Most people probably don’t give much thought to headstones until they have to. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, choosing a headstone can be a daunting task. Where do you begin? What do you need to look for?
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What’s a Marble Headstone?
- What Types of Marble Are There?
- How Long Do Marble Headstones Last Compared to Other Materials?
- How Much Do Marble Headstones Cost?
- Different Types of Marble Headstones
- Tips for Buying a Marble Headstone or Grave Marker
- Where Can You Buy a Marble Headstone?
- Frequently Asked Questions: Marble Headstones
A headstone is something that’s supposed to last forever. With so many types of grave markers, which one is right for you, your budget, and your needs? You’ll quickly notice that headstones come in all different materials, one of them being marble.
Is a marble headstone worth it? What does it cost, what types of material does it come in, and how do you start shopping for one of your own? We’ll answer these questions and more in the guide below.
What’s a Marble Headstone?
First of all, what exactly is a marble headstone? Like other headstone designs, marble headstones are a type of grave marker. They contain information about the deceased like name, birthdate, death date, and so on. They’re a form of permanent legacy to honor the person buried below.
Marble is made of limestone, a type of sedimentary rock that naturally contains calcium carbonate. It’s one of the softest natural stones and can be scratched with a knife blade. The colorful swirls or vein patterns within the stone are actually a result of impurities. When used in a headstone, marble creates a timeless, classic appearance.
What colors do marble headstones come in?
While most are likely familiar with marble in the traditional white or off-white shades, there are actually many more colors available. The purest form of marble, which contains few impurities, is that classic white or gray color. This type of marble is the rarest, and thus the most expensive.
However, marble also comes in unique colors. You can find marble in pink, yellow, dark gray, and even blue. As other materials made their way into the original limestone over time, the marble appears to shift in color. Choosing another color is an easy way to create a unique impression and lower the cost.
Why do people choose marble for headstones?
What’s the appeal of marble compared to other types of headstone materials? While it’s certainly a personal choice, most people choose marble for these reasons below:
- Inscriptions: Because marble is a soft surface, it’s easy to add custom inscriptions and designs.
- Classic: Marble is one of the most classic headstone designs. Reminiscent of ancient art and classicism, marble is a timeless choice that never goes out of style.
- History: Last but not least, many choose marble simply because it has such a rich history. For example, the famous Arlington National Cemetery has headstones all made out of marble. Marble is generally associated with luxury and design.
There is no right or wrong choice when it comes to choosing a material for the headstone. There’s a lot to consider, but it’s easy to see why marble is a timeless choice.
What Types of Marble Are There?
Many aren’t aware that there are actually two types of marble. The type you choose will impact how your marble holds up over time, so it’s important to consider this step in the process. The different types are:
- Natural marble: Natural marble is created by limestone over a process that lasts thousands of years. It creates the most beautiful stone, but it’s also not very durable. As we mentioned above, it can be cut with a knife.
- Cultured marble: Cultured marble is faux marble. It’s made up of natural marble dust and liquid polyester resin. As such, it looks very similar to natural marble, but it’s much more durable. This is what you commonly see used in homes in countertops and more.
Natural marble, while beautiful, is more expensive and not as durable. On the other hand, cultured marble is a more affordable, manufactured choice that looks very much the same.
How Long Do Marble Headstones Last Compared to Other Materials?
Compared to other materials commonly used in headstones, marble isn’t very durable. It scratches easily, and it needs regular, ongoing maintenance to stay in top shape. Unless you’re using manufactured marble, such as cultured marble, you’ll need to pay close attention to the headstone’s durability.
Natural marble is porous. That means it stains easily and is susceptible to damage from the elements. While cultured marble is stronger, it’s still prone to chipping and scratching. It also doesn’t do well when exposed to high heat over time.
If you’re looking for something more durable, a material like granite or bronze might be a better fit. These are naturally stronger and will resist outside damage more effectively.
How Much Do Marble Headstones Cost?
How much a headstone costs depends on a number of factors. You’ll need to keep in mind the size, shape, engravings, and the material itself. While you can expect to pay anywhere from $450 to $2,000 depending on the headstone, marble is typically more expensive.
Marble headstones will run you a minimum of $1,500 for a full-size headstone. The price rises depending on any extras, the size, and so on. Marble is not as affordable as other materials, but it does create a polished, classic appearance.
Different Types of Marble Headstones
When buying a headstone or grave marker, you’ll want to be familiar with the different types. Here are the most common types of marble headstones you’ll encounter during your search.
Also known as block headstones, these are the ones you’re most likely familiar with. Upright marble headstones stand upright like a small pillar from the ground.
They are typically two feet high and across, though the size varies. These are the most expensive types of headstones.
Flat or ground level marble headstones are only a few inches above the ground.
They resemble a stepping stone, serving as a small plaque with identifying information for the grave. Since these are much smaller, they’re also the most affordable.
A more dramatic style of marble headstone is gothic. These are also around 2 feet tall like upright headstones, but they’re less thick.
They’re pointed at the end in an arch, resembling gothic architecture.
Tablet headstones are both wide and thick, and they have a fancy design that helps them stand out.
With a curved top, these are a unique shape that resembles a vintage style of headstones. These can run around the same price as upright headstones since they’re similar in size and design.
Like a Roman column, these types of headstones resemble a pillar. It’s usually divided into three parts, a base, shaft, and top. They’re a sophisticated, classic design that’s reminiscent of ancient burials.
