Monument 101

GRANITE

All granite is not equal in quality.

There are three basic kinds of rocks on earth. 1. Igneous – rock that was first a molten substance. Granite is an igneous rock. 2. Sedimentary – rock that was formed from the undersea sediment of shells, bones and other such matter. Limestone is a sedimentary rock. 3. Metamorphic – rock that went through a change of form after creation. For example, intense pressure and heat over many years transforms sedimentary rock (limestone) into metamorphic rock (marble).

Granite is made up of 3 major elements. 1. Feldspar - the main ingredient. 2. Quartz - the hardest ingredient. 3. Biotite or mica.
The percentages of Feldspar, Quartz, and Biotite as well as the size and evenness of the grains determine the quality of the granite and can vary by geographical region, from quarry to quarry and even throughout the same quarry.

Before granite became popular as a material for monuments, marble, limestone, and sandstone were used because the tools of that time could not readily shape something as hard as granite. With the advent of sandblasting in the late 1800’s, granite started becoming more popular as a monument material.

On a Measures of Hardness Scale (MOHS) of 1-10 with diamond being the hardest material on earth at a 10, high quality granite has a hardness of 6-7 or slightly above steel.

If you walk through older cemeteries today, you will notice that most if not all of the older monuments are showing severe signs of erosion to the point some are unreadable. The old monuments made of poor quality marble, limestone, and sandstone erode at about ¼ ” - ½” every 100 years depending on the local environmental conditions. On the other hand, high quality granite has a negligible erosion rate over thousands of years thus lasting almost forever, assuming the quality of the granite is good.

Another issue with some older monuments is staining and discoloration. Poor quality granites can also stain, fade unevenly and/or crack over time. Poor quality granite is found both domestically and from other countries and will likely have a higher rate of erosion.

Reed Memorial uses only high quality granite to ensure your monument stays beautiful.

However, many monument companies, funeral homes, and cemeteries choose to use lower quality granite due to its low price. Granite from poorer quality mines in the USA, China, India, and Africa is becoming popular for some companies due to its lower price allowing those companies to better compete on price with reputable companies. In addition, some of the China and India granite colors can have defects that are covered up by oiling and dying the rock. These oils and dyes will fade over time resulting in the monument losing its beauty. Monument companies, funeral homes and cemeteries that source lower grade granite rarely tell their customers they are getting a lower quality monument. Some customers tell us the poorer quality granite even has a “plastic” look when polished.

At Reed Memorial we only use the highest grade of granite. Some colors not found in the USA have to be sourced from over seas, but Reed only sources those from reputable quarries that have the highest quality granite. Always make sure you know the source of the granite and its quality when price shopping. The table below reflects some qualities determined to be important by the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) for quality granite. Reed Memorial will only use and provide a warranty on high quality granite for our monuments. Most of our granite comes from Elberton Georgia and is certified.

Test Results

ASTM Test

Minimum

Absorption by weight (48 hours), % 

C-97

40 max.

Density, lbs/ft 3 

C-97

160.0

Compressive strength, psi /(Mpa) 

C-170

19,000/131 

Abrasion resistance, hardness (Ha) 

C-241

25.0

Flexural strength, psi (MPa) 

C-880

1,200/8.27

Modules of rupture, psi 

C-99

1,500

 

MARBLE

Reed Memorial provides monuments, statues, and benches in marble. We use Georgia Marble because of its high quality and resistance to erosion over time. Georgia Marble has an interlocking molecular structure, whereas, other marbles typically have a granular structure like a sugar cube and have a much higher erosion rate over time.

The statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, the New York Stock Exchange Building in New York City and Watertower Place in Chicago are but a few examples produced from Georgia Marble.

BRONZE

Bronze is the second most commonly used material in the memorial industry.

Bronze memorials are ordered from and produced in a casting plant. Most bronze memorials are produced by a handful of bronze casting companies in the industry. Beware of companies that say you can only get acceptable quality bronze markers from them. Shop around for price or you could pay hundreds or thousands of dollars more than you should have.

Bronze is a very durable alloy made of about 89% copper with about 10% tin and small amounts of zinc and lead. The composition of the bronze is usually certified by the manufacturer. The differences in bronze are normally in the detailing and finish work.

Some cemeteries only allow bronze markers that are flat, "grass-level" memorials installed on a flat, four-inch thick slab of granite. Some cemeteries have further restrictions designed to try to keep out competition so they can charge a premium. Reed Memorial can order and install bronze markers to meet any cemetery restrictions.

Bronze markers can also be used as a foot and/or head marker. Bronze markers come in all shapes and sizes, and can be used as single, double, or family cemetery memorials. Bronze markers can also have colors.

Over time, bronze will form a natural patina on the surface in a bluish-green color. The patina surface can be removed by cleaning, but should only be done by trained personnel to prevent damage to any fine details on the monument.

We offer several brands of memorial and commemorative bronze. All of our bronze is acceptable in area cemeteries.

SHAPE CARVING

Technique used to give artwork such as flowers, leaves, praying hands and etc. a detailed 3 dimensional look.

DOUBLE AND/OR SINGLE PROCESS

Both double process and single process or a combination is used today. Some monument companies only use double process or only use single process depending on which process they are more comfortable with or they think looks best with the lettering font selected. The color of granite can also dictate which method is used to get the best look. The depth and shape of the lettering lines and any shadowing effect has to be considered with either process as well as the lettering font selected. In reality, we have found most customers do not see a noticeable difference between the methods.

Double Process – Process of carving by blasting in the back ground panel and then blasting in the lettering. Creates a crisper look to the edges of the lettering when viewed from about 3-5 feet or closer. However, any shape carving can appear to be less 3 dimensional in appearance with double process.

Single Process – Process of carving by blasting in the lettering and then blasting in the background panel. From a distance of 3-5 feet, edges of letters will generally not appear as crisp as double process. Some customers say the monument looks better when viewed from a distance of 3-5 feet or greater. Shape carvings will appear to be more 3 dimensional.

Combination Process – Process of using Double Process for lettering areas and Single Process where Shape carving is performed.