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Origin of Phrase "Set in Stone"

When we think of the phrases “set in stone” or “written in stone,” we know what it means to explain something solid, permanent, or absolute. However, we don’t often think about the origin of this widely used phrase. As a family-owned and operated business with almost a century of experience crafting high-quality headstones, heritage and history are deeply important to us. Join us as we explore the origin of the phrase “set in stone.”

Religious Context: Origin of “Set in Stone”

If you write something in pencil or pen on paper, you can easily erase it if you decide to change it later. If you write something on a computer, you can easily delete your work and start from scratch. It requires great effort to modify a document that is etched into stone, and the origin of the phrase “set in stone” is not surprisingly biblical in nature.

In the Bible, the book of Exodus recalls that there were two sets of commandments. The first set of commandments were extolled in stone by God but were then smashed by Moses when, upon his return from Mount Sinai, he saw the Children of Israel worshipping an idol. The second set of commandments were later cut by Moses and rewritten by God. According to traditional Jewish teachings, those sacred stone tablets were made of blue sapphire to serve as a symbolic reminder of the heavens and His throne.

Stone vs. Granite: Origin of “Set in Stone”

This phrase first came to widespread popularity in the 18th century, when people started to make tombstones out of stone and granite. Setting something in stone is traditionally known to be the most permanent choice, but our culture has moved away from using materials such as marble, slate, or wood for headstones. Civil War battlegrounds paved the way for endless wooden crosses. Soon thereafter, deceased soldiers were memorialized in stone tombs.

Granite became a preferred material. New England was well-known for plentiful rock that made gravestones easier to make and shipping more convenient. Grave markers also began to take thin, rectangular shapes during this era. After the Industrial Revolution, the 20th century served as a bridge between fabrication methods of the past and methods of the future. At the beginning, headstones were still cut by hand and polished using ancient techniques that left stone susceptible to corrosion and decay. Over time, machines became widely popular for cutting and finishing stone with perfect regularity, giving way to complex shapes and intricate customization options.

Granite doesn’t deteriorate like other stones do. In fact, true granite employs the best grades of small-grained granite to create beautiful memorials that will remain intact with clear epitaphs for over 500 years. Legacy Headstones offers beautiful and durable headstones that are guaranteed to last a lifetime. Best of all, every headstone we produce is backed by our lifetime guarantee. Contact us to learn more about customizing a headstone, so you can make your legacy immutable by setting it in stone. If you have any questions about this article or the origin of “set in stone,” please contact us today for additional information.