Rocks Used in Gravestones

Making a gravestone demands much from the rocks used. They must be soft enough to be carved easily but hard enough to withstand weathering while preserving the inscription. Historically, many types of rocks have been used to make gravestones. When purchasing a gravestone for a loved one, consider the type of stone, durability and weathering patterns.

  1. Sandstone

    • Many gravestone are made of sandstone, especially those from the 1800s and prior. Headstones made with the material often are in old graveyards in Europe and the United States. Sandstone has a very particular weathering pattern. Large cohesive flakes fall off on occasion, and the inscriptions are illegible after 100 years in most climates.


    • Slate is another rock often used in gravestones and it doesn't weather as severely as sandstone. The rock comes in many colors depending on the location from which it is quarried, with speckled green or even a grayish purple available. Inscriptions made on slate remain clear after years of weathering. One negative of slate is its availability; it can be prohibitively expensive in some areas of the world.


    • Granite withstands environmental forces better than almost any other rock. The speckled rock is attractive and comes in a variety of colors, both light and dark. Using laser-engraving technology, gravestone makers can etch digital images of great detail into the rock, adding personalization to a monument.


    • Marble is a lustrous, smooth material for making gravestones. Although the luster can last for a few decades, longer weathering periods cause the surface to become rough, and if you rub your hand over it, sand-like particles come away from the carving. Marble gravestones with elaborate carving are in many graveyards in Europe.


    • Prone to dissolving in acid rain, limestone often has been used for gravestones. The stone usually is a white or cream color, and it weathers inconsistently, creating a speckled, porous look. Occasionally, limestone contains fossilized bones and shells, which do not dissolve as quickly as the surrounding rock. After weathering, these features are revealed, creating patterns in the rock.

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