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Different Headstone and Monument Finishes

Headstone monument designed by Columbia Gardens Memorials

Headstone monument designed by Columbia Gardens Memorials

The passing of a loved one comes with many emotions, but also many decisions and much planning. In addition to making choices for the deceased’s funeral arrangements, you’ll also have to make several decisions when it comes to the gravestone. Cemetery memorials and gravestones are a way to pay tribute to your loved one, and should embody their personality. Once you’ve chosen the right style and design, you’ll need to also choose the memorial’s finish. Selecting the gravestone’s finish is an important decision, as it will contribute to the aesthetics of the gravestone as well as its durability.

The four most common headstone finishes

Polished Finish

A polished monument typically has a very smooth and a glass like appearance. They have a reflective surface which makes them unique and stand out. However, they require some maintenance, including regular cleaning.

Partly-Polished Finish

Monuments that are partly-polished usually have the inscription and base totally polished, while other areas tend to be sanded or blasted. This ensures that the epitaph or other etched areas stand out.

Rock Pitched

For a more rustic look, choose a pitched finish. The look as achieved by applying a bolster with a hammer to the gravestone. A memorial with this finish will typically blend in with all its surroundings.


This look results in a smooth non-polished finish. This achieved by sandblasting, an already polished finish, with steel shot. It is not uncommon to see headstones with frosted borders and insignias.

Specialty Gravestone Finishes


Choosing a honed finish will make the memorial smooth, but non-reflective. In order to achieve this effect, dust is used to partially remove polish. This technique is often used when creating a custom design or scene, making the colors of the gravestone have more depth. Typically stones with three or more colors will have a really nice honed finish. This headstone finish is usually very durable and will require a minimum amount of maintenance.


This finish is brighter and lighter in color than the frosted finish. An axed finish is generally used when creating square raised lettering.


This look creates a nice smooth semi-polished finished, and is achieved by taking an already frosted or axed monument finish and then sandblasting it with marble dust.

Shell Rock

A shell rock finish is often used to create sort of a border, or picture frame effect, on the front of the monument.

So how do you choose a finish?

The first step to choosing a finish is speaking with your local monument builder. Chances are your monument will end up having a combination of finishes, to create a really unique and custom look. For example you may want a polished front with rock pitch sides and perhaps a frosted border.

Your monument builder will be able to guide you in selecting the right finishes for the type of stone and style of monument you have selected. In addition, they will be able to provide you with examples of completed monument finishes.

At Columbia Gardens Memorials, we would be more than happy to provide you with more in-depth information regarding the different headstone finishes that are available to you, and answer any additional questions you may have. Please feel free to give us a call (703) 527-7774.


1 thought on “Different Headstone and Monument Finishes”

  1. I like how you said that cemetery memorials and gravestones are a way to embody a loved one’s personality as well as pay tribute to them. My father passed away last week and my siblings have been trying to figure out all of the logistics of his funeral service. It may be beneficial if we could find a company that can help us choose a memorial that can properly represent him.

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