Last but not least, the obelisk marble headstone is one of the tallest types. With a square base, this usually has a pointed part that faces to the sky. It might also be decorated with a statue, pyramid, or ball, depending on the style.
Tips for Buying a Marble Headstone or Grave Marker
If you’re in the market for a marble headstone or grave marker, there are some things to keep in mind. Whether you’re trying to keep within a smaller budget or find something unique, these tips are a must.
Talk to the cemetery
First, talk to the cemetery to see if they have any specific considerations for marble headstones.
Because they require more ongoing care, you might want to check with the grounds crew to see if they perform any regular maintenance for these special headstones. You can read our full list of questions to ask before you buy a burial plot for more.
Avoid overdoing the inscription
It’s tempting to add as much inscription as possible to share your loved one’s legacy. While this might sound great on paper, going overboard can be too cluttered.
Think carefully about what you want to include, and keep it short and sweet.
Choose a timeless design
Because marble is such a classic material, use a timeless design.
Your manufacturer can help with this process, but avoid images that are overly modern and feel out-of-place on a marble headstone. Choosing something that avoids modern trends ensures it lasts forever.
Plan for ongoing cleaning
Last but not least, because marble is so fragile and delicate, create a plan for ongoing cleaning and maintenance.
While the cemetery might take some effort to keep the headstone in good shape, much of this burden falls on the family. Cleaning the headstone regularly will keep it looking its best. This is a great way to feel connected to your loved one for years to come.
Where Can You Buy a Marble Headstone?
If you’ve decided to purchase a marble headstone, it can be intimidating to know where to begin. While you can always purchase from your cemetery directly, this can be more costly. In addition, if you’re looking for something specific, shopping online allows more flexibility and options. Here’s where you can buy a marble headstone online.
The first place to purchase marble headstones is Headstones USA. This is a US-based company that creates custom, affordable headstones. With upfront pricing and no hidden costs, this is typically an affordable choice. You can have all headstones engraved, and engraving is included at the basic level.
One World Memorials
Another provider is One World Memorials. Created to help people find affordable products after the death of a loved one, One World Memorials is one of the leading curators of headstones. Their dedication to customer service and fast shipping helps them stand out amongst other providers. With many different types of marble headstones to choose from, this is a great choice.
Believe it or not, another great source of marble headstones is Etsy. The creator’s marketplace has a lot of handmade sellers, including marble engravers. There are a number of memorial plaques, headstones, and markers to choose from. When choosing an Etsy seller, always read the description and reviews clearly to understand what you’re purchasing.
Department of Veterans Affairs
Lastly, if your loved one is a veteran, they might qualify for a free marble headstone through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The National Cemetery Administration offers a variety of headstones, markers, and memorial medallions. Some of these are marble or granite. Depending on the national cemetery, you might have a choice in the type of headstone.
Frequently Asked Questions: Marble Headstones
Because most people don’t frequently shop for headstones, it’s normal to have questions about the process. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about marble headstones and their answers. When you feel informed about the process, you’re better equipped to make a smart financial choice about your loved one’s legacy.
How do you clean a marble headstone?
Unlike other stones, marble is very sensitive to harsh cleaning agents. It can easily be damaged if you’re not careful. This is why so many marble statues deteriorate over time if they’re not maintained properly. Before cleaning a headstone, make sure you have the right materials and tools.
To clean a marble headstone, you’ll need clean water, a soft bristle brush, a gentle detergent that’s safe for marble (like ammonium hydroxide), gloves, and a sponge. Never scrape a marble headstone, especially if it’s crumbling or cracking. You should only clean marble headstones every 7+ years. Too much cleaning can actually cause greater damage.
To begin, soak the headstone with water over the entire surface. Let the cleaning solution soak in before you begin to scrub. Then, apply a brush gently to the surface of the headstone. Work with small sections at a time to make sure there is no damage. When you’re done, rinse the entire headstone from top to bottom to avoid streaks.
Can you seal a marble headstone?
A lot of people worry about marble headstones being exposed to the elements. While sealing might seem like a smart solution, this isn’t practical in reality. Stones of all kinds need to breathe. If you seal the stone, it traps moisture inside. This means it will never dry completely, leading to cracks and crumbling.
However, you can still apply some protective products to your headstone. A consolidate protects and re-bonds the stone, filling in any cracks or gaps. If you’re concerned about a loved one’s headstone, it’s best to consult with a professional in the stone industry about the best process.
What are good alternatives to marble headstones?
While marble is a classic headstone option, this isn’t your only choice. There are many alternatives to consider, some of which are stronger than marble. One of the most popular choices is granite. This is more affordable than marble, and it’s also very durable.
Other options are bronze, concrete, sandstone, or fieldstone. All of these options are more affordable and durable than marble, and they might be easier to find depending on where you live. It’s a good idea to consider all of the material choices before deciding on a marble headstone.
Is a Marble Headstone Right for You?
There’s a lot to appreciate when it comes to marble headstones. This timeless, classic design feels as old as society itself. Tapping into this history and aesthetic is a powerful tribute to someone who lived life to its fullest.
However, don’t rush this process. Choosing a headstone for a loved one is a highly personal decision. While marble is undoubtedly gorgeous, it’s also less durable than other natural stones. Ensure you know exactly what matters the most to you before you make your final decision.
If you're looking for more on headstones, read our guide on how to choose a headstone and where to buy a headstone online.