Selecting a durable material for gravestone goes a long way in ensuring its longevity and appeal. By far, granite and bronze are considered the best materials in this regard. Stainless steel headstones, too, are becoming quite popular now.
Granite gravestones: Granite is an affordable, hard and sturdy stone resistant to extreme environmental conditions.
Moreover, it is available in a wide variety of colors such as black, white, grey, blue, green, magenta, mahogany, and so on. Plus, it can be carved to include intricate artwork and beautiful epitaphs.
Some designs are engraved by hand with the help of rubber stencils with adhesive backing. Companies may also use computer stencil cutting machines.
In addition, the final carving process is usually done through sandblasting. Another advantage of having a granite gravestone is that it is heavy, and hence not easy to steal.
Besides, it is not even valued as highly as other materials such as metals that are prone to theft. Thus, granite is definitely one of the best materials used for making gravestones.
Bronze markers: These markers have an elegant and sophisticated appeal. Furthermore, it is easy to cast amazing designs, symbols, and lettering on these gravestones.
Bronze headstones with granite base are also available. Moreover, you can pay an additional price and get bronze vases as well.
Basically, bronze is an alloy of tin and copper. It includes lead and zinc as well. The average price of a bronze marker is about $600–700.
Stainless steel headstones: These stylish and modern gravestones can last for a long time. They can feature mirror finishing, intricate designs and personalized inscriptions. Stainless steel headstones can be either mass produced or handcrafted.
You can find more detailed information about different headstone materials at colorado-cemeteries.com. Apart from the materials mentioned above, gravestones can be made from marble, limestone, fieldstone, sandstone, soapstone, wood, cement, cast iron, slate, and white bronze. You can read more about headstone materials, here.
These materials are not as successful and lasting as granite and bronze, but they still do last long when properly taken care of.
White bronze, in particular, was extremely popular during 1874 to 1914. It is actually sand cast zinc but The Monumental Bronze Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut, the company that introduced tombstones made of this material promoted them as white bronze tombstones.
They have a characteristic blue-gray color. In addition, white bronze or zinc grave markers age better than marble. Plus, quality-wise, they are similar to granite. So, they can last for a long time.
On the flip side, these headstones are brittle and prone to breakage. In addition, they tend to “creep” or seep over a period of time. Hence, a white bronze marker requires an internal structure for support.
Coming to marble, it is strong, aesthetic and appealing. However, the inscriptions on marble tombstones are likely to fade due to environmental factors, especially acid rains. Limestone, too, cannot withstand extreme weather conditions.
As for fieldstone, grave markers prepared from this material were quite common in early rural areas. Nevertheless, people opt for durable and attractive fieldstone markers even today. It is worth noting that fieldstone is regarded as America’s oldest building stone.
Sandstone is another durable material appropriate for making gravestones because it is easy to carve. These were mostly used around 1650 to 1890.
Slate, too, is often used for constructing tombstones. It is a tough and dense material with a pleasing texture but tends to be slightly porous and susceptible to delamination.
Materials like wood and cast iron have also been used for preparing gravestone. They were particularly popular in the Victorian era, but their popularity declined gradually as iron is prone to rust and decay, and wood breaks down easily.
Finding cement grave markers in cemeteries is also not unusual. You can read this to understand how to make your own headstone with cement.
If you want to find out more about monument typology and gravestone materials then visit this page. Plus, at the Association for Gravestone Studies, you can find tips to help you identify the major gravestone materials.