helpful, but how is it practically applied?

It’s useful to translate human pounds to the amount of human ashes that will fit in a particular size. So how do we size a cremation urn or cremation keepsake?

As a convention of measurement, most in the cremation industry uses this formula:

1 pound of human body weight = 1 cubic inch

Or, as a simple example:

100-pound body = a minimum capacity of 100 cubic inches

Applying this simple formula will provide a useful guide you in selecting a correctly-sized cremation urn.

Cremation keepsakes

Many people like keepsakes for ashes. They are affordable, and their small size makes them an easy fit or addition to most rooms. But the capacity of most ashes keepsakes is limited as to the amount of human ashes they can hold. A few keepsakes are large enough for small pets, and all keepsakes can hold a small portion of cremation ashes. Let’s look at a few examples.

  • The Lattice cremation keepsake product description notes the volume as 5 cubic inches, or cremation ashes from a 5-pound body. This is large enough to hold only a portion of human ashes or pet ashes.
  • The Blue Ambrosia Majesty Wood cremation keepsake has a volume of 25 cubic inches. It will hold cremation ashes from a 25-pound body or smaller. This is large enough to serve as an infant or child cremation urn, or a small pet cremation urn.
  • The Tiffany-style cremation keepsake lamp lists a volume of only 1 cubic inch, or the equivalent of 1-pound of body weight. This type of keepsake is intended to store only a small portion of cremation ashes. They are often used to share ashes among family members, or as a companion to a display memorial urn, or in conjunction with a burial urn.

Memorial and pet cremation urns

Keep in mind that if you choose a cremation urn with a larger volume than what you need, there’s no harm. In this case, the volume doesn’t need to equal the original body weight.

A customer in Texas purchased a pet cremation urn online. He then called us to make sure it was large enough for his 15-pound dog. His selected cremation urn was 60 cubic inches, or large enough for ashes from a 60-pound body. His comment – “In Texas, we like big things, so if my dog has room to run around, that's great!”

On the other hand, if the cremation urn is smaller in cubic inches than the cremation ashes by volume, that’s a problem.

What if you want to divide the ashes between three cremation urns or cremation keepsakes? The simple equation would be something like this:

Cremation ashes from a 180-pound body

180-pound body = 180 cubic inches of volume needed for cremation ashes

180 cubic inches of volume divided into 3 parts = 60 cubic inches of volume needed per urn

A medium-size cremation urn, such as the Elite Mother of Pearl - Medium cremation urn, has a volume of 80 cubic inches. This translates into a capacity of holding cremation ashes from a body weighing anywhere up to 80 pounds. This would make it a good candidate for splitting the ashes in half for someone who weighed up to 160 pounds.

2 Important features help determine what size cremation urn you'll need

Starting from scratch, let’s ask a few questions to determine what size cremation urn to choose. There are two features important to determining the urn size.

1. It’s essential the cremation urn will hold the amount of ashes intended for the urn. Know the weight of the deceased, and then ask:

  • Will the urn contain all the cremated remains?
  • Will all or some of the ashes be stored in a memorial urn displayed in your home?
  • Do family members wish to share the ashes and take home a small keepsake urn, in which case the ashes would be divided into equal parts?
  • Do you wish to place a portion of the ashes in cremation jewelry?
  • Are companion urns, which are large enough to hold the remains of two adults, a possibility?
2. Where the cremation urn will reside provides the parameters for a cremation urn’s dimensions. What width and height will fit in the intended space?
  • Will the urn be interred in a family plot at a cemetery or in a mausoleum?
  • Is a burial urn required to be placed inside a cremation urn vault?
  • Will the urn be held in a niche?

Knowing the final resting place of the cremation urn will guide you in choosing a correctly-sized urn in terms of width and height.

OneWorld Memorials (OWM) provides detailed information about each of its cremation urns, including the size of the urn in cubic inches. OWM urns that hold human ashes and pet cremation urns can be browsed by large, medium, small, and companion urns. Read each product description for the product’s capacity in cubic inches, as well as the urn’s dimensions.

Remember that an urn for ashes cannot be too large in terms of its cubic inch capacity; it can only be too small. It is okay to have extra space in the memorial urn you select. But be sure the dimensions (height, width) fit the intended space for the urn.

*Image can be found here: