Cremation Urns: A Variety of Materials to Suit Your Needs

Biodegradable Urn

How might a cremation urn or keepsake best reflect and honor the wishes of your loved one, as well as align with your needs?

Cremation urns for ashes are developed using a variety of materials and come in an assortment of beautiful designs. Knowledge of the materials can prevent unwanted surprises, such as being allergic to a metal or buying cultured marble when you wanted real marble. Below is an alphabetical list of the various materials used in making cremation urns. Note that an individual urn will be made only of one, or possibly


Below is an alphabetical list of the various materials used in making cremation urns. Note that an individual urn will be made only of one, or possibly a combination of a few, of the listed materials. For each material, an example of a cremation urn made from the material is provided.

Aluminum: Aluminum is the second most widely used metal in the world. Beneficial characteristics of an aluminum cremation urn for ashes include being lightweight, malleable, corrosion resistant, and non-magnetic. Example: Sapphire Pet Cremation Urn (size small, also available in extra small, medium, and other colors).

Biodegradable Materials: There are a wide variety of environmentally friendly materials being used to make biodegradable cremation urns. These materials are sturdy enough to be handled until the time when the funeral urn for ashes is either placed in water or buried in the earth. Most of the water or earth biodegradable urns are made of materials such as handmade paper, recycled paper, Himalayan salt, sand, gelatin, cornstarch, or other plant based materials. Example: Acorn Biodegradable Cremation Urn in moss.

Brass: Brass is a lightweight metal alloy made of 90% copper and 10% zinc. It gives off a bright golden appearance when polished. Oftentimes, brass cremation urns are finished with bronze or pewter to strengthen it and to alter the color. The bronze finish has a more reddish hue, whereas the pewter finish gives off a silver finish. Brass is easy to cast in a mold. It is a malleable material that can be coated in enamel or paint. Example: Tear Drop Radiant Cremation Urn.

Ceramic: Ceramic funeral urns for ashes tend to be delicate. Their fragile nature suggests they are best used when displayed in a home or in a columbarium. Ceramic can be designed with different effects, including the addition of metallic trim and accents. Porcelain and mudstone are different types of ceramic that give an earthy feel to the urn. Many of our ceramic cremation urns are handmade, one of a kind. Example: Celebration of Life ceramic cremation urn. Example of artisan, handmade: Royal Splendor ceramic cremation urn.

Copper: Copper is a lightweight, malleable metal that is reddish brown and used for accenting many cremation urns for ashes. Copper wire is used in cloisonné urns. It is non-magnetic and corrosion resistant. However, the copper metal reacts with oxygen, resulting in a layer of copper oxide, which is green or bluish-green. It can take up to 20 years for a copper cremation urn to oxidize indoors. There are a variety of ways to return the surface to its original reddish-brown color. Example: Copper Oak cremation urn.

Enamel: Enamel is used to decorate the exterior of copper, aluminum, or ceramic cremation urns. The process involves adding glass to a surface, heating it until the glass melts, then letting it set. Enamel comes in a wide array of colors. Adding a layer of enamel to a cremation urn creates a smooth, hard, chemically resistant, durable, and scratch resistant surface. Example: Quail Feathers Ceramic cremation urn for pets.

Glass: Ash-infused hand made glass pieces are handmade with the ashes of a loved one. They are one-of-a-kind, and considered keepsakes. Example: Round Glass Art with Cremated Ash.

Marble: Two types of marble are used in our cremation urns: natural marble, and cultured marble.

Natural 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. Colors that appear in marble’s swirls or veins were created by minerals such as silt, sand or iron oxides present during formation. White marble is pure marble created with few impurities. Example: Serenity Cameo natural marble cremation urn.

Cultured marble resembles natural marble and is less expensive than real marble. Cremation urns made of cultured marble are hand-crafted from a blend of stone, resin, and color pigments. The funeral urns for ashes maintain beauty, are crafted to be durable, and can be polished to a brilliant luster. Example: Companion cultured marble cremation urn.

Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF): Medium density fiberboard is a material used to create inexpensive cremation urns for ashes that maintain the beauty of wood. MDF is made from those parts of a wooden log that remain after boards have been cut and removed. MDF is created by putting the wood into a chipper.  After removing impurities and washing, the fine chips are mixed with waxes and resins. The chips are then pressed into boards. Example: Black MDF Pet Photo cremation urn.

