Grave markers and monuments are available in a variety of materials, but the most common are granite, bronze, or a combination of the two. These materials are economical, long-lasting, and easy to maintain.. Both are easy for artists to work with which allows for a variety of designs ranging from simple and elegant to extravagant and detailed.
It is important to check with your cemetery to find out if it requires a certain type of grave marker. A granite headstone may be appropriate in one part of the cemetery but in another, such as a memorial garden, bronze may be required.
Grave Marker Materials
Granite is an extremely hard, igneous rock that is made up primarily of quartz, mica, and feldspar. The same qualities which make it an excellent stone for building structures make it a preferred material for crafting memorial stones. Its strength makes it durable, long lasting, and able to withstand the harsh weather. It is available in many colors such as gray, pink, blue, black, and green.
Due to its natural properties, granite can be polished to a beautiful shine and its surface finished in any number of ways. This makes it the perfect material for personalization. Modern carving techniques which use diamonds and carbide allow the craftsmen who create grave markers to engrave the stone with virtually any design.
Bronze is an alloy that is made primarily of copper combined with other metals such as tin. Once combined, these metals become one of the hardest materials available. This makes bronze extremely durable and desirable for use in grave markers. The actual marker us created by heating the bronze to an extremely high temperature until it liquefies and then passing it through a mold. The mold contains the personalization. After the molding process is complete the marker will be fine-tuned by a craftsman who evens out imperfections and applies a brown tinting to the background. Over time, bronze will develop a green patina. To some, this is unsightly while to others it enhances the beauty of the marker.
If you wander through old cemeteries you are likely to see stones and markers made of slate, marble and fieldstone. In fact, there are specialty providers that will still produce markers in these materials but many cemeteries won’t permit their use since they do not stand the test of time.
Slate is easy to carve but it doesn’t hold up well to weather since it is a relatively porous materials. Marble, though beautiful, is expensive and also tends to deteriorate quickly. Other materials such as fieldstone, limestone, and sandstone can make beautiful stones but do not weather well.
TYPES OF GRAVE MARKERS
The terminology for grave markers can be somewhat confusing. The words grave markers, head stones, and grave stones are often used interchangeably. In general, these terms can refer to any type of memorial that is placed on a grave.
Cemeteries will often use the term “monument” to refer to any memorial that is upright. “Markers” generally refer to memorials that lie flat or are beveled. The type that is best for you will depend on the requirements of your cemetery, your personal taste, and your religious or cultural customs.
Most styles of grave markers are available for one person or in a “companion” style. Companion markers are made for two people. A common design is to have the family name engraved at the top and the details for the individuals included below that, side-by-side.
- Upright Headstone
Upright headstones made of granite are the most common monuments that we see today. These have two pieces–a top and a base. The top is often shaped like a tablet or rectangle but they may also be curved, wavy or some other shape.
- Slant Marker (or Headstone)
Like an upright headstone, a slant marker will normally have a top and a base but they may also be placed directly on the lawn. The top will be wider at the bottom and have an angled top that tapers so that the front is seen at a slant.
Memorial benches are typically made of granite and are sometimes used as an alternative to a traditional grave marker. They may also be used along with a marker. Benches are available in a variety of colors and styles and may be made with or without a seatback. If you are planning to incorporate a bench in your memorial it is important to check with your cemetery since many have rules regarding placement.
Obelisks are tall, column-like monuments that typically have four sides. These are mounted on a thick square base.
- Flush, Flat, or Lawn-Level Marker
Lawn level markers are small markers that are set flush on the ground or just a few inches above. This type of marker is made of granite or bronze. Granite versions come in a variety of colors and finishes. The term “memorial park” refers to cemeteries that only allow flush memorials.
- Ledger Marker
Ledger markers are granite or bronze slabs that cover the entire gravesite. They are sometimes used along with a headstone.