The majority of gravestones constructed in the previous several centuries are composed of a few different types of rock: marble, slate, and granite being the main three. There are some darker stones made of gabbro and a few sandstone markers, but marble and granite (and other plutonic rocks) dominate the roost, especially in more modern monuments.
Marble was originally used as a flooring material because of its elegance and beauty. It was only later that it was found useful as a stone for carving names on. The ancient Greeks and Romans were aware of this property of marble and often engraved names on tombstones using this material. Modern equivalents to these unmarked graves can be found all over Italy where thousands of slaves are buried. Their owners wanted to show they had taken care of their workers by arranging small funerals under the family tree or beside the house.
Slate is a soft rock derived from ancient mountains that have been exposed to weathering over time. This gentle erosion causes the rock to split along natural lines called joints. When flattened, the resulting surface is smooth and sometimes has a slightly grayish color due to the presence of clay particles within the rock. Slate is soft and easy to work with so it was commonly used for school buildings, churches, and government structures during the early years of American history.
Granite is a hard rock formed when volcanic ash falls deep into the earth's crust.
The seven most common tombstone materials
The following are seven of the most popular materials used in gravestones and monuments:
They are nearly usually built of stone, the most common being limestone, although they can also be made of granite, sandstone, or marble. Sarcophagi were often carved, ornamented, or fashioned ornately. Some were constructed to stand alone above ground as part of an ornate burial or tombs. Others were embedded in the ground like a monument or marker.
The word "sarcophagus" comes from two Greek words meaning "flesh eater". The term was originally applied by ancient Greeks to the vultures that fed on corpses because they felt that the birds destroyed human flesh just as surely as they did animal flesh. However, over time the term came to mean any container used to preserve and display the remains of a person who had died a violent death.
In Egypt, the first sarcophagi date back to about 2500 B.C. They were made of wood but later replaced with stone versions. The Ancient Egyptians believed that the body after death needed food and drink to keep it alive; thus, they prepared well-fed dead people for burial.
In Latin America, these containers are called "coffines de piedra", which means "stone boxes". In Spain, France, and Italy, they are called "secuestros" or "enclosures". In Germany, they are called "Festsaetten" or "treasures". In the United States, they are called "caskets".
Traditionally, materials such as marble, granite, and fieldstone have been used to create headstones to honor the deceased. Concrete, wood, bronze, sandstone, limestone, iron, and other comparable materials may also be used by manufacturers. Granite and bronze are very trendy these days.
The type of material used to make a headstone is based on several factors including cost, durability, size, and style. For example, granite is a hard, durable stone that is easy to maintain. It is the most popular choice for headstones because it is resistant to heat and frost. However, due to its high price tag, less wealthy families often use cedar or cypress instead.
There are many different styles of headstones including slab, monument, pillar, bench, shell, urn, and gravestone arch. Slabs are the most common style of headstone because they are easy to design and build. They can be made of marble, granite, or concrete and usually include an inscription area for writing personal messages to friends and family members. Monuments are larger than slabs and look like structures standing alone in the cemetery. They can be made of any number of materials including granite, marble, concrete, metal, and wood. Pillars are thin posts with caps at the top that mark gravesites. They are typically made of steel or concrete and are used to enclose areas where more than one tombstone is placed side-by-side.
In some cases, a single monument can be made from multiple materials depending on what style it is intended to represent.
In recent years, digital technology has begun to influence how people memorialize their loved ones. Modern headstones utilize computer-controlled lasers or electric motors to produce unique designs into their exteriors. Some incorporate glass eyes or other features that give them a three-dimensional appearance.
Laser engraving uses a high-intensity laser beam that passes through a mask (or stencil) onto the surface of the stone. Each time the mask is changed, as in the case of creating a design or wordmark, a new image is created. This process allows for very detailed work at a small scale. The quality of the final product depends on the quality of the original file that was sent to the laser cutter.
3D printing uses an additive manufacturing process to build layers of material up to approximately 0.005 inches thick. The headstone itself is printed in black plastic or ceramic. Once complete, it is painted or stained to match any surrounding siding or monuments.
Since then, Jews have venerated the practice of placing tombstones over graves (known as matzevot in Hebrew). The stone serves as a reminder that the living remember the dead. The stones on the stone, like the stone itself, are indicators that this is a religious family visiting their loved one's grave. In Judaism, there is no such thing as a plain old gravestone; every single one has some sort of inscription on it. Some are more ornate than others, but all serve the same purpose: to mark a grave and pay tribute to the person buried therein.
Nowadays, many Jewish families prefer to place small stones on top of the grave as a sign of remembrance. The practice originated with the ancient Jews who lived in Palestine and made use of local materials available there. They would place the smaller stones on the surface of the grave as markers of remembrance. As time passed, these stones became embedded into the soil of the grave as symbols of death defying the power of time. Over the years, these stones served as landmarks for future visitors at the site of the grave. Today, Jews around the world do the same - place small stones on top of the grave as a symbol of remembrance.
In modern times, when money is limited, people often place little pebbles instead. The idea comes from the ancient tradition where individuals would place small rocks on the grave as markers of remembrance. These days, people tend to put little stones on the grave instead.