Cremation urns for ashes have a long history dating back to 5000 – 3000 BC. Cremation itself is a practice that is over 20,000 years old, but we don’t know if urns were used at the time. There's a chance that the cremation urns were made of wood and have since decomposed, but we just don’t have any record of this occurring.
What we do recognize is that there’s a deep history of urns and the concept of legacyattributed to them.
History of Cremation Urns
Cremation itself is tens of thousands of years old, and “ancients” have been using urns for thousands of years to create a legacy for the deceased. The history of cremation urns, as far as the data shows, begins in China.
Burial urns dating between 5000 and 3000 BC were unearthed in Yangzhou, China.
The urns at the time were not as ornate as today, and they were made using pottery techniques of the era. Intricate urns wouldn’t come about for some time, but the idea behind keeping a loved one’s ashes was present.
The Bronze Age saw a revival of urns, with many cultures beginning to use urns, including those in:
The Bronze Age was around 3300 BC and lasted until 1200 BC. Following this era, we still have evidence of the civilizations of the Mycenean Age making urns to commemorate the deceased.
1000 BC – 800 BC
Greeks and Romans were dominant forces of the time, filling the history books with epic battles and innovations that we still use today. Fierce battles, like the Trojan War, led to thousands of people dying in the middle of pure carnage.
Burials were possible at the time, but with the enemy able to attack at a moment’s notice, many bodies were cremated.
Ashes were placed in intricate urns, which took up little space and allowed the remains of the person to be transferred back to Greece – or anywhere that they were to be spread. Nobles and the like were also cremated, and there were lavish ceremonies involving the urns.
Roman funerals were very similar to the Greeks, but after this time period, there was a slowdown in small urns for ashes – or any urns for that matter.
Today, cremations are growing in popularity, with the number of cremations nearly doubling in the last decade.
Legacy in Modern Cremation Urns
Memorial is an important part of grieving and helps show the importance of a person’s life. Even if a child dies at three days old or a person dies at 110, there is a significance in their life that is memorialized in cremation urns.
Modern creation incorporates a wide range of materials that are intricately used to have names or patterns engraved on them and for other purposes. The materials most used in urns include:
Brass: A lightweight option, brass is known for its beauty and durability. This material is a top choice for urns due to its rich color and ability to be coated in enamel or paint.
Ceramic: Placing a loved one's ashes in a columbarium or on display in the home with a ceramic urn is as popular today as it was in Roman times. Ceramic is less durable, but it is the perfect material to paint and create a legacy for the person whose remains are inside.
Metal: Aluminum, bronze, stainless steel and other metals are used in urn creation and often engraved with sayings, the person’s name, birth and death dates and other information to help preserve the person’s legacy.
Wood: Wooden urns are some of the oldest in the world, and handcrafted options are stunning examples of artistry. Inlays, etchings and engravings are common and allow you to create a legacy for your lost loved one.
Other materials, such as glass, may be used for cremation urns, although this material is less popular today than just a few centuries ago
Biodegradable materials are also rising in popularity because many have final wishes of “going back to the earth.” These urns can be buried and allow the person’s ashes to return to the earth when the urn fully degrades.
You'll find pet urns, child urns and adult urns that are made from a variety of materials in our collection.
Often, the descendants will choose:
Designs that their loved one adored or even identified with
A sentimental message remembering their loved one
Engravings with the person’s information, such as birth date and departure date
Some urns are also shaped in the form of a butterfly, heart or other designs. These urns are a beautiful way to remember someone who has passed. For example, a heart for a family matriarch that has passed or a butterfly for a free spirit are both great options for urns.
Depending on the material chosen, the urn may be created in different ways.
Wooden urns may be handmade or cutting machines may be used to mass-create the urn. Automated engraving options are often available, allowing for precision engravings on the urn.
Bronze urns are primarily machine-made before they’re reviewed by quality assurance teams to ensure that they have no imperfections. Once approved, the urn will then go through additional processes to finalize them for the family.
Metal urns may be crafted on a spinning wheel, which helps create the urn’s final form. Paint and finishing may be added at the end, along with engravings to finish the urn before delivering it.
Urns can help you preserve a legacy in ways that are often lost during burial. A few of the many ways that urns can help you preserve the legacy of a loved one are listed below.
How Cremation Urns Help Preserve Legacy?
"Memories are small stars that shine comfortingly in the darkness of our grief."
Cremation urns help us preserve legacy in many ways. After all, they are designed to preserve ashes, which are all that remains of us after we’re gone.
More specifically, here’s why urns help preserve legacy:
Engraved urns serve as everlasting reminders of our loved ones and their lives.
Urns can be put on display in the home, allowing our departed loved ones to stay in the family.
Urns can be passed down to future generations or kept in columbarium niches to allow friends and loved ones to pay their respects.
Loved ones can choose urn designs and styles that match the person’s personality, helping us remember who they were and what they did in this life.
With the right material and design, urns can become a permanent part of a person’s memorial and final resting place.
Urns keep our stories and memories alive long after we’re gone. They serve as a memorial for loved ones and keep their legacy alive for years to come. When stored properly in an urn, ashes can stay preserved for decades.
Of course, adult urns are just one way to preserve legacy. Today, we also have cremation jewelry to serve as reminders of our loved ones and allow us to carry a piece of them with us everywhere we go.
Cremation Jewelry and The History of “Memento Mori”
For many of us, urns do more than just hold the remains of our loved ones; they serve as reminders of their life and our memories together.
Cremation jewelry holds a similar purpose and plays into the “memento mori” philosophy. Memento mori is a Latin phrase that roughly translates to “remember death.”
The memento mori trope dates back to classical antiquity. Stoics and philosophers like Plato often spoke of mortality and how life should not be taken for granted.
The concept has appeared throughout history in both funerary art and architecture. Skulls are a common motif, but wilting flowers and hourglasses can also help serve as reminders of the impermanence of life.
Ultimately, memento mori aims to help us live life to the fullest because we never know when our time will come. It’s a concept that can be found in cultures around the world, from the Day of the Dead festivals in Mexico to the Lojong practice in Tibetan Buddhism.
Memento mori tokens, music and art continue to perpetuate this concept, but cremation jewelry can serve a similar purpose.
While our cremation jewelry collection does not incorporate the typical memento mori motifs, they can serve as reminders that life is, indeed, impermanent. At the same time, they help us remember our lost loved ones who brought joy and happiness to our lives.
Our fine jewelry comes in a variety of styles and themes, from butterflies to hearts, feathers, birds, paw prints and more. Cremation jewelry allows you to carry your loved one with you and remind you to make each day count.
Cremation urns have a rich and fascinating history that continues to grow and evolve to this day. Old traditions have given way to modern designs that are true works of art. Concepts like “memento mori” have also paved the way for cremation jewelry and other tokens to remind us that life is cyclical and impermanent. Ultimately, urns and cremation jewelry help us preserve our legacy so that we may live on in some way after we depart this life.
There are many different ways to scatter ashes in the United States, and most states have favorable laws. Working with a funeral home or crematory may make the planning process less stressful and help you understand what is permitted and what is not permitted.
Doves, butterflies, and the Tree of Life are three profound and prominent symbols that represent life, death and rebirth. We incorporate these symbols tastefully in our urn collections, allowing you to memorialize your loved ones in ways that are meaningful to you.