Headstones, which are often known as tombstones, gravestones or grave markers, are memorial stones set at the head of a grave of a loved one. The design of these memorials has evolved drastically throughout the history of mankind, in both design and material. Originally, a headstone was simply the stone lid of a stone coffin, while a gravestone was the stone slab that was laid over the actual grave. Now, all three terms are also used for any type of marker placed at the head of a grave while the actual casket is interred deep in the earth. It's interesting to note that it was common to use a headstone and a smaller stone, known as a foot stone, a short distance away. Foot stones were usually made of the same material as the headstone but were much smaller. The foot stone's purpose was to mark the end of the grave. While most families usually inscribed just the initials of the deceased on these foot stones, some did add additional information about the dearly departed, which many not have been able to of been accommodated on the headstone. Now in days, its more common for only headstones to be used to mark the grave.
As mentioned, the materials used to create headstones has changed greatly throughout history, and from region to region and culture to culture. For instance, in North America, from 1861 until around 1873, wooden headstones were used to mark the graves of Civil War soldiers. This is because most resources were used in the war and many families would not have been able to afford to a more permanent memorial. Over time and due to the lack of durability of this type of headstone, wood was changed out for a more durable material, such as marble. Marble was also a popular choice for headstones in Greece. As with sculptured art, which is perhaps one of the most recognizable traits of Greek history, marble was sought out for memorial uses because of its ethereal beauty. However, eventually it was discovered that marble was not as ideal for memorialization purposes because of the softness of the stone. When exposed to the direct elements, the stone wore down rather quickly and any inscribed information became more and more difficult to discern. We also now know that acid rain can cause severe and irreparable damage to poorer grades of marble. During the Victorian period, granite become a popular material to use for headstones for many reasons. The variety of colors and crystalline textures, in addition to the durability, make granite an ideal choice for headstones. While granite is not as soft as a stone as marble, it still allows for a great amount of detail when inscribed.
Granite soon became a main staple material in the memorial industry and continues to be so to this day. Bronze headstones are equally as popular as granite headstones, although certain variations, such as white bronze headstones and sandstone headstones, are much rarer. The difference between bronze headstones and white bronze headstones is their composition. While bronze headstones are composed of copper and tin with small amounts of lead and zinc, white bronze headstones are pure zinc. They were given the name White Bronze to make them more appealing to customers. The zinc carbonate is what gives the headstones their characteristic bluish-gray color. These two types of headstones were used in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many cemeteries prefer granite headstones or bronze headstones in keeping with the overall aesthetics of their ground, as both types of headstones are relatively low maintenance. Flush headstones or grave markers are becoming more and more popular, as they do not obstruct the grounds as much as upright memorials do, which helps the keep the grounds of the cemetery in better condition.
Headstones also hold an important part in religious ceremonies and traditions. Burial has been a part of Christian, Jewish and Muslims traditions surrounding death for as long as the religions have been documented. Interestingly however, Muslims believe in a humble passing - one without flowers or headstones to mark the final resting spot of their deceased. Historically, the cremation of Buddhists was a standard ritual, but more and more, burial with headstones is becoming the norm among Chinese Buddhists. With Hindus, however, cremation remains a long-standing tradition. Families, while following tradition of a simple passing, can still utilize a simple bronze or granite headstone to memorialize their loved one, if not to simply mark the area where they are lain to rest. In fact, some headstones are made specifically to accommodate cremation burials and are designed to hold the cremated remains. Both bronze on granite and granite only headstones can be elegantly personalized to suite one's beliefs. In Catholic and Christian religions, families find great comfort in placing a religious symbol on the grave marker of their loved one. In fact, many Catholic cemeteries even require for a headstone to have at least one religious symbol somewhere on the marker. Some of the popular images seen on these headstones, such as crosses, angels, or religious symbols like the Christian fish, are meant to signify protection and faith.
Another important purpose of Headstones is that, regardless of their material, they can offer genealogical information that can be valuable to members of families who have left the ancestral home of their forbears. We have seen how strongly the lack of this small record can affect many. Many descendants of European families lost significant genealogical information during the Bubonic Plague and worse, the Holocaust, because of a deprivation of headstones. In the early to mid-seventeenth century, it is believed that headstones for the first Dutch settlers along the lower Hudson River were limited to the wealthy - again, interrupting the documentation of ancestral ties. Headstones also often hold an inscription of some sort, pertaining to an aspect of the person's life, whether it be religious or just a sentimental note. We have been able to learn a lot about how people lived throughout history from the stories their headstones tell. Headstones are not only important to the families whom the deceased was related to, but to human history as a whole.
