Most people would, quite naturally, assume that coffins are made out of wood. And indeed they would be right in thinking wood accounts for the vast majority of coffins manufactured.
But coffins have also been made from cast iron, steel, fibreglass, glass, bamboo, wicker, wool, even gold. Ornamental trim, meanwhile, has been fashioned from whalebone, elephant ivory or precious metals.
Environmental issues and awareness for the need to preserve species have changed attitudes and the materials used. While precious metals may remain a possibility, few people wish to head down that route, be it because of price or not wishing to look ostentatious.
Bronze is the most costly metal used in casket manufacturing, while copper and stainless steel offer lighter weight and therefore lower cost ranges.
History of wooden coffins
Traditional wood remains by far the most popular type of coffin even 7,000 years on from the earliest example known to man, found in the Shaanxi province of China.
Wooden coffins are known to have been popular during medieval times but how popular can never accurately be ascertained due to the simple fact that most of them have disintegrated. Coffins that have survived tend to be made of lead and stone, reserved for the very wealthy or very important. Occasionally, wood was banned in the use of coffin making as it was preserved instead to aid various war efforts.
Other factors too, have impacted coffin manufacture. Cremation authorities have been known to stipulate that easily combustible wood be used, while Dutch Elm disease required the industry to seek alternatives such as imported woods and non-solid boards like chipboard or medium density fibreboard that could be covered in foil, veneer or cloth.
Plenty of choice
With mahogany and walnut ever popular down the years, cherry, maple, oak, and elm has proved cheaper and more readily available, while pine and poplar are plentiful and have been the least costly type of material down the decades.
Every good funeral director will be happy to discuss the wide variety of options available.
Choosing a memorial
For all enquiries about hand crafted and beautifully bespoke headstones, gravestones, monuments and memorial plaques, please contact a member of the team or call 01384 566 958.