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

Granite Headstones: How are they made?


Many years ago, crafting a memorial from granite was a very labor-intensive process. However, with today’s advancements in technology and with the use of motorized tools, monument builders are now able to design and build detailed monuments more efficiently. A memorial is the last impression made by the deceased and is often used to share a small part of their life’s story. As such, memorials are an enduring tribute to all of those that came before us and for many serve an important role in the grieving process. Therefore, ensuring the longevity of the memorial is vital. That is why granite, the hardest stone around, is such a popular choice for headstones. Granite is not only durable, it is beautiful and comes in a variety of colors. Granite is also a premier choice for headstones and monuments because, of its unique quality. Each slab cut has a different design and pattern, making each slab and monument one-of-a-kind.

Granite into a Monument Slab

Granite was first used in the mid-1800s for crafting headstones. The process of crafting a granite monument begins at a quarry, where blocks of granite are extracted using a pneumatic drill. Once cut from the quarry the granite slab is transported to a granite manufacturer. There the slabs are cut into smaller blocks using a rotary diamond saw. The manufacturer then polishes the stone using water and aluminum or a tin oxide powder.

Fun Fact: When granite is polished the stone naturally becomes darker. If you were to scratch the surface, the original lighter granite color would be revealed.

The polish that is used on the granite helps to ensure its longevity, by protecting the stone from accidental damages and the elements. The stone slab is cut to the desired shape and if chosen the edges of the granite slab can be rock pitched instead of polished, this is a technique performed by hand using a chisel. However, the area of the stone that is going to be engraved must remain polished. Once the granite has been polished and cut into the chosen monument shape it is delivered to the monument company.

Selecting the Monument Design

Before the monument can be carved and engraved a design for the headstone must rendered. Once upon a time the design was sketched by hand; however today the headstone design is more commonly done using computer software. The rendering is made to be an accurate to-scale representation of what the finished headstone will look like. This includes the placement of any 3D shaped carvings, symbols or emblems, images, and lettering such as the inscription, names, and dates.

Engraving the Granite Headstone

Once the client has approved the final design for the monument, the design is converted into a stencil. Stencils are made from rubber and have an adhesive backing, the design is cut out of the stencil using a cutting machine, or less commonly with an X-Acto knife. Once the stencil is complete is it is attached to the granite. With the stencil affixed to the monument the only granite that will be visible is the design, the rest is safely covered by the rubber. This is to protect it during the engraving process. Once, the stencil is securely attached to the monument, the monument will be skillfully engraved.

Sandblasting is one of the most common engraving techniques for headstone and monuments. However, laser etching, diamond etching, and shadow shaping are also techniques commonly used for engraving granite.

After the monument has been engraved it will be meticulously inspected for accuracy and thoroughly cleaned. Once cleaned the monument is complete and will be carefully packed and prepared for delivery to the cemetery, for installation.

The methods for designing and crafting monuments and headstones have changed some throughout the years, from using hammers and chisels by hand to the use of motorized chisels and drills. However, no matter what tools are used the process of monument building still remains long and tedious. Crafting monuments is an art that requires time, dedication, and attention to detail. With the advancements in technology, monument builders today can create more intricate designs that provide loved ones with the opportunity to create unique memorials that are more personalized for paying tribute to the life of their deceased loved ones.

Need a burial monument or headstone for your loved one? With over 40 years of experience, the monument builders at Columbia Gardens Memorials are a premier choice for crafting unique memorials in the greater Washington D.C. area. Our artisans are highly trained and skilled in the art of crafting, carving, and engraving granite monuments. We also offer on-site engraving services, for adding additional information to an existing headstone or monument. Call 703-527-7774 or email to speak with a member of our staff today!


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