For years headstones simply meant a vertical orientated thick memorial plaque used to mark the actual gravesite of a person or pet. Headstones have existed for millenniums and inscriptions on thes stones have existed since writing itself has existed, the most famous of all headstone quotes is “rest in peace”. Classic tombstone quotes such as this one have been used for ages.
The traditional headstone is made of granite but it can be made of other materials too. The making of a headstone is considered one of the oldest forms of funerary art and takes years of being an apprentice before the art is mastered.
Granite Headstones vs Sandstone Headstones
Granite headstones are incredibly durable easily lasting centuries. This is due to the fact that granite which is made of the fusion of two elements, feldspar and quartz, has a hardness of 6 and 7 on the Mohs scale. Simply put it is the 6th or 7th hardest known material in existence.
However not all traditional headstones were always made of genuine granite, some were in fact sandstone and made to look like granite. Sandstone headstones are less expensive but of course nothing compares with granite. Now that the ph level of our rainfall has changed over the years due to pollution in the air, the acid rain has erased many of the inscriptions on gave stones of historical significance which were constructed with sandstone, a softer type of stone.
Granite Headstones, the current manufacturing processes:
Granite headstones start out as large blocks of quarried granite. The best and most expensive type of granite is known as vainless granite. On a premium granite block, much of the granite can be sacrificed to find a solid vainless section of suitable size. From this, the gravestone is further cut down and shaped into the desired form.
The next stage is polishing. Since granite is so hard, abrasive materials such as emery alone are ineffectual at the polishing stage, instead a diamond dust polishing compound is used to smooth out and polish the surface and bring out the deep luster of the headstone.
At this point the stone is prepped for engraving. A cnc (computer controlled) milling machine is used to create a highly precise stencil of the epitaph which is to be engraved. The stencil which is made of rubber has an adhesive self-sticking back which is laid over the gravestone with great care and precision.
The final stage is the engraving itself. The engraving is accomplished using sandblasting which cuts into the stone in the exact pattern of the stencil using sand pushed through a hose under thousands of pounds of pressure. This process is known in the industry as “carving” and is the 21st century replacement of the old-school chisel. After carving, the stencil is removed and depending on the color of the stone and the customer’s preferences, a contrasting coloring agent may be added to the crevasses which have been carved making the writing more visible.
Laser engraving a custom headstone
One of the latest types of custom headstone manufacturing which is gaining popularity because of its reduced cost is laser engraving. Laser engraving of headstones is a process which uses a highly focused beam of computer controlled coherent light to burn off some of the surface molecules of the stone being engraved. The technical name for this process is called ‘laser ablation’; essentially the 21st century version of the chisel, which is even more high-tech then the aforementioned stencil-sandblasting method.
The result of laser engraving the headstone is the engraving is much more precise but is not nearly as deep as sandblasting. The engraved surface takes on a frosted look, and the precision is such that even photos can be engraved in the stones surface. It is very important that only the darkest vainless granite or marble be used. Most of the headstones created with the laser engraving process are generally smaller then their sandblasted or chiseled counterparts. Also most of these types of headstones and grave markers are designed to be used in a horizontal orientation rather then vertical.
This new laser engraving process not only reduces the cost of human gravestones but has spawned a cottage industry, the production of pet memorial plaques and pet markers.
Headstones for pets
Thanks to the invention of laser etching, a beautiful pet tombstone or pet memorial marker can be created for a fraction of the cost of having it engraved the old fashion way. Laser engraved pet memorial plaques and their thicker cousins called markers or pet markers can be created in days. An additional benefit is that the engraving is so precise and the resolution so high, that it allows for the inclusion of a photograph, usually with no additional cost. Even with such a memorial being completely custom made, the cost can be quite reasonable considering the quality, stunning beauty, and longevity of this type of product.
People become very attached to their pets, our pets have become truly part of our family and some people purchase pet headstones to honor the life and memory of these loyal friends. Pet headstones and markers can even help people deal with some aspects of pet loss by allowing them to have a focal point of remembrance that they can treasure and keep.
Some people opt to have their deceased pet interned in a grave using pet memorial marker to mark the burial site. Pet grave markers can be made to mimic human headstones or even be in special shape such as a dog bone. Since pet grave markers are relatively small, and most of the cost existing in the stone, they can be made out of genuine granite at a resonable price. Such pet markers don’t actually have to be cemetery markers and placed at the actual burial site, but can be used as pet memorial markers and kept at home. Some people place them in a garden area at their homes.
The next phase in headstone evolution is just a matter of time. One might predict that the next refinement will in some way be high-tech, but with consideration of the direction we are heading, we feel confident that it will be very earth-friendly and green, perhaps involving recycled materials that were once destined for a landfill. We will monitor the trends, and keep you informed as things progress.
Thank you for taking the time to read about 21st Century Headstones.