As the American landscape continues to flourish as one grand mosaic of different cultures, it is extremely important to utilize headstones as a link to ones’ history and heritage. A headstone can be a very important relic of a life past for our future generations for many, many years to come. With a variety of granite headstones or bronze headstones that are available, one can choose a headstone to best reflect the personality of their loved one.
Bronze Headstone History
The creation of works of art in bronze is one of the most ancient and widespread art forms. For over 4,000 years, bronze has played an important role in art. Not only did the use of the material as a medium change the world of art, but bronze tools also revolutionized the arts of wood working and stone working. This metal served as a dynamic medium for artists that produced stunning works with details unseen in other mediums. The versatility of the material also made it possible for artists to quickly reproduce a piece or work of art. It is only recently that this beautiful material has been applied to the creation of memorial markers. For more on bronze headstones, please read our article, which provides many useful information and tips.
The use of bronze for statues, coins and decorative articles and even tools dates back to approximately 3000 B.C. Bronze working continued through the 10th and 11th centuries in China, India, Egypt, Greece, France, Germany and Italy.
Bronze was a prominent metal in Chinese art. The earliest Chinese works in any form are in bronze. There are numerous examples of bronze work from the 14th century B.C. Early Chinese bronzes are of great value for their aesthetic appeal, decoration, patina, beauty of form and for their documentary value as historical records. The lost-wax process was developed in China during the Shang Dynasty in 2000 B.C., also known as the 'Bronze Age'. Most Chinese bronzes were produced by the lost-wax method and inlay work was customary. Bronze figure casting began with Buddhism and starting in the Sun period (960-1279 A.D.), numerous bronze sculptures were created.
One of the most famous bronze sculptures, Artemesion Bronze, is estimated to be from around the 6th century, but the origin and artist of this amazing masterpiece is still unknown. What makes this bronze statue particularly intriguing is the fact that is was not discovered, but recovered from the sea in northern Euboea, meaning it was found in the water. This ancient statue used to have inset eyes, and other small parts, such as his eyebrows and lips. While most art historians assume the eyes were most likely inset with bone, in which case it is not surprising that the inset is no longer present, there is debate regarding what the other accents were inset with. Many believe the other features were inset with precious metals such as silver and copper. This is what makes this particular statue so fascinating, because if the small features were inset with other metals, you can see the durablity of bronze over time in comparison, as the statue, with the exception of the finish, is in nearly pristine shape. Almost every detail is as it would have been when it was first created, with the exception of the insets of course.
The Etruscans made extensive use of bronze and were highly skilled in its working. The Romans made considerable advances in the technical aspects of bronze casting - particularly the use of prefabricated parts and in methods of joining bronze castings. During the centuries between the fall of the Roman Empire and the first years of the Romanesque period (c. 1000 A.D.), stone was used more frequently than bronze for sculpture. The Carolinian Renaissance of the 9th century marked the return of bronze. In the 10th century, during the Ottoman Period, bronze was used extensively.
Bronze was primarily used for architectural features during the Renaissance in Italy. The future of bronze sculpture was greatly influenced in 1432 by Donatello's decision to cast his work of David in bronze. The statue of David was the first freestanding nude statue created since classical times. A school for bronze sculptors was established at Padua in the 15th century by followers of Donatello.
In France during the 16th century, bas-relief was the predominant form of bronze work. From 1400 to 1800 A.D., the Benin culture, which inhabited southern Nigeria, produced beautiful bronze ritual objects known as Benin bronzes. The 16th and 17th centuries were high points for bronze carving in west Africa. Bronze statuettes were abundant.
Gilt bronze was very popular in the late 17th and 18th centuries. In 1788, a process of founding with sand was invented in France which became as popular as the lost-wax method of hollow casting. In the 18th century, bronze sculpture was produced on a more modest scale. Antoine Louis Barye, a great animal sculptor, created some of the finest bronzes of the century.
The use of bronze in art declined during the 19th and 20th centuries. Direct carving became the preferred form in the early part of the 20th century. Today, cast bronze is unchallenged in the fine arts as a medium especially for freestanding sculpture. The durability and lightness of bronze make it preferable to stone or wood in many types of work. Bronze sculpture offers a freedom of conception, which is impossible in stone.
