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Granite Engraving Methods

Granite Engraving Methods

Throughout history the art of engraving stone has served a variety of purposes from recounting and paying tribute to significant moments and people throughout history, to memorializing the lives of loved ones, and those that came before us. Over the years, there have been many different types of stone used for engraving and creating stone monuments and memorials. Today, granite is the most popular choice, this is primarily due to is durability. However, granite is also a common choice due to its variety of color options and unique patterns, that give each monument crafted a one-of-a-kind touch; because, no two granite slabs cut are identical.

Once upon a time stone masons engraved stone by hand using a hammer and chisel, making granite a less viable option. However, advancements in science and technology reshaped the engraving industry, making granite the most highly recommend stone option. In addition, these advancements also lead to the use of motorized chisels, drills, and machines becoming the new standard in monument engraving.

Sandblasting, Traditional Granite Engraving

Columbia Gardens Memorials engraving additions into a headstone, in the cemetery.

Around 1930, after many years of strictly using hammers and chisels, sandblasting become a popular engraving method. This method includes the use of vectorized stencil that are placed on the granite, before sandblasting. Sandblasting uses sand to erode the granite surfaced by using compressed air to shoot small particles of sand, through a hose, onto the granite. This technique has been around for many years and is considered to be one of the most common and traditional methods for engraving granite headstones and monuments. This technique is best suited for engraving lettering and with line art.

Etching Techniques for Detailed Artwork

Laser Etching and Diamond Tip Etching are two popular methods for replicating detailed artwork onto granite headstones and memorials, with laser etching being the most common.

Laser Etching and Engraving

Laser etching and engraving on granite provides engravers with the ability to produce accurate and detailed recreations of original artworks and photographs. The process consists of using a computerized laser to “burn” the surface of the stone. After the engraving is complete, Lithichrome paint is often added, to give the image and lettering a little more contrast. Although, laser etching does create beautiful and highly detailed recreations on granite, it does not provide the same longevity of other granite engraving options. The laser is not strong enough to cut deep into the stone; therefore, the laser merely scratches, or burns, the surface of the granite.

Diamond Tip Etching

Diamond tip etching enables engravers to create a stunningly realist and detailed image, resulting in a look that looks more like a painting than a photograph. This method is done by hand, using a diamond tipped engraving tool. The image is etched into the granite one dot at a time, creating more depth and contrast in the stone. This particular type of etching is deeper than the laser etching and can be used on any color of granite. Whereas, laser engraving is often recommended for use only on black granite.

Carving Granite for a Sculptured 3D Effect

A technique known as shape carving is used to create a sculpted 3-D effect into the granite using a combination of both sandblasting and hand carving techniques. This process is not used with lettering, only images that benefit from the added detail and depth.

As one can see, there are many options when it comes to granite engraving. Over the years, engraving techniques have improved with new advancements in technology, allowing engravers and monument builders to create more detailed and realistic engravings.

Columbia Gardens Memorials is available for all of your sandblasting, etching, and hand carving needs. These methods can be used for engraving any number of things including headstones, memorials, mausoleums, commercial signage, architectural stone, and many other types of stone monuments.


2 thoughts on “Granite Engraving Methods”

  1. My mom is getting older and wants to make preparations for her funeral, so I wanted tips on planning. I didn’t know laser etching was the best when you’re engraving photographs and artworks. I’ll have to keep that in mind and find out what my mom puts on her headstone, so we can find the best marker and engraving method, thanks to this post!

  2. Thanks for explaining some ways that granite could be engraved. You mentioned that laser etching could make accurate and detailed recreations of artworks and photos. This seems good for a gravestone for someone that may have been an artist or something.

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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