Choosing the Right Monument Dealer
purchasing a headstone or grave marker for a loved one, you want to
make sure you get it right the first time. Unlike getting a haircut,
meal, clothing or most any other product or service, you are not
afforded the opportunity to try again if you are unsatisfied the first
time. The cost, let alone the fact that a headstone is one of the final
purchases made for a loved one, makes it unlikely. Therefore, it is
very important to take your time and perform the necessary due
diligence required to ensure you get it right the first time. The first
place to start is in evaluating the monument dealer you plan to
purchase from. There are several schools of thought when
selecting criteria to apply to someone who is doing custom work for
you, but let us focus on the three most important items. In no
particular order they are product quality, customer service, and
The end result of all your efforts in
purchasing a memorial is to have an everlasting tribute to your loved
one. One that can be peacefully looked upon for years as you visit your
loved oneís grave. It is therefore very important that the quality of
the product and the craftsmanship is first rate. How do you determine
what is first rate? you may ask. Depending on the type of memorial
and the material used, there are several factors to consider. Here are
the most important ones broken into two categories
sandblasted headstones and bronze grave markers.
These headstones are made using high
pressure air and sand that are used to carve the details (design and
lettering) into the surface of a granite headstone. Some
things to look for are:
- Adequate depth of lettering and carvings
- When carving is done on a lighter colored granite it is important that the depth of the carving is of adequate depth. Look for deeply cut lettering and lines in the design. The
deeper the cut the more contrast will show under natural lighting.
Some companies spray black paint in the lettering and design for
contrast and this is perfectly fine, but don't let this fool you as a
way to cover up inadequate depth of carving.
- Shallow carving this type of carving
is acceptable when it is on a very dark color of granite such as
black, brown or dark red. In this case it is preferable to lightly carve the
lettering into the stoneís surface as this will allow maximum
light to reflect off the carved areas providing the best contrast.
- Lettering finish - The lettering should
have crisp edges and be properly aligned with consistent spacing. Make
certain the floating areas of letters such the center parts of A, B, R, and Pís are
intact. In some cases these parts of the letters tend to be blown out by
the high pressure from sandblasting.
- Design elements - The design should
look proportional and appear pleasing to the eye. Of course on black
granite, surface etching will work just as well, but some people choose
to have shallow carved lettering with white paint for contrast on black granite.
- Laser engraving - On black granite laser engraving is sometimes utilized as it allows for very detailed and
photo quality artwork and images. When viewing samples make sure the
composition looks good and the quality of the engraving is crisp and in
Since granite is a product of nature it is
acceptable for solid granite colors to have minor blemishes. These
slight imperfections give your loved oneís monument its unique
character. During the quarrying process it is difficult if not
impossible to procure a perfectly even colored piece of granite.
Bronze Grave Markers
Bronze grave markers consist of a bronze
plaque mounted to a granite base. In most cases they have a bronze flower vase.
They are made using a casting method in which molten bronze is poured
into a special mold made from sand.
While there are quite a few bronze foundries across the country who produce memorial products, not all of them have the same level of quality.
Here are a few things to look for if you have an opportunity to inspect samples of bronze plaques.
- Lettering and dates Look for the
lettering and dates to be aligned properly with no individual letters
being crooked. Make sure the letters are uniform in size.
- Relief work The raised areas of the bronze design, also known as relief work, should have adequate definition and the raised portions should be properly highlighted.
- Bronze finish The paint and clear
coat should be applied evenly and there should be no runs in it. The
raised portions of the design and lettering are typically polished to
reveal the natural bronze coloring. This provides a nice contrast and
should look as good as examples you see in the brochures or images
Customer service plays such an important
role in the purchase of any item, but in situations where emotions are
involved it is often regarded as the most important aspect of the whole
experience. Since a person purchasing a headstone is at some stage in
the grieving process, it is always important to recognize this fact and
for a monument salesperson to treat them with the utmost care and
Unfortunately, there are some sales people
in the death care industry who tend to view this as an opportunity and
take advantage of their grief to increase the size of the sale.
Ultimately, you want to feel as though your interests are being taken
care of by the company you are dealing with. You donít want to be
treated as though you are at a used car lot.
Since you are purchasing a customized
memorial that can take several weeks up to several months to complete, there is the chance
that you will be in contact with the company throughout the duration of
the whole process. Here is a simple checklist of things to look for:
- Do they actively listen to what it is you want and are you confident they understand you?
- Are they available when you contact them, or do they return your calls/emails within a reasonable time?
- If they make promises, do they keep them?
- Do they seem willing to go the extra mile for you?
- If they make a mistake will they correct it on their dime?
Many of these things are hard to
determine beforehand. Some companies, especially the online variety,
offer testimonials from customers who have purchased their products. If
they are authentic testimonials, then they should give an indication
of how the company performs in terms of its service.
Price is one of the most important
aspects of any purchase. You donít want to overspend, but you donít
want buy on the cheap and sacrifice quality either. Yet in the
funeral industry, it has been reported that some firms charge prices
that reflect profit margins in the 400% - 1000% range. How can you make
sure you are getting a good price on a quality headstone?
One of the easiest ways is to shop around
and compare. Unlike the limited amount of time one has when planning a
funeral, you can take your time when purchasing a headstone and become
informed. Check the cemetery price and compare it to local monument
dealers, even compare them against online companies.
Typically cemeteries and monument
companies will be priced higher, but offer you the option of seeing
actual samples. Online monument dealers cannot provide a physical
showroom, but do offer much better pricing on many of the same products
that the cemeteries and monument dealers carry.
In many cases it is hard to actually
compare apples to apples when purchasing a headstone memorial. One
cemetery may use Matthews Bronze products while an online monument
dealer may use Coldspring products. The monument dealer may sell Georgia Gray
granite while the funeral home sells China Gray granite. In general
cemeteries, monument dealers, funeral homes and online monument sellers
get their products from a variety of different sources making it almost
impossible to compare pricing on an even field.
The best way to compare pricing is to
make sure you are getting a quote for the same size headstone or bronze
memorial from each company. Also, make sure the following memorial
attributes are the same or similar for comparison sake:
- Headstone design
- Emblems or design elements i.e. praying hands, angel, military emblem, etc.
- Number of additional letters for an epitaph
- Granite color
- Granite finish all polished die or polished only on the front and back, etc.
- Headstone accessories - vases, ceramic pictures, etc.
When comparing cemetery prices with other
sources, donít forget to consider that many cemeteries factor in or
itemize their installation fee with the price of the headstone. This
fee will need to be added to the price of a headstone you are
purchasing from a dealer other than the cemetery.
After the sale is finalized you want to be
able to look back on this purchase experience with no regrets. Making a
bad choice in choosing the wrong monument dealer will not only add
strain to an already difficult time in your life, but there will be a
constant reminder each time you visit your loved oneís grave. It is not
uncommon for monument companies to make mistakes on headstone orders,
but you want to feel comfortable that they will work with you to
correct them. Never be afraid to ask what kind of mistakes they have
made in the past and how they corrected them. If a monument dealer says
they have never made a mistake, be very doubtful and consider moving