If you walk past a cemetery, visit a memorial showroom, or browse collections of headstones online, you’ll find that there is a huge variety of headstones available in all different shapes and sizes – not to mention a range of different headstone materials and colours.
With such a wide variety of grave markers on offer, where do you start when looking for the perfect lawn memorial? Unless there is a specific headstone shape and style you have in mind, the choice can seem quite overwhelming.
Familiarise Yourself with Headstone Shapes
A good way to start your search would be by familiarising yourself with popular headstone shapes.
You’ll come across classic styles as well as modern and non-traditional shapes, and whichever shape you choose it has to be right for you or your loved one.
Choosing a headstone or grave marker is unlikely to be an easy task but understanding the range of options that are available to you, including all shapes and sizes, will at least give you an idea of what is possible.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that although these headstone shapes that we’re about to highlight are perhaps the most popular, a skilful memorial stonemason will also be able to craft a truly unique design to turn your ideas into reality – and work with you to ensure the headstone can be installed at your chosen place of rest by considering cemetery and graveyard rules and regulations, and the natural environment.
Below, we’ve listed some of the most popular traditional headstone shapes as well as popular bespoke headstone shapes.
Of course, it’s always down to you to determine which headstone shape most appeals to you or your loved one’s legacy, but it’s always useful to be aware of your options.
Traditional Headstone Shapes
If you ask someone to draw a gravestone, they will most likely draw what we know as being a traditional upright headstone.
These are standard monuments that are typically placed at the head of a grave.
Traditional headstones come in all different shapes and sizes.
1. Square Top Headstone
The square top headstone is perhaps the most standard headstone available, with a clean, flat finish across the top of the memorial that squares off the shape. This type of square top headstone is commonly found in all different types of cemeteries and as with all headstones, the base price will vary depending on the stone material that’s used.
Featured Headstone: Black Granite Headstone with Square Top
2. Check Top Headstone
The check top headstone is very similar in appearance to the square top as they each have very flat angles, but the one difference with a check top headstone is that it contains a raised upper portion on the top surface.
This angular, dramatic shape results in a unique take on the traditional square top while still keeping things very simple and sleek.
Featured Headstone: Light Grey Granite Check Top Headstone
3. Ogee Headstone
An ogee headstone is very elegant in appearance with its slightly curved finish at the top. This is another unique take on a traditional square top, instead offering something that is visually just a little bit softer.
Featured Headstone: Dark Grey Granite Ogee Headstone with Etched Roses
4. Arc Top Headstone
Arc headstones feature a traditional oval or arc shape at the top that most people would be familiar with. They are still a popular choice due to their timeless appearance, though perhaps not quite as regularly chosen as they once were – however, they are still commonly seen in all types of cemeteries.
Featured Headstone: Marble Arc Top Headstone
5. Arc Top with Shoulders
A traditional vintage quality is what gives the arc top with shoulders headstone shape it’s popular appeal. In this design, the familiar arc top comes complete with curved or squared shoulders on the sides. You can often find this headstone shape being used in both older and more modern cemeteries as it has been a long-time favourite.
Featured Headstone: Tropical Green Granite Headstone with Two Flower Vases
6. Half-Round Headstone
The half-round headstone is another take on the arc top headstone, only this shape is more dramatic. The entire upper section of the headstone is rounded, creating one continuous curve shape that doesn’t straighten out until it fully reached the sides. The half-round headstone shape is often noted as appearing whimsical and quaint.
Featured Headstone: Grey Granite Half-Round Headstone with Carved Roses
7. Half Ogee Headstone
The half ogee headstone, also known as a serpentine headstone, has an easily distinguished finish along the top as one edge dips from one side to the other. In this example, the sides are also slightly curved, though these can be flat if preferred.
Featured Headstone: Blue Pearl Granite Half Ogee Headstone with Praying Hands
8. Arc Top with Scotia Shoulders Headstone
Like the standard arc headstone, this shape arcs along the top edge before softly curving into the delicate scotia shoulder at each top corner. This feature adds a unique elegance to the appearance of the headstone, allowing people who appreciate the arc top finish a second option without deviating from the shape too much.
Featured Headstone: Grey Granite Headstone with Memorial Flower Vase
9. Peon Top Headstone
A peon top headstone is a classic memorial shape that sees the design of the upper section angle to a point at the top like a slope roof. This results in a strong and striking appearance that can be easily found within both old and new cemeteries.
Featured Headstone: Blue Pearl Peon Headstone with Gilded Cross
10. Offset Peon Top Headstone
The offset peon top headstone is basically as you’d expect – a peon headstone, but with the angled section offset to one side. This creates an unusual shape that easily differentiates it from many of the other traditional headstone shapes that are available.
Featured Headstone: Black Granite Headstone with an Etched Rose Design
Unique Headstone Shapes
In modern times we see modern headstone shapes. These shapes wouldn’t have been seen in cemeteries of the past, mainly due to the fact that the craft of memorial stonemasonry took time to advance to where it is today.
