There are generally three materials monuments and headstones are made from marble, bronze, or granite. Other materials have been used from glass to basalt, but many cemeteries have specific requirements for the material you can use. Most stones can come in a variety of colors, from reds to grays to pinks to blacks or even greens and blues. Bronze generally is brown in color unless you purchase a custom colored or full-color bronze memorial.
Marble is the softest of the three and is not used very much anymore. It was extensively used prior to the widespread use of sandblasting due to its soft nature. It was easy to carve with a hammer and chisel. Because of that though, it tends to erode easily which makes it tough to read as the years go by. This type of monument can be seen in older cemeteries and on older monuments. Just look for the monuments that have a lot of lichen and moss and you can barely make out the letters.
Bronze has been called the eternal metal. Over time, it develops a natural greenish black patina. This is expected and will protect the bronze from further decay. Picture that favorite bronze statue in your town square. It can be expensive to personalize bronze memorials because the designs are already created for the casting process. Although more computerization is coming into the bronze memorial design process and different methods including CNC machines are lower the costs of personalization.
Granite is an extremely hard stone and is second to diamonds in hardness. As such it keeps its shape and the engraving very well. Unfortunately, most granite is unsuitable for memorials as it has too many cracks, faults, or seams in it. Many times this type of granite is used as a decorative rock or in larger pieces, on jetties. You also may be familiar with granite countertops. Granite for countertops is usually very thin and has many faults that are sometimes reinforced with fiberglass on the back of it to keep it together. It is very probable that this granite would fall apart in short order in a cemetery.
Memorial Grade Granite is the type of granite that has the right mix of minerals and was cooled over just the right period of time to create granite that will withstand the test of time and is the best choice for a memorial. Memorial Grade Granite does not have any faults, cracks, or seams that will cause it to fall apart over time. Nor does it have any lacquers or other man-made products applied to make it look polished or to enhance the color. Memorial Grade Granite is also thick and able to withstand tractors and lawnmowers driving across it.
Of all the materials, Memorial Grade granite provides the most flexibility and options for the price and will last the longest, providing you with a headstone or monument that will stand the test of time. While bronze is a suitable alternative, costs can be prohibitive to do custom or highly detailed memorials. The important thing for you is to determine what works best for you and your family and what meets the cemetery requirements. Working with a retail memorialist can assist you with answering all those questions.