The Choice of Stone For your Memorial: Granite or Marble


Please note the following when deciding on a particular type or colour of granite that you may be considering:
Granites, by their very nature, are natural, quarried materials and as such will vary in colour, shade and grain size. Sometimes there will be directional markings, or larger dark or light crystals in the finer grain granites. You should be aware that no two pieces will be identical. On occasions larger, random blemishes will be present in the stone – but this is normal and to be expected from something that has been randomly created by extreme forces of nature millions of years ago rather than by design in a factory last week. Any order placed with us is on the understanding that these natural variations may exist.

Light grey and white granites tend to be more absorbent than darker materials, which could lead to visible staining by objects left on the memorials such as flower wreaths with rusty wire, dead petals and leaves or staining by other environmental conditions (like tree sap, grass clippings, bird droppings – especially during the berry season – and other passing wildlife i.e. dogs, foxes etc.).

Lighter coloured granites are more absorbent and in wet conditions you can expect the stone to draw water into it – creating a temporary darker colour change in the affected parts of the stone where the water line rises up the stone. When the stone dries out its normal colouring should return. The darker the stone colour, the denser and less absorbent it tends to be – thus reducing the risk of discolouration due to external conditions. However, ALL stone is absorbent – just to varying degrees. There are two aspects that you should be aware of regarding this issue:

(a) Some stones will have naturally occurring micro cracks buried deep within the granite (called vents) and on occasions, if moisture collects within these and freezes during extreme cold temperatures then the expansion can force the crack to the surface. This may be less obvious in a dark granite but in lighter colours (i.e. white granite) dirt and dust can then get caught in these micro cracks and highlight them via a grey or dark line.

(b) The porous nature of stone can have consequences for any lettering or designs that are cut into the stone. You are recommended to refer to the Guidance Note: Your Memorial’s Inscription for further information.


Like granite marble is a quarried stone that has taken millions of years to form. We obtain our marble from Carrara in Italy. The majority of marble is white in colour but there are variations – such as Dove Grey marble. Some marble will have a vein effect running through it. In Carrara white marble this can have a blueish tinge and in Dove Grey marble these veins tend to be white. This is natural. It is a very absorbent stone and can be easily stained – so it requires regular cleaning with suitable cleaning products otherwise you can expect it to discolour over time. Tree sap, grass clippings, flower petals and pollen can have an adverse effect – along with passing birds and wildlife. Moisture in the stone can encourage the growth of micro bio-organisms – like mould, lichen and moss – and cause discolouration.

Many examples of this discolouration caused when regular cleaning is not carried out can be seen by visiting any local cemetery or churchyard. Look for grey, grubby headstones and you will find that many are marble stones that have never been cleaned. Such stones can be renovated and often restored to their previous bright appearance – but many are just left.

Care must be taken regarding the use of certain cleaning products as not all are suitable for marble. Like granite marble can also have sub-surface vents within.


This is a favourite of churchyards as it has a low key, matt, beige-cream finish with darker coloured flecks. Most churchyards do not allow polished granite or black granite or even marble – insisting, instead, on light to dark grey granites that have a honed or rustic finish – and Nabresina. Our Nabresina is quarried for from Italy and
shares the same potential naturally occurring flaws as granite and marble (see above).
It is incredibly hard and much longer lasting than say Portland Stone and may be chosen when there is lots of text or small lettering which would be lost on Portland as it weathered. Nabresina is sometimes used interchangeably with Auresina, otherwise known as “Nabresina Light”. Nabresina can withstand the rigors of being lettered with flush lead unlike Auresina. It is more absorbent than granite but less absorbent than marble. It, too, can be stained so care should be taken with fresh flowers and plants being placed on or near the memorial.

Portland Limestone

Portland limestone is the classic headstone material. After a year or two it begins to mellow and weather softly to various tones of grey. The surface becomes slightly harder in time protecting it from erosion. However, Portland headstones need bold lettering. Small flourishes and fine italics will not last as the weathering process will cover them within ten to fifteen years. A capital letter really has a (suggested) minimum height of 30mm. Lettering needs to be cut deeply as one relies on the shadow to read it. Our grey climate in the UK only reinforces this logic.

The placing of any order with us for marble, Nabresina, Portland or any of the lighter coloured granites is on the understanding that you have been made aware of the above points and that regular cleaning may be necessary to maintain the memorial’s appearance. Abbey Memorials Limited would not be liable for any staining caused after the memorial has been fixed into the cemetery.

More Guidance Notes

Memorial Buying Steps

Stone selection guide

Inscription Guide

Portrait and Design Guide

Full Kerb Set Extras

Alternative Materials for Churchyards

Post-Installation and Maintenance

Payment Terms

Contact us

If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to contact us. A member of the team would be happy to discuss your requirements and help you on the way to select a perfect memorial.

    Please use the Quotation Request facility that is on every memorial web page. This will help us provide your quotation more quickly as we will ask you to supply us with what we need to provide a quotation.

    If your quotation is for a bespoke or non-standard memorial please choose a memorial web page for any one of our Headstone and Base memorials or a Kerb Set memorial (ie the memorial type that matches the type of memorial that you are looking for) and use that Quotation Request facility, stating in section 2 what is different about your request. Thank you