Pewter: Pewter is an alloy made of tin (up to 90%), bismuth, antimony, and sometimes silver or copper. Pewter is glossy and bright. Over time, the metal oxidizes and acquires a grayish tint. Many pewter urns are pewter plated over brass. Example: Athena Pewter cremation urn.

Serpentine: OneWorld Memorials' exclusive Marble Cremation Urn - Jade Colored - Large collection is crafted from serpentine, also known as New Jade. It can sometimes be confused with nephrite jade, which is a harder material. Serpentine comes in a lovely green shade with white marbling. Its lustrous exterior can feel greasy, waxy or silky to the touch.

Soapstone: This metamorphic rock has been quarried for thousands of years. It is composed primarily of talc, thus it is very soft and easy to carve. Properties include nonporous and heat resistant. 

Wood: Wood cremation urns are crafted commonly from cherry, maple, pine, oak, walnut and poplar. Wooden urns for cremation ashes are generally stained and may be adorned with inlays, appliques and laser etchings. Wood urns are most often purchased for home or cemetery columbarium placement. Example: Elegant Hummingbird Wooden cremation urn.

What about cremation jewelry?

Below is a list of materials that go into making the various shapes and sizes of jewelry urn for ashes. Many materials contain hypoallergenic and non-tarnishing qualities. Urn jewelry for ashes has gained popularity in recent years.

Bronze: Bronze is a metal alloy with a warm, reddish hue that consists of 90% copper and 10% tin. It is an inexpensive solution for necklace charms and pendants to hold ashes. It is resistant to corrosion. Over time it will tarnish and turn the reddish hue slightly darker. Example: Bronze Floral Heart cremation necklace.

Gold: Our cremation jewelry is available in either 14K, gold vermeil, or white gold.

14K Gold: Gold has long been considered the most sensuous metal. It does not oxidize or corrode. It will last indefinitely. And it’s extraordinarily beautiful. Example: 14K Gold Yellow Lattice Heart cremation pendant.

Gold Vermeil: Vermeil (pronounced vehr-MAY) is produced when sterling silver is coated with 10K gold thicker than 2.5 micrometers. Any instance where sterling silver is coated with less than 2.5 micrometers of gold, the product is considered “gold-plated.” Necklace charms to hold ashes that are vermeil are more durable and longer-lasting than a gold-plated pendant. When the jewelry piece has a zinc, copper, or nickel base (in lieu of sterling silver), the piece is not considered vermeil. Example: Gold Filigree Cross cremation pendant.

White Gold: White gold consists of yellow gold with one or more white or silver-colored metals, usually silver, but sometimes palladium, platinum or nickel. White gold is plated with rhodium to give it a shiny appearance. Example: Teardrop 14K White Gold cremation necklace.

Stainless Steel: Stainless steel is a steel alloy consisting of approximately 10.5% chromium. The chromium aids in making it scratch resistant. It is hypoallergenic, but is prone to rusting and requires occasional upkeep. Like titanium, it has a brilliant silver luster and is an inexpensive material. Example: Angel Wing stainless steel cremation pendant.

Sterling Silver: Sterling silver is used in many pendants and necklaces for cremated remains. It is comprised of 92.5% silver and 7.5% of other metals, usually copper. It does not tarnish, but is stronger than fine silver, which is considered too soft to be durable. Sterling silver jewelry requires regular cleaning. Example: Sterling Silver Eternity memorial necklace.

Titanium: Titanium is the strongest metal in the world. It has a brilliant silver sheen when polished. Titanium pendants to hold ashes are non-magnetic, hypoallergenic, and do not rust or tarnish. Cremation jewelry made from titanium is harder to scratch but needs to be polished and cleaned on occasion. Example: Narrow Titanium cremation bracelet.

White Bronze: White bronze is not bronze, but an alloy of varying amounts of copper, tin, and zinc. It resembles sterling silver in color, but has the texture of bronze. For cremation jewelry, white bronze is an ideal substitute for nickel and sterling silver because it does not tarnish. White bronze is nonmagnetic, very smooth, and virtually nonporous. Example: White Bronze Heart cremation necklace.

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