Grave monuments should allow the visitor to recognize the spirit of the deceased either through the written word or images which are etched into the memorial honoring their life. The most common materials used today are bronze and granite.
Bronze plaques are flat to the ground and are mounted on a granite base, though concrete is sometimes used for the base. Bronze has been around since roughly 2000 B.C. Bronze markers owe their popularity as memorials to the sturdiness of the alloy. These monuments are made from a copper and tin mix - tin generally accounting for no more than 10% of the alloy. Tin is added for its strength. Often, elements like silicon, lead and zinc are added to the alloy also to increase the strength and to provide it with other desirable properties. It is water resistant and does not corrode. Bronze memorials are cast from a ceramic mold. After the molten bronze is poured, it is allowed to cool.
Many people wonder about the greenish film that forms on the bronze after a number of years. Patina is a tarnish that forms on the surface of bronze and similar metals. Patina is a coating of various chemical compounds such as oxides or carbonates formed during exposure to the elements (weathering). You may coat the surface of the bronze to prevent patina buildup or you may let it weather naturally.
Granite is one of the most durable stones on our planet and is the primary rock on earth. Granite memorials came into fashion in America in the middle of the 19th century, and remain the gravestone material of choice today. Before that marble, slate, and sandstone were commonly used stones. These would tend to break down easily as they are soft minerals. Granite is much harder and is made up of quartz and feldspar. This rock is made from magma (molten material) that is slowly cooled. It is second only to diamonds in hardness. Granite comes in many colors and is mined all over the world. Once a stencil has been applied to the memorial, the engraving is done in a special sandblasting room.
The price of a granite monument not only depends on the size of the memorial but also the color of the stone. Some stones are mined in Europe, some in Africa and some in both North and South America. Shipping these heavy materials add to the final costs associated with the headstone. Granite monuments may be flat, slanted or upright in style.