For millennia, headstones have been used to mark and honor the graves of our loved ones. From stone to wood to granite, the history of headstone materials is a fascinating journey that reflects the evolution of human culture, technology and artistic expression.
And while the choice of materials for memorials has varied widely over time, two have undoubtedly been the most popular in recent decades: granite and marble.
Continue reading to learn more about the differences between granite and marble headstones, and why granite is now the preferred material for memorials.
The History of Headstone Materials
The earliest headstones date back to ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations, where stone slabs known as stelae or steles were used to mark graves. During the medieval period, headstones were often made of wood or simple uncarved stones. As the Renaissance period began, there was a renewed interest in classical art and architecture. Because of this, marble became a popular material for headstones.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, a wide variety of materials were introduced for headstones, including marble, granite, sandstone and slate. Neoclassical and Victorian styles also influenced the design of headstones during this time, leading to ornate and elaborate monuments featuring intricate carvings and sculptures.
Since the 20th century, granite has emerged as the preferred material for headstones due to its durability and range of customizations.
3 Key Differences Between Granite Headstones and Marble Headstones
Although marble had once been a preferred material for headstones, the following differences have made granite the material of choice when it comes to designing memorials.
1. DurabilityGranite is a highly durable and resilient natural stone—over 1,000 years, granite naturally deteriorates less than 1/1,000th of an inch. It is also known for its resistance to chipping, cracking, and weathering, making it an excellent choice for outdoor use in any climate.
In contrast, marble is softer and less durable than granite. It can be more susceptible to damage from environmental factors like acid rain, temperature fluctuations, and pollution.
>>> Related Resource: What Type of Headstone Lasts the Longest?
Granite is relatively low-maintenance. It is less porous than marble, which means it is less likely to stain or absorb moisture. Routine cleaning and sealing can help maintain its appearance over time.
Marble is more porous than granite, making it more prone to staining, etching, and discoloration. It requires more frequent cleaning, sealing and restoration to preserve its appearance.
>>> Related Resource: 5 Signs It's Time to Restore Your Memorial or Monument
Granite is generally more affordable than marble, which makes it a popular choice for familes with budget considerations. Take a look at our Memorial Cost Guide for all factors that impact a headstone’s price.
Marble tends to be more expensive due to its luxurious appearance and the care required for its maintenance.
Color Options for Marble and Granite Headstones
While marble can be found in different colors, it is most common to see white and black marble used for headstones. Other varieties, like cream, red, brown, pink , yellow, green and grey are not widely available, nor suitable for outdoor use because of their porosity.
Forming from the natural fusion of molten rock, granite is a broad category of stone that is available in a variety of colors. The types of granite headstone colors vary depending on their geographical origin, sourced from regions such as North America, South America, Asia, India, Europe and other locations worldwide. Below are some of the most popular granite color options available at Milano Monuments.
Explore Other Headstone Design Elements
Headstone material is just one of the many factors that impact the final look of your loved one’s memorial. To explore all of the design elements that go into a headstone, take a look at our headstone design guide.