4 Engraving Processes to Consider When Personalizing a Cremation Urn


 Engraving tool creating a pink heart with letters on the front.

Image by Jie Qi*

Many families find the process of choosing an epitaph for a loved one a meaningful process. Still more satisfying is the result of a personalized cremation urn, engraved with thoughtful, funny, irreverent, or wise words that encapsulate a loved one’s personality or memory. Engraving an urn may seem like a straightforward process, but there are actually different methods you can choose to achieve your desired look.

In addition to deciding upon an epitaph, it’s important to be informed of the engraving processes and what materials can be engraved. The urn material often determines which engraving process is most suitable for a pleasing, beautiful result. By knowing which methods are compatible with cremation urn materials, you can choose the right urn to create a specific look.

This article provides:

  • An overview of 4 engraving processes
  • What urn materials can be engraved or personalized with which process
  • What types of urns can be personalized
  • Further details to consider before ordering

Engraving processes – 4 methods for personalizing a cremation urn

  1. Laser engraving - As the name implies, laser engraving uses lasers to produce a desired effect. This technique does not involve the use of tool bits or inks. The laser is like a pencil – the beam emitted from it allows the controller to trace patterns or words onto a surface. Laser engraving is extremely versatile, suitable for hardwoods, some metals, most coated metals, and fine precision small items such as jewelry. This method does not work well on ceramic surfaces. The end result is slightly recessed, providing a durable and long-lasting finish.
  1. Rotary engraving - Rotary engravingis done with a rotating cutting tool in a motorized spindle. The tool cuts into the surface of the material to a predetermined depth producing a groove. It works well on uncoated metals such as brass, stainless steel, silver, gold, titanium, pewter and aluminum. Creating a groove through a layer of paint or ceramic that coats the metal will expose the base metal surface and color. Rotary engraving allows for deeper cuts on marble or stone than can be produced by laser engraving.
  1. Fiber laser - Fiber laser cutting systems generate a laser beam that is delivered through a fiber optic cable to the laser cutting head. The glass fiber transfers the beam, with a beam quality tailored for cutting metal. This process is good for brass, stainless steel, copper, aluminum and other bare metals. It is not suitable for coated metals.
  1. Sandcarving - Sandcarving works best for engraving marble, stone, ceramic, granite, or metal. A photomask, or stencil, is applied to the surface to be carved. Using compressed air, an abrasive sand-like material is propelled onto that surface, carving only in the open areas of the stencil. This method can produce a lightly frosted image or a more deeply etched design depending on how long the surface is worked.

What cremation urn materials can be engraved with which process? 

Some materials lend themselves more favorably to engraving than others. Keep this in mind and review the vendor information carefully for suitability of engraving. For example, urn coating makes a difference. Bronze finished in pewter would be suitable for metal engraving, but brass (or any metal) finished in matte paint is not suitable because the engraving process can chip the paint. Glass urns in general are not suitable for engraving, but can be paired with a pedestal or a base and a metal plaque, which can be engraved.

As noted in the engraving processes described above, there is a preferred process for each type of material. Vendors test different surfaces to determine the best engraving technology. As a consumer, don’t hesitate to draw on the expertise of the team at OneWorld Memorials when evaluating your possibilities and choosing an urn to house your loved one. We are here to help and want the results to be as beautiful as you imagine.

What if you find the perfect cremation urn for your loved one, and then learn it cannot be engraved?

Finding the perfect urn and then later learning that it can't be engraved can feel devastating. Fortunately, there is a great option that exist just for this dilemma.

  1. An engraved metal pendant on a ribbon or chain can be placed around the neck of the urn. An example of this can be seen on the Elite Mother of Pearl Urn from OneWorld Memorials.

Depending on where and how you plan to display the urn, either the pendant or the pedestal option may work for you. Pedestals and pendants are made from materials that may be engraved and make a fantastic keepsake if you later decide to bury the urn.

Where will the cremation urn or cremation keepsake reside?

Armed with the above information, a further consideration is where the urn will reside and who will be seeing it. These answers can guide you toward a suitable material for the specific environment, as well as choice of wording.

  • For a traditional ground burial, ceramic, wood, metal and stone urns are options. The urn is usually present at the funeral or memorial service, but after that, it is buried and no longer seen. Biodegradable urns cannot be engraved. If you plan to bury the urn, consider a removable keepsake that can be engraved and displayed for the service, but later removed before burial for a memento.
  • A columbarium (a protected outdoor or indoor niche) accommodates burial urns, stone and ceramic urns, metal urns, and wooden urns. Some columbaria have glass doors, which allow views of the urns. Consider this visibility when choosing the urn and the epitaph. A suitable text engraved on the urn identifies and potentially revitalizes memories of your loved one for you and others who visit.
  • A memorial urn for the home can be made of wood, ceramic, metal, or stone. The Athena pewter cremation urn provides a good example of an urn with engraving. When keeping ashes at home in a display urn that is likely to be seen by family and friends, consider more informal or personal wording. For example, use a person or pet’s nickname to reflect his or her relationship with you. Consider a phrase or term shared only between intimate family and friends.

What types of cremation urns can be personalized?

Wood, metal, stone and ceramic urns can be personalized. Some urns already have an engraved symbol. The Odyssey Raku pet cremation urn is designed with paw prints, but further personalization can be added. Keepsake cremation urns, such as the Aria Dolphin Heart keepsake, and cremation jewelry, such as the 14-carat yellow-gold rectangular pendant, offer engraving options. Keep in mind that their smaller size limits the space available for letters, numbers or symbols. In general, glass cremation urns cannot be personalized.

Further details to consider before ordering

When selecting an urn through OneWorld Memorials, click on “add engraving” to see the possibilities for that particular urn. Specific choices include:

  • Word limit or character count
  • Line count
  • Fonts – most often a choice between a block or calligraphic script style
  • Symbols – such as a dove, cross, heart, dolphin, or others.

Please note that there may be a charge for personalization. It is wise to think about what you want the engraving to say before you place your order. Be sure your text aligns with the engraving capability (material, character count, etc.) of the urn you’ve chosen. Then you can be ready to insert the wording when placing your order. If you want to specify where the engraving will go on the urn, check with the vendor to see what placement is possible.

How long does it take?

Engraving can take an extra 1 to 3 business days longer than the shipping time for urns that are not personalized. Typically a “rush order” with engraving will require minimally 1 extra business day. When the urn is finished, overnight shipping is always an option, but check with your vendor to see when engraving can realistically be completed.

Choosing a cremation urn for a loved one and adding engraving is a meaningful, important decision. Work with your vendor for a satisfying result that meets your emotional and aesthetic needs. The customer service representatives are there to assist you, answering any questions or solving any issues along the way.

*Image can be found here:  http://bit.ly/2jZ6k8M


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