Many people now want the headstone or grave marker of their loved one to truly reflect their personality, and for their memorial to emanate character and personality.
For this reason, many people now choose a bespoke or themed headstone shape, such as these highlighted below…
11. Heart Headstone
As the symbol of love, it’s easy to understand why a heart is a very popular bespoke headstone shape. It’s instantly recognised for what it represents, making it a great option to honour the life of someone that was loved and cherished. Double heart headstones are also popular to honour two or more lives that are buried together.
Featured Headstone: Black Granite Heart Headstone with Painted Roses
12. Book Headstone
There are many reasons for why people choose a book headstone. Not only are stone pages a beautiful way to display an inscription, but they can also represent both religious and secular beliefs. There are also small features that are often incorporated that have symbolic meaning, such as a torn cover representing a life taken too soon.
Featured Headstone: White Marble Book Headstone with Carved Angel
13. Round Headstone
A round or circle headstone is typically viewed as a much less dramatic choice of headstone shape, commonly used as grave markers for children and infants as a symbol of youth and innocence, though it’s certainly not limited to a specific age.
Featured Headstone: Black Granite Round Headstone with Flower Vase
14. Headstone with Carved Statue
Carving a statue into a headstone can be a stunning way to portray either a religious belief, or simply as a symbol of peaceful rest. Guardian angels are commonly carved, as well as other religious figures, though anything at all is possible provided the carving meets cemetery-specific regulations.
Featured Headstone: Ruby Red Granite Headstone with Carved Angel
15. Animal Headstone
We all adore animals, and for some people their love for animals is so strong they want it reflected in their headstone. Animals can also have different meanings. Take this dolphin themed headstone as an example – it could represent intelligence, freedom, teamwork, or portray someone’s love of the ocean. While a lion themed headstone could represent strength, courage, the military, or portray someone’s love of the wild.
Featured Headstone: Bahama Blue Granite Headstone with Carved Dolphin
16. Rustic Headstone
A rustic headstone is often carved into a traditional headstone shape with a somewhat uniquely dishevelled finish, but other bespoke shapes can also be crafted with a rustic finish. Rustic headstones are less common than other traditional and modern headstone finishes but is still popular among those who want something different from the norm.
Featured Headstone: Balmoral Red Granite Headstone with Carved Daffodils
17. Cross Headstone
One headstone shape that has been installed in cemeteries for many centuries is the cross. Traditionally, this would’ve been a wooden cross, but there’s nothing stopping you from choosing a modern or traditional style stone cross headstone that can stand the test of time. This particular cross headstone example is somewhat of a blend between a cross and the half round headstone, but a more obvious cross could also be crafted.
Featured Headstone: Grey Granite Headstone with Cross Design
Selecting the Right Headstone Shape
Coming to a decision over which headstone shape is right for you or your loved one is something that shouldn’t be rushed. There is no right or wrong decision when choosing a headstone as it’s so very personal, but it’s still advisable to take your time over every aspect so that you can be sure you’ll be thoroughly content with the finished piece.
When it comes to deciding your headstone shape, most people will consider the following:
The cemetery rules – Each cemetery will have its own rules, so it’s important you check with the particular chosen place of rest to ensure the headstone shape you would like is permitted.
Cost – Everyone will have a specific budget in mind, and the size, shape, material, etchings, and any other additions will impact the final price of the headstone.
Inscriptions – Most headstones have the name, date of birth/date, an engraved epitaph, and perhaps an etching or engraved symbol of some kind, so people want to make sure the headstone shape they choose has adequate space to fit everything required.
Meaning – People often want the headstone shape to represent something special that connects it to their deceased loved one.
Which Headstone Shape Should I Choose?
It’s unlike you’ve given a lot of thought to headstone shapes unless you’ve had to shop for a headstone or other memorial in the past. You may not even be aware of the huge range of headstone shapes that are available.
You should take some time to browse through the possibilities, look at headstones that are in your local cemeteries and graveyards, and choose a shape that appeals to you. Think about how it will fit in with the legacy you leave, how it will help others remember you, and whether or not there’s anything symbolic you’d like the shape of headstone to represent.
There is plenty of room for various interpretation when it comes to headstone shapes, so it’s natural to connect a shape with your own personal meaning. A grave marker is for those who are living to remember you, honour you, and to visit something physical that represents the life you lived and the lasting legacy that remains.
As long as your headstone is something you are happy with, it’ll be something personal that everyone can respect and appreciate.
If you’re looking for the perfect headstone in Bristol or surrounding areas of Somerset and Gloucestershire, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us here at Summers Memorials. Our expert memorial masons can craft any headstone design, so you can be sure your memorial is in the very best hands. Contact us today by calling 0117 955 7676, e-mailing email@example.com, or by completing our online contact form.