An increasing number of Americans are opting to be cremated instead of buried. In 2016, the number reached a new peak. For the first time ever, more Americans chose to be cremated instead of buried — just over 50 percent of Americans who died that year were cremated.
Overview: Our Top Picks
- Stained Glass Urns ($139.95)
- Memorial Diamonds from Eterneva
- The Living Urn Planting System ($139.00)
- Teddy Bear Cremation Urn ($72.99)
- Granite Urn ($100+)
- Pet statue Urn ($24.99+)
Jump ahead to these sections:
There are many reasons why people are making this transition:
- In larger cities, burial space is at a premium. In fact, in urban areas with a high population density, the cremation rate can range between 70 percent and 90 percent.
- Cremation tends to be a lot more cost-effective than burials.
- Cremation makes sense in a time where people frequently move away from their hometowns. You can’t bring a burial site with you. But you can bring an urn with the cremains of a loved one wherever you move.
- Cremation allows for personalized tributes. For instance, you can have unique cremation jewelry made featuring memorial diamonds. You can also select unique or creative urns for the cremains of your loved ones.
Read on for more unique urn ideas for cremated remains.
Tip: If you're looking for something very unique (think a game, a classic car, or instrument of choice), you can custom order an urn from a store like Foreverence. You submit a design idea or sketch, then the company designs and 3D prints your urn, so you get a 100% unique container.
Creative Urn Ideas for a Loved One’s Ashes
When your loved one passes away, they typically explain whether they would like to be buried or cremated.
Your loved one may even indicate whether they would like cremains to be split up between different family members. Your loved one may not indicate a preference on how to store their ashes. That gives you the freedom to select a vessel that pays tribute to your loved one.
1. Stained glass urn
Stained glass urns are a really beautiful and artistic way to store ashes. They are available in many different designs, so you can choose one that reminds you of your loved one. Many of them incorporate flowers — a forget-me-not is an especially apt floral choice for a cremation urn.
These are an especially thoughtful urn for a loved one that attended a church with stained glass windows. It could also be thoughtful for someone who loved antiques, like vintage Tiffany lamps.
2. Memorial jewelry or diamonds
If you have your deceased loved one's lock of hair or cremated remains, you can send them in to be turned into a memorial diamond. After a consultation and a few months of waiting for the diamond to grow, you'll have a custom diamond that you can get set on a ring, necklace, or other jewelry.
Some companies, like Eterneva, create lab-grown diamonds and allow you to pick from several cuts and colors for your gemstone.
3. Living urn
One reason that more people are choosing to be cremated is that it’s eco-friendly. With a living or biodegradable urn, you can select a tree to plant in honor of your late loved one.
You order the system and place the cremated remains into a specially designed urn. You also include additives provided by the company in the urn which helps the tree grow. You then dig a hole and place the special urn into the ground, along with the root system of the small tree. Plant them together, and over time you can watch as the tree continues to flourish and grow.
It can be comforting to feel like your loved one is living on symbolically through the tree. The only downside is that this option doesn’t allow you to keep your loved one’s cremains with you.
4. Stuffed animal urns
Cremation urns can often feel cold or impersonal. Some companies combat this by creating urns that are encased in a soft stuffed animal. It looks like a traditional plush toy but it has a small opening in the back.
Just enclose ashes in a sealed plastic bag, then wrap that in a soft cloth bag. Then, insert the ashes through the opening in the back. You can even dress the stuffed animal in clothing made from a special clothing item that belonged to your late loved one.
Some people use these to give to children so they can cuddle with it when they miss a deceased parent or grandparent. They are often also used by parents who have lost an infant or a young child.
5. Blown glass ocean wave urn
If your loved one loved the sea, a delicate glass urn shaped like an ocean wave is something to consider. They can be made in a few different ways. Some are designed to hold a small amount of ashes. Others have the ashes actually infused in with the glass.
These art pieces are special and make a beautiful tribute to a loved one. If the deceased asked for their ashes to be scattered at sea, you can keep a small portion aside for this as a keepsake while still honoring that wish.
6. Wall-mounted plaque urn
Traditional urns tend to be jars or vases that rest on a shelf. If you want to do something unusual, you can get a wall-mounted urn.
They are typically three-dimensional wooden plaques shaped like a square or rectangle. They have a metal face that can be engraved. You can include your loved one’s name, the dates they were alive, and a special quote. You can even get a portrait or other image engraved on it.
7. Granite urn
Some people miss the traditional burial and the headstone to honor their loved one. You can get a granite urn for your loved one that has a similar shape to a headstone. It can also be engraved in a similar manner to a traditional grave marker.
Creative Urn Ideas for a Pet’s Ashes
Many people value pets as much as they do children or other family members. Here are some of the more creative ways you can hold onto the ashes of a beloved pet.
8. Garden stone
Instead of putting your pet’s ashes in a traditional urn, you can use them to make a pet memorial stone. Ashes can be mixed into cement and set into a flat stone. This stone can go in your garden in a spot where your pet enjoyed soaking up the sun.
People often choose to have their pet’s names and the dates of their life etched onto the top. You can get these professionally made, but here are also DIY kits available for people on a budget.
9. Pet statues
Pet statues are similar to garden stones. In this case, the ashes are mixed into a material (usually clay).
Then they’re crafted into a three-dimensional statue in the likeness of your late pet. You’ll have to find an artist or company to create this. It may be cost-prohibitive — monuments like this can cost up to $2,000. For a more affordable version, you can also consider a premade pet statue urn for your pet's ashes.
10. Personalized photo urn
It’s hard not to see your pet every day when you’re so used to seeing him around. You can have your pet’s photo turned into a decal and apply it to the side of a simple porcelain urn. There are also wooden containers that you can customize yourself, like this one. This is a creative way to personalize your pet’s urn.
11. Laser engraved pet urn
Because pets are smaller than people, their cremains can fit into a small wooden box. These boxes can be laser engraved or etched with special, personalized details. You can request your pet’s name, dates, and even a picture.
You can also include a special quote. Best of all, for something so personalized, this is still an affordable option. The cost of an urn like this is typically less than $100.
12. Pet memorial cremation pendant
An urn doesn’t always have to be big! You can get a cylindrical urn pendant designed to keep ashes. This way you can literally keep your pet close to your heart. Because this is a small piece, it will only contain a very small portion of ashes.
You can get a larger metal cylindrical urn to keep the remaining ashes. This will coordinate with the pendant.
13. Ash hourglass
Some companies can create custom hourglasses that can hold about eight to 12 ounces of ashes. They are available in DIY kits, so all you have to do is add the ashes to a disassembled hourglass and seal it up with epoxy.
They aren’t necessarily a very accurate timepiece. But they can serve as a reminder that life is beautiful.
Creative Cremation Urn Alternatives
When a loved one dies, it can be comforting to keep him or her with you. If your loved one chose to be cremated, you can select special urns for ashes.
It’s a great way to pay homage to a departed loved one. You can choose something that honors their taste and personality. No matter where you end up living, your loved one will remain with you.
If you're looking for more types of urns, read our guides on Raku cremation urns and funny cremation urns.
- Scutti, Susan. “Half in US Choose Cremation as Views on Death Change.” Cnn.com, CNN, 9 August 2017, www.cnn.com/2017/08/09/health/cremation-tops-burials-in-us-study/index.html.
- Hendrix, Michael. “Are Cities Going to the Dogs?” City-journal.org, City Journal, 8 October 2019, www.city-journal.org/pet-ownership-over-children-cities.