Marble vs. Granite Headstones and Grave Markers

four rocks, each made of different material: granite, limestone and other sedimentary rocks

A choice that will last for generations

A Cracked headstone made from marble that has been repaired by Woodside Granite in Albion, NY
A Cracked headstone made from marble that has been repaired by the Woodside Granite Company in Albion, NY

When choosing a headstone, grave marker, or monument to remember a lost loved one it is important to consider the material that will be used.  In cemeteries of the past, marble was a popular choice for monuments and headstones.  Today, granite outnumbers marble as the material of choice.

What are the differences between marble and granite?  Marble is made from limestone, which is a type of sediment rock and contains calcium carbonate which reacts to acids.  Marble is soft enough to be scratched with a knife blade.  In fact, a scratch test with a knife can determine marble from granite.  If the stone can easily be scratched, then it is marble.  Marble can also be detected by its various colorful swirls or veins in the pattern of the stone.

Granite is an igneous rock, meaning that it is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava.  This creates a tough and durable rock, able to withstand climate changes, rain, sleet, snow, and salt. Granite will be difficult to scratch using a knife blade.  This makes granite an excellent choice for headstones and monuments since it is heat and water resistant.  Color variations usually appear as colorful flecks throughout the stone.

Design and Colors

While marble can be obtained in several colors, the most commonly used color for monuments and headstone has traditionally been white, or shade of gray.  Primarily this was due to the much higher costs of rarer, colored marble. Some people choose marble for tombs, headstones, and statues because of the unique swirling patterns and embedded shadings that can make for a very unique appearance.  When used indoors, for example inside a crypt or mausoleum, marble can make for a very long-lasting and beautiful design.  If you are looking specifically for a bright white colored memorial, marble may be the best option for you as granite does not naturally occur in a pure white color.

Granite can be found in a variety of colors including shades of black, gray, red, pink, brown, green, and blue.  Each granite stone will have its own unique color variations, mainly due to the “flecks” that are a natural part of the original formation of the rock material. Colored granite stones can, when properly engraved, give high contrast lettering that is easy to read and long-lasting.

Granite headstone
A Granite Headstone

Another advantage of granite as a gravestone material is its ability to take a laser etching well.  Because of the hardness of granite, laser etching can be used to customize a headstone, statue, memorial bench, or plaque.  In addition to a name and date, a beautiful phrase, bible verse, and even images can be etched into granite, creating a truly unique memorial for your loved one.  Since granite is so durable, fine etching can be produced that will not be easily eroded by the weather. 


The biggest difference between granite and marble is the hardness of the stone.  Granite is a much harder material and lasts considerably longer than marble.  Marble is softer and will likely deteriorate over time by cracking, chipping, and eroding, especially in outdoor elements. It is common to see marble tombstones that are decades or centuries old that are very difficult to read.  This is due to the wind and rain getting into the pores of the soft marble finish.   Conversely, granite will withstand even severe weather.


Surprisingly, the price of a headstone or memorial, while definitely affected by the material used, is more often a factor of style, size, engraving, custom design, and location.  It is important to use the services of a professional monument company when planning a memorial.  A remembrance that will last for centuries needs very careful consideration due to the many variables involved.

Headstones and monuments made from granite will stand the test of time.  Decades from now your loved one’s granite memorial will continue to look just as beautiful as today.  Even more importantly, it will still be legible in order to continue to honor your loved one’s memory throughout the years to come.

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