Continuing to serve our community and customers through COVID-19.

Custom headstones: A Natural History

Nothing looks quite like natural stone for a burial monument. The glossy surface, the play of color, the intricate patterns… but what’s the story behind these headstones?


Granite is a common rock and frequently used for gravestones. It’s an intrusive igneous rock, meaning it is cooled from magma (underground lava) deep below the earth’s surface. Like all rocks, it is comprised of minerals. The essential minerals that make granite are feldspars, quartz, mica and amphibole. Our Venetian Gold is a good example of the classic pink-hued granite most people think of. But granite can contain accessory minerals which result in widely different colors. Granite takes a very long time to form. Magma that is several miles underground doesn’t cool off quickly. During this slow cooling (it really depends – hundreds of years, possibly millions) mineral crystals form. The slower the cooling, the bigger the crystals. Much of the earth’s granite formed in the Precambrian period which ended about 550 million years ago.


Marble is another popular option for monuments and headstones. Unlike granite, marble is, geologically speaking, a metamorphic rock and forms when limestone is subjected to high temperature and pressure. Masons sometimes use the term “marble” to describe a variety of rocks but the genuine article is always metamorphic. Marbles can be found in areas that have experienced lots of tectonic activity at some point in the past. The heat and pressure necessary to transform limestone to marble can occur when limestone is driven deep into the earth’s crust or when it is compressed, such as when two tectonic plates crash into each other. It’s rather flattering to think that heat and pressure so intense that it causes solid rock to become pliable and recrystallize, usually in the process of building a mountain range, is what went into the creation of your burial monuments.


Limestone is another option. Limestone is found all over the world and is a sedimentary rock that forms from the very small exoskeletons of ocean-dwelling crustaceans and similar animals. As these tiny, calcium carbonate-rich exoskeletons (think crab shells) settle on the ocean floor, they form a “marine mud.” This mud builds in layers and over millions of years, as ocean basins shift and drain, some of these mud regions dry up and harden like cement, becoming limestone. Much of the lamination observable in limestone, such as Limestone Gibraltar, are the preserved bedding planes of the original ocean bottom. Looking at a fossilized sea floor ranging from several tens of millions to a few hundred million years old every time you visit your loved one’s grave can make for a rather profound experience.

Granite, marble and limestone are just a fraction of the possibilities. You can browse our website for more headstone options or if you have any questions or would like to discuss design and headstone installation don’t hesitate to contact us. Give us a call 703-527-7774 or reach us by email


COVID-19 Update

We are continuing to practice social distancing and following CDC guidelines, to protect our community and staff. However, we are open and available to serve you. Todd and our engravers are back on premises working and we are accepting appointments during our normal operating hours. To schedule an appointment with us please call our office at (703) 527-7774 or email us at

Thank you for your understanding during this time. – The Columbia Gardens Memorials Staff