Choosing A Memorial For A Loved One

Choosing A Memorial For A Loved One

Thankfully most people have not had the need to choose a memorial for their loved one’s, but at some stage in your life you may be in this position.

Some people have an idea as soon as they walk through the door saying we want a Black Marble (when they mean Granite) and do they leave with a Black memorial. Most don’t.

But before I get too excited over various stones, we would need to establish where the memorial would be going i.e. A cemetery or a churchyard in Essex , Suffolk or London as there is a big difference in the type & shape of memorial you are allowed in different areas and also rules & regulations vary if it is a Churchyard or Cemetery . Once this has been established we would then advise you accordingly as to what sort of material, finish and sizes you would be allowed. There are other questions and answers we would require but I would suggest you look at our website under ‘guide to purchasing a memorial’.

How can we get your memories set in Stone? This can be in way of the colour of the stone, the shape of the stone a certain verse, font or design of your loved ones lifes work. There are so many ways of attaining this. So what colour or material do we use? The list is endless so I am picking a few of my favourites.

I would always prefer customers to come to the showroom to feel the stones, see the colours in there true form, but I know that this is not always possible so consideration must be given to the customers requirements, location and cemetery and churchyard regulations. A durable, naturally quarried material should be selected which will accommodate the required design and lettering.

Different materials


I love granite as it is more or less maintenance free! These are the hardest materials and cover all igneous stones. It is quarried mostly from China or India but some from the UK. These are usually double the price!

Colours range from black to light grey, pink to red, blues and greens. Some have a pearl effect when polished showing the mica within the rock. Lettering on most granite is carved, or sandblasted and gilded. The inscription on light to mid grey colours can be black or white painted if preferred. Granite memorials have traditionally been relatively expensive but prices have reduced in recent years and we now consider, in view of their durability, that they represent value for money .


Carrara, sometimes called Sicilian, is the usual marble used for memorials. It is quarried in Italy and is characterised by a blue grey vein which runs through it. As it weathers it turns grey and becomes sugary, due to surface corrosion. This was used more years ago, but today because the stone weathers and needs cleaning on a regular basis, I find that we do not sell as much as we would like to. It is a beautiful stone to carve, you really do get a soft finish to your designs especially if there is a lot of intricate work .


I love slate (yes there is a pattern forming here, I just love stone!). It is a beautiful, smooth, hardwearing material. It is quarried in the UK (Wales, Cumbria, Cornwall). Colours available are Dark Grey (traditional) Grey/Plum and Grey/Green. The best quality material is used for monumental masonry that will not laminate and unfortunately this attracts a premium price. Its fine-grained structure provides a perfect background for high-quality lettering and carving. Lettering can be incised and unpainted but finishing with silver paint (love this) greatly improves legibility when the material is wet.

Limestones – Portland:

It is quarried in the UK (Portland). This stone is the classic material for a traditional headstone. It is a Creamy / white colour and is a relatively soft limestone and will soon weather to blend into the rural surrounding. It is not the ideal choice for a memorial that will be required to stay in mint condition after years of exposure to the weather. It carves beautifully and lends itself to quality lettering that is carved and unpainted. The lettering will grow in clarity over time as algae settles in the incisions.

Limestones – Nabresina Stone:

This is creamy in colour but with occasional light brown/orange patches like coffee stains. It is quarried in Italy, although supplies have been short lately. Hopton Wood stone from Derbyshire is a native alternative. Nabresina is a dense limestone and has probably been the most widely used material for Churchyard memorials in recent years. Like Marble, it carves well, but the designs may not stand out well in flat light conditions. They are both moderately hardwearing materials. Lettering is generally carved, and painted in Dark Brown or Black. Sandblasted or hand-carved designs can be added.

So these are my favourite stones and now we look at the different finishes available.

Different finishes

A gloss polished finish giving a glass-like smooth reflective surface. (most people like this)

A Honed finish (matt) – non reflective between Eggshell and Polished (this is the required finish in a Church yard, it looks more natural not been worked on so much).

Pitched – Natural rock finish left by splitting the material by hand or machine

Rustic – Natural rock-like appearance achieved with a minimum of work to split away unwanted stone.

Sanded – fine rubbed or sandblasted to remove the irregular markings, giving a uniform surface.

They come in all shapes and sizes

  • Monolyth Memorial – these are free standing single component memorials created from a single piece of stone and go directly into the ground (so do not have a base)
  • Lawn Memorials – Consist of headstone (various shapes) with base fitted to a concrete foundation stone. (Burial & Cremation sizes)
  • Book Memorials – Open books with carved pages, flat pages, closed books, books sitting on tick rests
  • Cross Memorials – Latin, Maltese, Trefoil, Cross of Lorraine, Russian Orthodox, Wheel & Celtic.
  • Heart
  • Obelisk
  • Boulder
  • Tablet/Ledger
  • Lawn Memorial with kerbs and cover slab to match (like a bed)

Shapes of headstone memorials

choose headstone shape

  • Square Top
  • Checked Top
  • Raised Shoulder
  • Square Top and Scotia Corners
  • Square Top Checked and Rounded Shoulders
  • Peon top
  • Offset Peon Top
  • Peon with Checks
  • Half Round
  • Ogee Top
  • Half Ogee Top
  • Serpentine top
  • Ogee with Checks
  • Norman, Gothic
  • Deep Ogee
  • Book
  • Heart

There are so many shapes, so you can see why you come in with an idea but go home with a completely different idea.

So now we know where the stone is going to be fitted, the colour you require, and the shape and size you require.

Making your memorial personal

Now we get to the part of putting your own bespoke finishes to the memorial. This can be in the way of a rustic edge to the headstone and base, or a nice moulded edge to the headstone and base, or a chamfered edge to soften a stone. Sometimes all that is needed is a nice pin line cut and painted into the stone to enhance the shape of the stone rather than a design. Everybody is different and this is what I mean by getting memories into the stone. Most memorials are for 2 people so you have to take into consideration the needs of the second person

E.g. leave enough room for the 2nd inscription and if a design is desired will this be for the 2 people, or will there be a second design at a later date? Depending on these questions and answers we would advise where to position the design/designs.

Designs:This can be in the way of a hand painted scene painted directly onto the stone . We have done many of these, of say a favourite place where the deceased loved to fish, or a scene where they both liked to sit and admire the view.

Ornamentation: decorative elements you can add to your memorial to enhance its appearance.

  • Bronze works: Crosses or rose designs and many more. These are fitted to the stone.
  • Photo Plaque: Photos baked onto a ceramic plaque, with or without a metal frame.
  • Resin Plaques: Various designs – mainly roses .These can be painted in your loved ones favourite colours or left as an antiqued finish.

Hand Cut/Painted designs:We specialize in getting your loved ones memories into stone. This can be in way of a flower, a pet, a hobby or their favourite football team. Anything is feasible providing we have checked for copyright approval first.

Lettering: These can be hand cut and left, or painted with your desired colour paint. Most lettering today is sandblasted into the stone and then painted or gilded. Depending on the colour of your stone this would determine the colour of the lettering as not all colours stand out on certain colour memorials.

Fonts: There are many fonts available. We usually leave this to the mason to decide unless you have a particular font in mind. 

You decide…

So there we have it, are you a Square top or Round top?! Or maybe a Deep Ogee…

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