Your Memorial’s Inscription – The Methods Available

What should matter most with an inscription on a loved one’s memorial is what is said in the inscription rather than how it looks. However, we want to be sure that what you say will stay looking good for as long as possible.

Gold leaf, Enamel painted or lead letter inscriptions and designs

Applying gold leaf or silver, black or white memorial enamel paint to characters that have been cut into the stone by sandblasting marble or granite can look very good for many years. However, the weather and the local environment can take its toll on the lustre of the gilding or painting of the lettering. Rain, snow, frost, wind and the sun can, eventually, lead to a deterioration in the lettering – necessitating a re-gilding or a repainting of the letters some years later. Gilded or painted letters can never be guaranteed not to deteriorate. The use of lead letters is one option that can see the quality of the lettering sustained for longer (although this would be flush lead on marble and raised lead on light grey or red granite).

Maintenance free inscriptions and designs

Another option is our maintenance free option. This is where, instead of engraving the letters into the stone (via sandblasting them to a depth of approximately 2mm) and then gilding or painting the cut areas, we lightly sandblast away just the polished surface (i.e. leaving a virtually flush surface) Removing the polished finish from black or dark coloured granite reveals the unpolished exposed surface which has a lighter appearance – giving an ideal contrast against the still polished black or dark coloured stone.

This method is available in two choices:
(a) Polished dark letters or designs – against a lighter unpolished back ground, or

(b) Polished dark background – with the inscription or design in a natural lighter shade

Cleaning is very simple as the inscribed area is almost smooth – a wipe over with a damp cloth is usually all that would be necessary. With only the polish removed there is no recesses for dust and water to collect in Maintenance free inscriptions (and maintenance free designs i.e. crosses, flowers etc) never need re-gilding or re- painting and will, therefore, look as good as new for much longer than conventional gilded or painted letters. The only disadvantage with this form of lettering is that when the stone is wet, the grey background goes dark like the polished surface – but this is only a very temporary effect until the stone’s surface dries out.
This form of lettering must never have polished applied to it as this will reduce its effectiveness.

Maintenance free lettering is especially useful with and recommended for horizontal memorials like ledgers, cremation tablets and plaques. With such memorials rain, snow and ice can rest in the recessed areas containing gilded or painted lettering and increase the likelihood of frost lifting the gold leaf or paint at a later date. Dust will also collect in the hollows left by the engraved letters – which can then lead to the deterioration of the gold leaf or painted lettering. Equally, passing wildlife and the sap and foliage from nearby trees, bushes as well as grass clippings can have an impact on the appearance of your memorial’s inscription. Visit any cemetery and you will see countless memorials with degraded gold or painted inscriptions.

Maintenance free lettering can minimise or cancel altogether the risk of the lettering deteriorating over time – and remain easy to clean. It offers a very simple, quietly understated alternative to the bright gold and other colour painted lettering that you will see in every cemetery/churchyard.

Cut only inscriptions

Cut-only lettering is another option. This is where the sandblasting of the lettering is done deeper but is not then gilded or painted. In light coloured stones like marble, Nabresina and Portland the extra depth enables a shadowing effect to highlight the lettering. In darker granites the naturally lighter, unpolished sub-surface that the sandblasting would uncover would reveal the lettering (like with the maintenance-free option) but with a shadow effect enhancing the characters.

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.