12 Types of Metal Grave Markers for Pets & Loved Ones

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Most graves in the United States are marked with headstones. Although headstone designs certainly have changed throughout the ages, they usually all have the same information: the name, birth, and death dates of the deceased. 

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But there are two significant problems with headstones. They are relatively expensive, and families may have to save up money to buy one. Also, because mild weather is required for installation, weeks or months may pass before the headstone can be placed at the gravesite. During the interim, sometimes cemeteries will place metal grave markers at the site of the burial. 

While most of the time the term “metal grave marker” refers to these temporary grave  markers, the name can have other uses as well. But what exactly is a metal grave marker? What is it made of? We answer those questions and the different types of metal grave markers below.

What’s a Metal Grave Marker?

A metal grave marker tags the area where a person or animal is buried. Sometimes metal grave markers are temporary solutions. They are often removed and discarded when the family buys a headstone and has it installed. 

Other times, metal grave markers are somewhat permanent. For example, they may mark the place of burial for a beloved pet.

Even though the name implies that an actual grave is being marked when one of these tags is placed in the ground, sometimes grave markers are used to label items purchased in memory of someone. For example, they can label a tree planted in a park in memory of a person who enjoyed the spot.

Finally, the term “metal grave marker” may also refer to an actual headstone made entirely or partially out of metal. 

This three-word phrase can have so many different meanings, it can be hard to figure out when to use it. However, as different types of markers can be used, it stands to reason that you can create some from different metals to achieve the look and use that you want. 

What Are Metal Grave Markers Made Of?

Temporary metal grave markers are usually made out of aluminum. If the metal grave marker is meant to be a more permanent solution, you may purchase one made of stainless steel, bronze, or brass.

Grave markers can also be made from durable plastic, but then they are called “plastic grave markers” instead of “metal grave markers. 

What Are The Different Types of Metal Grave Markers?

Much like there are types of grave markers, you can typically find all sorts of temporary, semi-permanent, and permanent metal grave markers in a cemetery as well.

There are also kinds that can be individually personalized or others that can label your loved one as a part of an organization or group. 

1. Temporary aluminum grave marker

Even though TV funerals often show the bereaved draped over the headstone of a recently deceased family member, this is not typical. It takes time for monuments to be installed. Sometimes, cemetery staff will place a temporary aluminum grave marker at the site of a recent burial to mark the area in the interim. 

Typically, a staff member will use a pen or permanent marker to write the deceased’s name on the marker. The grave markers are usually attached to a long, pointed stake, which is stuck into the ground.

2. Bronze grave markers

Headstones can be made from a wide variety of materials. One option is a bronze marker that is attached to either a piece of stone or concrete. Although the term “metal grave markers” don’t often refer to this type of headstone, it technically is one.

Check the rules of the cemetery before purchasing a bronze headstone. Most cemeteries have rules regarding the size and shape of the monument. They may also have regulations regarding the material that is used. 

3. Historic zinc metal grave markers

Throughout different points in history, some grave markers were made entirely out of metal. An example of this can be found in the United States in the last part of the 1800s.

These zinc grave markers have a bluish-gray appearance, and they sound hollow when you knock on them. While purchasing a zinc grave marker may not be an option now, you may run across one of these distinct grave markers in a historic cemetery.

4. Laser-engraved aluminum grave marker

With technological advances, it has become easier to purchase high-quality, customizable products. For less than $100, one can buy lovely laser-engraved grave markers. 

Before such technology existed, you may have labeled Fido’s grave with a wooden cross. Now you can purchase a semi-permanent, professional-looking sign to insert into the ground near the grave. 

5. Wrought-iron grave markers

Typically, headstones are made from stone — granite, marble, or slate. If your loved one’s cemetery doesn’t have any set rules regarding monuments, you could also mark the gravesite with a wrought-iron grave marker. 

Many times these wrought-iron grave markers are decorative pieces that are added to a headstone. They are not often used for identification purposes.

6. Laser-engraved photo grave marker

Personalize your pet’s grave marker with a laser-engraved photo. These grave markers may show the actual burial site of your pet, or they can be used for commemorative purposes.

7. Metal commemorative marker

Some families ask friends and extended family members to donate to a charity instead of purchasing flowers for the funeral. These contributions may be used to buy an item (such as a bench, tree, or garden) for a non-profit institution, such as a church or dog rescue. 

Some families choose to label the item with a metal commemorative marker. Even though they certainly do not mark your loved one’s burial place, we felt that this type of marker belonged on this list.

8. Brass-looking memorial plaque

If you can dream it, you can probably find someone online to make it for you. Perhaps you would like an antique-looking plaque to stick into the ground to commemorate the life of a person or animal. If so, search for an aluminum memorial lawn plaque that is made to look like antique brass.

Instead of purchasing the sleek, modern-looking laser-engraved markers, these items look like something used to label a museum’s formal garden.

9. Metal cross

You may be familiar with the idea of a wooden cross to mark a grave. These were often used in pioneer days when a family member died on the long trek across the country.

Instead of using a wooden cross, you may consider purchasing a personalized metal cross to mark a burial site. Of course, the metal cross can be used for commemorative purposes as well.

10. Vintage metal grave markers

If you are of a certain age, you may have immediately thought of the temporary grave markers that were often used in previous decades. Apparently, these vintage grave markers are used as novelty items and can be purchased online.

To change the name on the grave marker, one had to unscrew the panel off the back. The letters and numbers slide along a track so that the tag can be personalized with the deceased’s name. 

11. Metal grave marker for service member or first responder

Most of the time, grave markers are personalized with the name of the deceased. Other times, grave markers can be used to honor service members or first responders.

Families can choose a metal grave marker to show that the deceased was a member of a specific military organization or show that they were a veteran of a particular war.

Metal grave markers can also be purchased for victims of the September 11th attacks, police officers, firefighters, or emergency medical technicians (EMTs). 

These small round markers can be inserted into the ground next to the headstone. 

12. Metal grave markers to show memberships or beliefs

Many families place emblems on their loved one’s grave to show that they were a member of a military or nationally-known service organization. Sometimes they purchase metal grave markers to tell the story of their loved ones. 

These small metal grave markers stick into the ground and can label your loved one’s grave with a religious symbol or organization affiliation.

Don’t Rush the Purchase of a Headstone

Take time before purchasing a headstone. Considering a headstone’s cost and permanence, this is not a decision to be made lightly. For one thing, your loved one may have already been in the process of purchasing a stone. Search through their records for a receipt. 

While looking through your loved one’s personal items, you may also find end-of-life plans. These plans may detail what your loved one would like to have placed on a future headstone. Ensure you go through all the paper in the house before making a choice.

If you're looking for more headstone buying resources, read our guides on how to buy headstones online and different headstone shapes.

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