Over time, people have used a range of materials to construct the markers that pay homage to the dead with stone and wood being some of the most commonly chosen. In this article, you will learn some of the more specific materials used to create headstones.
A monumental mason is responsible for creating, installing and repairing headstones, which are usually made out of granite, marble, and other types of stone. The earliest markers for graves were natural fieldstones that often possessed carvings that highlighted the name of the deceased and their age. In many cases, a symbol was used to identity a person or their family. In many cases, the fieldstone was a simple marker for the placement of the dead and was left unmarked.
The 1600s saw fieldstones replaced by markers made out of sandstone. The material was soft enough for people to easily carve into, but still offered a durable material. In England, a popular kind of sandstone was called Yorkstone, which includes minerals, such as mica, feldspar, clay, quartz, and iron oxides. Depending on their location and condition, some sandstone markers have been well preserved , even where individual chisel marks have been recognized. Other markers made out of sandstone haven’t faired so well and have turned into dust. If moisture finds it way between the layers of sandstone and freezes, it can cause great damage, known as delamination. The layers will flake off as a result.
Granite offers a hard stone that accommodates the needs of a gravestone. When carving by hand, great skill is needed because of its characteristics. The artwork and epitaphs featured on headstones made out of granite are wide-ranging because of modern equipment. Advanced carving includes computer-controlled rotary bits and sandblasting that uses a rubber stencil.
Marble and Limestone
Both forms of stone belong in the same family, as marble is a recrystallized type of limestone. Limestone and marble are easy to carve for headstones. However, when exposed to the mild acid found in rainfall, both kinds of stone slowly dissolve. In the end, inscriptions are hard to read over time. During the early 1800s, marble became a popular material for gravestones, but not every one was able to afford its elevated cost.
Most people choose slate for their headstones because they are attracted to the texture that the stone possesses. However, because it is slightly porous, the material faces the threat of crumbling under the pressure of delamination. Lettering on slate is attractive , often enhanced by gilding or white paint.