Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Urns & Outs - January, 2012

When I think back to the time I first became interested in the funeral profession, I remember that I have always been interested in the Cremation side of things – and especially in Cremation Urns. It was the early 1990’s, and at that time, there were only a handful of national suppliers that provided Urns to the trade. Meierjohan-Wengler, Oregon Brass Works, Gorham and Matthews were the primary creators of bronze Urns; MacKenzie Vault had their cultured marble Urns; Old Saybrook Metals created pewter Urns; and Wilbert had a variety of styles that included all of the types mentioned. It was also around this time that Batesville introduced their “Options” program, York had “Traditions,” and Aurora had “Preferences.”

Over time all of these companies have changed – some have merged together, others with larger suppliers and still others with casket companies, some have been sold and relocated – but most are still in the business of supplying handcrafted Urns to the profession.

Now, you can find Urns on eBay, Amazon, and more websites and in more catalogs than the mind can fathom. A number of distributors now import a majority of their offerings from India or China, but there are still a number of Urns that are made right here in the U.S.

As you can probably imagine, with a column titled “Urns & Outs” I’ve had dealings with countless Urn suppliers. When I had my company “Engler Cremation Urns” I was proud to supply a wide variety of Urns, and represent a number of these suppliers. A few became my absolute favorites to deal with.

Old Saybrook Metals began in 1981 when Garry Lea spun a pet Cremation Urn for the Cremated remains of his beloved German Shepherd. He began creating a similar Urn (#301) for the local humane society before making larger versions and supplying them to the funeral industry. Their #901 is one of the Urns in my column’s banner above, and my grandfather was inurned in their Urn that is exclusively created for Aurora. Most recently, in 2010, Old Saybrook was purchased by their longest and most loyal customer – a company that also got its start in the pet deathcare trade. Kap-Lind Enterprises was originally based in Chicago, but was relocated to St. Louis in 2009. Lori Simmons, Kap-Lind’s principal, is carrying on her family’s business in the heart of the mid-west. In addition to their original bronze and onyx lines, and their newly-acquired Old Saybrook line, they have begun spinning the familiar Old Saybrook shapes in copper. Lori is respectfully and admirably carrying on the legacy of Old Saybrook Metals – and I am personally and professionally grateful for her doing so.

MacKenzie Vault Company is based just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Theirs is a company that has not changed much in their operation over the last 60-plus years they’ve created their Urns. They were the first to create Urns using cultured marble and today their Urns are the standard in the industry in that medium.

A company that varies from the two previously discussed, yet deserves mention here, is the Mark Thomas Company. Based in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, they purvey hand-made ceramic Urns, and hardwood Urns made in the US. But the Urns I prefer from their company are the high-quality, durable brass Urns. They have several that are unique designs exclusive for their company, and upon ordering a couple, I found that they are some of the highest quality brass Urns I’ve ever handled. Their threaded lids find their path and twist on effortlessly – interiors are clean, without metal shavings, and are finished with black paint. I know they’re imported, but of the brass Urns I’ve come across, they’re the best I’ve seen. Additionally, they will plant a tree in an Idaho forest to honor the memory of the person the Urn is purchased for.

The companies I have mentioned here have some of the highest quality Urns in the trade. When offering these sacred vessels to those who have chosen Cremation for their loved ones, we must do so with confidence. Perhaps cost shouldn’t be the only factor we consider in the purchase of Urns. Having our own peace of mind that we are offering superior products, made with pride by artisans who painstakingly create each Urn as a work of art – always wins over. Quality overshadows quantity every time…

At least, that’s my perspective…
~ Jason

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