The History of Wooden Cremation Urns

by Taylor Evans March 04, 2022 7 min read

A wooden cremation urn is a beautiful way to remember and memorialize a loved one. Each piece is unique, just like the person it commemorates. But natural beauty isn’t the only reason to choose a wooden urn.

Today, we’re going to look at the history of wooden urns, their advantages and processes used to create these works of art.


The History of Wooden Cremation Urns for Ashes

Not much is known about the history of wooden urns. There is scarce evidence of wooden urns, likely because wood naturally deteriorates over time.  Much of the evidence of early cremation urns come in the form of pottery, and even that evidence is scarce. If wood was used in early cremation urns, any evidence has since been reclaimed by the earth.

However, in one way or another, wood has long been a part of funerary practices.

  • Wooden funeral pyres were used in early cremation ceremonies. Bodies were placed under the pyre, which was then set on fire.
  • The familiar practice of using wooden caskets in burials dates back to ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.

As for wooden cremation urns and casks, we aren’t quite sure when this practice began. The wooden casket industry didn’t emerge until the 19th century in America, so wooden urns are likely a more modern development.

Regardless of its history, wood's natural beauty, easy accessibility and practicality make it a fitting choice for cremation urns. With cremation quickly becoming the preferred option to lay a loved one to rest, wooden cremation urns are a popular option.

For those wanting to honor their loved ones in an elegant way, wood is a wonderful choice, and there are many options in terms of design and wood species.

Types of Wood Used for Wooden Urns

While a wooden urn can be made from virtually any type of wood, there are some species that are more fitting than others. Generally, hardwoods are chosen because of their strength and longevity. Hardwoods also tend to have beautiful rich colors and stunning grain patterns.

Some of the most popular wood species for urns include:

Cherry

The vibrant and rich red tones of cherry wood make it a popular choice for wooden urns. Over time and with exposure to light, these red tones become even darker and richer. Coupled with its elegant wood grain pattern, cherry is a beautiful choice for honoring a loved one.

Maple

Maple is a heavy wood known for its strength and enduring beauty, making it a fitting choice for a cremation urn. Maple is commonly used in furniture making because of its durability and natural beauty. In addition, its light color and straight grain make it an elegant option for cremation urns for ashes.

Mahogany

With its rich reddish-brown tones and varying grain patterns, mahogany is a classic choice for an urn. Mahogany is a medium-weight hardwood, which makes it excellent for use as a cremation box or urn.

Oak

As one of the most durable woods on earth, oak is a standard in the cremation urn industry. Its stunning light color, open grain and strength create an urn or cremation box that will last for many years to come.

Walnut

There are many varieties of walnut that are suitable for urns. Its rich chocolatey tones and distinctive grain patterns make this wood a work of art in itself. Prized for its strength, durability and heaviness, walnut is a beautiful choice for a wooden cremation urn.


The Advantage of Wood Urns

Why choose wood over other urn materials? Using this natural, organic material for cremation box urns for ashes has many advantages.

Naturally Durable

Wood is naturally durable and strong, especially species of hardwood. The longevity of this material means that your urn will continue to honor your loved one for years to come.

Intricate Design Options

Wooden cremation urns give you the unique opportunity to create intricate designs that are difficult or impossible to achieve with other materials, like bronze or ceramic.

Layered carvings or intricate inlaid designs create stunning designs worthy of your loved one’s memory.

The decorative elements of wooden urns make them works of art that you can proudly display in your home. Because they aren’t immediately recognized as urns, they are an excellent choice for those who want a subtle option for their loved one’s ashes.

Beautiful and Unique

Wooden urns are distinctively unique because no two pieces of wood are the same. Everything from the color to the grain pattern is different.

Varnishing further brings out the rich tones in the wood and highlights the grain pattern.

If budget is a concern, a wooden urn can be a practical option that doesn’t compromise on beauty.

A Wide Range of Sizes, Shapes, and Styles

Wooden urns come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and styles to meet your needs. Rectangular and square shapes are available, but you can also find more unique shapes, including the classic urn style. Smaller urns are available for pets to memorialize your furry companion.