While bronze has long held a main staple in the art community, it has only recently been utilized to craft impressive and unforgettable grave markers, or headstones. Bronze grave markers pair very nicely with granite, to create a neat and aesthetically appealing look that is quickly becoming a tradition in itself. For more information on the granite that is available for these elegant memorials, please visit our Qualities of Granite article.
Bronze Headstones History:
While a granite gravestone remains the most popular today, bronze headstones are also becoming very popular as a material for memorial markers. Bronze is an alloy made of a mixture of different metals, mostly copper, with additives such as tin and zinc. Bronze is an incredibly sturdy metal that has been in use for everything from weapons, to statues, to tools since at least 2000 B.C. In the last two centuries, it has gained extensive popularity, because of its ability to withstand the elements, as a material for headstones. Bronze is also well known as a very versatile material that is typically poured, in its liquid state, into a mold that is of any shape or size that the artisan needs or desires. Bronze headstones often have a granite base, and the two materials combine to make cemetery maintenance simple. For the most part, families have been able to preserve the elegance of the bronze on granite memorials for years by gently brushing or wiping away any dust or debris that may collect on the stone. There is usually no need for cleaning with any type of abrasive or dangerous chemicals, or special tools for that matter, although more extreme cases where the bronze is very weathered (over the course of many, many years) may require ’refinishing’. Bronze headstones are a specialty of Memorials.com, and we strive to meet your headstone needs. It should be noted that all of the adult headstones Memorials.com sells are available with a bronze vase - for an extra charge - if the customer desires one.
With the discovery of alloying (alloy meaning a mixture of two or more materials, especially metals) bronze was created. History of bronze technology dates back to 4500 B.C., when Chalcolithic man discovered (either by accident or experiment), that the addition of small amounts of another metal to copper strengthened the material, lowered the melting point, and made the molten material flow more easily into molds. Scholars believe the earliest bronzes were smelted in Susa (Iran) and some ancient sites in Luristan (Iran) and Mesopotamia (Iraq). Other scholars believe bronze was developed by the ancient Sumerians in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley around 3500 B.C.
Bronze is the ancient name for a broad range of alloys of copper, but usually with tin as the main additive. Due to limited access to the elements needed to produce bronze, it was initially used judiciously and primarily for decorative purposes. As the availability of tin and copper increased, the Bronze Age blossomed. Today with the ready supplies of tin and copper required to create the alloy, bronze is cast around the world for a multitude of products including bronze headstones. Bronze has proved its performance value under the most extreme temperature and climate conditions. Bronze was and still remains a highly prized alloy for its aesthetic qualities, thus making it an ideal material for headstones. Bronze artifacts are evidence of its enduring qualities, surviving the elements over thousands of years.
The process of making bronze headstones can be broken down into four main steps. The first step is casting the bronze plaque. Initially, a bronze plaque is created, complete with lettering. During smelting, bronze bars (ingots) are heated to approximately 1742 degrees (compared to 1983 degrees for pure copper). Because of the lower viscosity, they can now easily be poured into the mold. Common bronze alloys (90% copper, 10% tin) often have the unusual and very desirable property of expanding slightly just before they set, thus filling in the finest details of a mold.
Once the bronze has cooled, it shrinks slightly and is removed from the mold. The next step in creating a bronze headstone is chasing the plaque. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines chasing as “to decorate (metal) by engraving or embossing.” In making a bronze headstone, it refers to the sanding of the bronze to remove any undesirable marks and prepare the surface for the patina.
Patination is the third phase of creating a bronze headstone. The patina is the finished color. Arriving at this final color involves several steps. First, the bronze headstone plaque is applied with several coats of oxidation (paint). Excess oxidation will then be removed from the letters and sculpted designs using a special solvent to reveal the natural patina of the bronze.
Finally, the bronze headstone plaque is ready to be mounted to a granite base complete with brass hardware. Memorials.com offers over a dozen varieties of granite, six of which are standard and at a very small cost. Free of charge, is an emblem, epitaph, or terms of endearment on any adult memorial. Because bronze is a stronger and harder than any other common alloy except steel, it does not break under stress and is corrosion resistant. This lasting durability of bronze and classical elegance of granite, make purchasing a bronze headstone from Memorials.com a fitting choice in honoring a loved one. This article covers the basic process utilized for the creation of a beautiful bronze memorial. Those interested in the ordering process of a grave marker, the Headstones Purchasing Tips page will be very informative.
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