A cremation urn is simply a container that holds cremated remains (or "ashes"). It can be a wooden box, a grecian-style ceramic vase, a metal box, a small marble or granite vault, or even a coffee can or cardboard box. Any container that holds remains becomes a cremation urn.
However, since most people prefer to use something attractive and decorative to hold the ashes in honor of their loved one, most cremation urns and boxes you'll find in a funeral home or on a retail urn website like ours is a container specifically designed to serve as a cremation urn. These urns and boxes are usually made to hold commonly needed capacities, such as 200 cubic inches in volume for the remains of the average adult, and 400 cubic inches for the remains of a couple (this type of box is known as a "companion urn," since it is designed to two people).
Cremation urns come in many different styles, shapes, and designs, so it may be helpful to figure out if you're interested in a specific type of shape or material. Here are some of the basic categories.
Again, a cremation box is any box-shaped container that is intended to hold remains. However, when most people search for "cremation boxes" they are generally thinking of a wooden cremation urn.
Wood cremation urns come in every design from simple, elegant, and affordable, like the Boxwood, pictured here in a standard adult size with optional matching smaller "keepsake" urn:
... to ornate, lavish, and premium, as you can see with the Acclaim:
... to anything in between. Most wooden urns have the same basic rectangular "box" shape, which is why most people think of wood urns when they say "cremation boxes".
But as with any basic style, there are variations. We have wood urns shaped like books, hearts, octagons, cowboy hats, and much more, as well as other materials such as metal, silk-covered plastic, and eco-friendly cardboard scattering urns. But the general idea is always there: the container is a box, intended to hold remains.
Cremation urn vases are shaped exactly like they sound. Modelled after classical ancient urns, most cremation vases are made from metal or ceramic with a screw-on lid to seal in the remains. This type of urn is typically ornate and decorative.
Many of the metal urn vases can be found online as imported products at extremely affordable prices. Our metal urn vases are generally a little more on the higher end of quality and craftsmanship. A good example is the Astor, made from elegant spun pewter:
A cremation urn vault is actually a technical term which refers to a container that holds a cremation urn for burial. Confused?
You might think that a cremation vault would be a vault-like container that holds cremated remains, such as a marble or granite urn which is filled using a bottom-opening stopper. Alas, no. Stone urns, such as cremation containers made from marble, granite, onyx, or any type of cultured product, are usually referred to simply as "marble urns", "granite urns", etc.
A vault (used variously as "cremation vault", "cremation urn vault", or "burial vault") is a container which protects the actual cremation urn when buried in the ground. Most funeral homes and cemeteries require a cremation vault when remains are buried. The primary reason for this, from the cemetery's perspective, is preventing the ground from caving in should the cremation urn decay. Wood, for instance, will decay fairly quickly when buried. Ceramic urns will crack, metal urns will collapse, and so forth. This causes an issue for the cemeteries, who want to keep the ground level and looking nice.
Their solution is to require any urn that is buried to be placed inside of a sturdy and non-biodegradable container which is large enough to hold most standard cremation urns. This outer burial container, which is usually made from reinforced metal or incredibly durable polystyrene, is called a cremation vault or burial vault.
So if you were searching for the term "cremation vaults" and intending to find a vault-like cremation urn to hold cremated remains, we suggest checking out our selection of granite, marble, and onyx urns in the Stone Urns collection.
Alternative Cremation Urn Styles
Wood, metal, stone, and ceramic cremation urns and boxes in vase or box shapes are the most commonly purchased styles of cremation containers. But that doesn't mean you have to settle for something simple or traditional - the options for alternative cremation urns are nearly limitless. The options include motorcycle engines, golf club bags, lighthouse-shaped, elk in the forest decorative clocks for a hunting lodge, biodegradable turtles for water burial, and pretty much anything else that you can conceive.
Here's a sampling of some unique shapes and styles of cremation urns: