|Gravestone Making Materials Over the Years|
Fieldstones. The earliest markers for graves were natural fieldstone, some
unmarked and others decorated or incised using a metal awl. Typical motifs
for the carving included a symbol and the deceased's name and age.
Sandstone is durable yet soft enough to carve easily. Some sandstone
markers are so well preserved that individual chisel marks can be discerned
in the carving, while others have delaminated and crumbled into dust.
Delaminating occurs when moisture gets between the layers that make up the
sandstone. As it freezes and expands the layers flake off. In the 1600s
sandstone replaced fieldstones in Colonial America. Yorkstone was a
common sandstone material used in England.
Granite is a hard stone and requires skill to carve by hand. Modern methods
of carving include using computer-controlled rotary bits and sandblasting
over a rubber stencil. Leaving the letters, numbers and emblems exposed on
the stone, the blaster can create virtually any kind of artwork or epitaph.
Iron grave markers and decorations were popular during the Victorian era in
the United Kingdom and elsewhere, often being produced by specialist
foundries or the local blacksmith. Cast iron headstones have lasted for
generations while wrought ironwork often only survives in a rusted or
eroded state. Cast iron headstones from the 1880’s.
Slate can have a pleasing texture but is slightly porous and prone to
delamination. It takes lettering well, often highlighted with white paint or
Marble & Limestone
Both limestone and marble take carving
well. Marble is a recrystallised form of
limestone. Both slowly dissolve when
exposed to the mild acid in rainwater
which can make inscriptions unreadable
over time. Portland stone was a type of
limestone commonly used in England;
after weathering the fossiliferous
deposits tend to be revealed on the surface. Marble became a popular
material from the early 1800s although its extra cost limited its appeal.
White bronze. Actually sand cast zinc, but called white bronze for marketing
purposes. Almost all, if not all, zinc grave markers were made by the
Monumental Bronze Company of Bridgeport, CT, between 1874 and 1914.
They are in cemeteries of the period all across the U. S. and Canada. They
were sold as more durable than marble, about 1/3 less expensive and
This was a popular material during the Georgian and Victorian era, and
almost certainly before, in Great Britain and elsewhere. Some could be very
ornate, although few survive beyond 50–100 years due to natural
Planting, trees or shrubs, particularly roses, may be planted, especially to
mark the location of ashes. This may be accompanied by a small inscribed
metal or wooden marker.