Artistically Hand-Crafted

While you can find wooden cremation urns in the traditional rounded urn shape, casks or boxes are more common. Each piece is hand-crafted with care using high-quality materials. At GetUrns, you can find a wide range of individual designs, but we offer two main types of wooden urns:

The Heritage Collection:
Simple Yet Elegant Wooden Cremation Urns

The wonderful thing about choosing a wooden urn is that it’s naturally beautiful. The rich colors and grain patterns make each piece unique and elegant.

Our Heritage collection features a range of personalized wooden urns designed to honor your loved one in a unique way. An engravable brass plate allows you to add a special message and symbol to make it your own. Additionally, colorful works of art may be printed on the Heritage White Wood Box Cremation Urn

For the the Custom Engraved Heritage Boxes, add up to four lines of text and choose from dozens of stunning clipart designs.

For the Custom Printed Boxed, choose from three vibrantly colored UV printed designs and add up to four lines of text. The Custom Printed Heritage Wood Box Cremation Urns are uniquely printed using state of the art full UV printing technology. UV inks capture true rich colors that not only look vibrant but are made to stand the test of time. 

               

Our Heritage collection includes options for:

  • Adults
  • Pets of all sizes

Each species of wood offers its own unique color and grain pattern, which is why we offer a variety of wood options, including:

  • Walnut
  • Cherry
  • Espresso
  • Burl
  • Painted White 

The simplicity of the urns in the Heritage collection is what makes them so special.


Urns Featuring Italian Inlay

Decorative wood inlay is an art that dates back to the times of ancient Egypt. It’s similar to marquetry, inlays are created by cutting a shaped recess in a piece of wood and filling that insert with another piece of wood, typically of a contrasting color.

The cuts are incredibly intricate and require the utmost precision. But the results are nothing short of exquisite.

The inlay practice made its way to Italy in the 15th century, where skilled artisans mastered the technique and handed it down over centuries.

In modern Italy, the inlaid technique is still alive and well. Approximately 700 skilled artisans continue the centuries-old practice using the same techniques and processes as their ancestors.

Inlaid pieces are true works of art, each one requiring intricate, precise cuts and the finest materials. Each phase of the complex and fascinating process builds upon the last.

To complete the work, artisans use a complex lacquering process. At least five layers are applied, each one sanded in between coats. Although labor-intensive, the lacquering process preserves the work of art, ensuring that it becomes a treasured family heirloom.


The Amalfi Collection:
Beautifully Inlaid Wooden Cremation Urns

All of the urns in our Amalfi Collection are created by skilled Italian artisans using the art of inlay. The technique takes generations to master, and a single cremation urn takes several days to complete. They are true, exquisite works of art in their own right and a beautiful way to honor your loved one’s memory.

The Amalfi Collection includes:

Azzurro Cremation Urn


With its stunning azure color and intricate pattern, the Azzurro cremation urn symbolizes peace and purity. Blue is a calming color and a universal symbol of freedom, faith and wisdom. The urn’s infinite pattern is a reminder of the cycle of nature and life itself.

Fiore Cremation Urn


Exquisite in every way, our Fiore cremation urn is inspired by spring flowers and reminds us of the beauty of our loved ones who have passed. Each flower is connected to the next in an ever-entwining circle, much like our loved ones and those who came before us. The flowers are displayed in brilliant colors of red, pink and purple with golden vines.

Hugo Cremation Urn


Featuring a unique geometric design, our Hugo cremation urn is a conversation piece in its own right. It's a stunning example of parquetry on a small scale, with alternating blue and white hues.

The geometric pattern draws your eye in and appears to go on forever, like the memories of our loved ones. Geometric patterns also symbolize unity and wholeness.

The Natural Beauty of Wooden Urns

Many people choose wooden urns because they are naturally beautiful and unique in their own way. At GetUrns, we offer a large selection of wooden urns, many of which can be personalized. We invite you to explore our Amalfi and Heritage collections and to reach out if you have questions about our wooden urns.


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