Headstones Guide Australia 2018: What You Need To Know

Headstones Guide Australia: 10 Things You Should Know Before Orderingrookwoodcatholic

Featuring a single date or a full photographic display with poetry, the array of ways in which a loved one is memorialised varies greatly with headstones. Rather than be a source of stress during a sensitive time, selecting a monument when informed can be a healing process. Varying in nature, headstones allow a vast array of options to best represent your loved one’s personality and memory.

Though the challenge of trying to choose a headstone may be a little emotional, knowing the process and what is available can make the process a pleasant one.

This guide will take you through some of the technical differences between monuments such as headstones, slabs, and gravestones. It will also cover costs and advice for choosing a memorials. This will hopefully give you a better idea of what’s available to discuss with your stone mason.

When to create a headstone?

There are no specific rules for when you should start erecting a monument. This will usually depend on the family or friends who are arranging the monument. There may also be a wait time if the cemetery need to do some construction preparation (Like pouring concrete) for the monument. However the general norm is within the first 6-12 months of death. Religious customs may also influence the timing of a memorial. For example, Jewish people tend to have a consecration (unveiling of the monument) roughly a year after the death.

Monument Design & Shapes:

Walking through a cemetery, you will countless styles of memorials. They can vary greatly in height, size, stature, material, imagery, and messages. Depending on your needs, you may opt for a simplistic piece or one that is very elaborate. Below you will find a general overview of the most common types of monuments.

Upright Headstones

When you think of a gravestone, one of the most common images that come to mind is the headstone. While in the past headstones tended to be raw stone, tall and with minimal wording, the modern headstone often takes a different approach. Focusing often on words, they are still upright but shorter and wider to accommodate a message for a loved one or image that is meaningful to a family. Depending on your preference and cemetery section, a headstone can be a stand alone structure or part of a full monument.

Double headstone on a base

Double headstone that is a part of a gravestone

Flat Tablet/ Panel

Physically the opposite in stature from a headstone, the flat tablet or panel is placed flush within the ground. It can be created from marble, granite, or also in bronze. The flat tablet is one that is less elaborate than a headstone, due to its sizing. Focusing on concise wording, the flat tablet makes for a simplistic monument. Should you want the sleek lines of a flat tablet at an affordable price, this memorial is an ideal choice.

tribute-300x229Desk Tablet or Tribute

Should you be thinking between the design of the headstone and flat tablet, a desk tablet might be the style you seek. Sloping at a shallow angle, the monument is significantly smaller than a headstone, but allows for more writing to be displayed than a flat tablet. It can also be combined to sit on top of a gravestone. The desk tablet is created from granite or marble and can display objects or messages off the ground and visible when walked alongside it.

Ledger Slab

Consisting of a solid piece of granite, marble or sandstone, the ledger slab is placed directly over the area where a coffin is set into the ground, or can be a stand alone monument.

Children’s and Teen’s GravestoneschildrensGraveArea

With the passing of a child, gravestones are often given a different set of aesthetics than that of an adult. There may also be a special section on a cemetery for children. Depending on the age of the child, the gravestone often holds hobbies, messages, and imagery that were meaningful for the child. Shapes for the headstone can vary greatly, but often symbolic angles, teddy bears, foot and hand prints, or floral imagery is used to signify the passing of someone who is young and can be seen easily from a distance.

Headstone Materials

When choosing a headstone, the type of material should be one of your first considerations. Before deciding on a particular material, it might be worth checking if there are any cemetery regulations for where the deceased is buried. Once you have an understanding what’s allowed at the grave site, you can move forward in choosing a material based on durability, maintenance, cost, and aesthetics.


Granite is the most popular material when creating a memorial. Hues of rock can range from black, red, blue, and grey, with flecks of colour woven within the granite. Aside from general cleaning, granite is a low maintenance option with excellent durability. Granite is certainly more expensive however when you consider the costs of replacing a monument, it maybe a more cost effective option in the long run.


As one of the most hardy options for a monument, bronze is a strong metal with a warm and golden hue. Its commonly used with granite, where a bronze plate with an inscription is placed over the headstone. Bronze is also quite an expensive option, however there is virtually nothing natural that can harm the inscription. Unique in its appearance, bronze can be seen glinting within the sunlight and makes for a truly timeless choice.


Comprised of a fairly strong rock, marble has long been a preference when choosing a headstone. While one of the most airy and elegant options, the durability of marble is one of its limits. Less strong than granite, marble tends to be one of the most restricted options in headstone selection. Maintenance should be kept up to prevent natural damage to both the lettering and monument itself.

Headstone Finishes

Once you have chosen the material and headstone shape, the next step is knowing what finish to have. While bronze does not require any finish, there are different aesthetic options for both granite and marble.


Reflective in the daylight, the look of a polished headstone creates a bold statement. This look is one of the most popular and attractive styles for modern day monuments.

Part Polished

As a blend of both polished and non-polished finishes, this option is ideal for those who want a headstone with unique characteristics. Often polished on the front of the headstone where messages are typically engraved, the rest of the monument is left in a state that does not reflect the surface.


Honed or sawn simply is a word that describes the non-polished finish given to a headstone. Simple and easily maintained, there is little needed to be done to keep up the appearance of a honed gravestone.


Pitched gravestones make use of a rough, rugged finish and can be a good option for those seeking out an option that’s a bit different and unique. Given its rough appearance, there is relatively no maintenance needed with a pitched gravestone.

Headstone Inscriptions

When thinking of a gravestone, one of the most important things to consider is the inscription. While the length and style of the message can vary greatly, there are core elements to the way an inscription is done. Knowing how to select and choose the best option will come down to your personal preferences but also the type of monument you’ve chosen.


Your words and images will be engraved into the headstone with sandblaster. While each rock has different properties, there are a few standards which will help give the gravestone the best readability possible. As shown in the image to the right, there are four main lettering options: cut-in, raised-polished, gold, and silver paint.

Easily read fonts like Times New Roman or other classic serif fonts allow a clear reading on a stone. Decorative fonts, like italics or scrolling letters, make for a less clear and crisp appearance within a stone.

Headstone Pricing

While it is wise to come up with a budget for your headstone, the pricing of a gravestone varies greatly. Depending on conditions, such as the material or type of engraving, price points can range across a wide spectrum. It’s a good idea to let the monumental mason know your budget, in order for them to point out the most suitable options.

Advice before choosing a monument

While it is wise to come up with a budget for your headstone, the pricing of a gravestone varies greatly. Depending on conditions, such as the material or type of engraving, price points can range across a wide spectrum. It’s a good idea to let the monumental mason know your budget, in order for them to point out the most suitable options.