A Short History of the Granite Headstone

Weathering of Your Granite Memorial

In common speech, the terms headstone, tombstone, grave marker and gravestone are used synonymously. But it wasn’t always that way. At one time, tombstones and gravestones were actually different things. The terms tombstone and headstone were originally used to describe the stone lid of a coffin, while a ‘gravestone’ was the marker that was placed on top of the gravesite.

It took many years for granite to evolve as the most popular choice for headstones (now also known as tombstones, markers, gravestones, monuments, memorials). In ancient Greece, marble was a fashionable choice for headstones—but this popularity has diminished more recently, primarily because marble tends to deteriorate. Wooden headstones were briefly popular in the 19th century, but these showed wear even faster than marble. Slate and sandstone have also been used as grave markers. Granite came into fashion in America in the middle of the 19th century, and remains the gravestone material of choice today.

Significance of the Gravestone

For centuries, societies have used grave markers as artistic symbols of remembrance. They also serve to denote the place where friends and relatives can mourn openly, and feel close to the deceased. Grave markers traditionally bear the deceased’s name, the years of birth and death, an inscription and, possibly, an emblem or symbol. Inscriptions, or epitaphs, are usually personalized to honor the deceased’s life, or may quote a religious text. The emblem selected for headstone is usually a symbolic image that represents hope, faith, wisdom, glory, purity, love, life, victory, etc.

^ Scroll to Top