If I'd commission a coat of arms in stone… what should I bear in mind?

Copy of old family crest, sandstone.

I often get asked what it costs to have a coat of arms carved in stone. However, I noticed that there is often still a lot of confusion for many customers. Why is it so expensive, why there are different price ranges for the same crest, and in what are you different from others? What is the surplus value to have a family crest carved by a sculptor, as opposed to passing it through a sand-blasting machine, milling it or by having a stonemason carve it?

A stone coat of arms is a form of relief carving

crest stone with coat of arms, coat of arms embossed in stone

A round coat of arms, sandstone, 2013

On this blog you can find many kinds of reliefs I've made in stone in recent years , plus some family crests, which actually fall under reliefs as well. A relief differs from a 3D sculpture in that it bridges the gap between a drawing and a complete sculpture. A drawing takes place in the flat surface, and can, just as a photograph can, display all kinds of thing that aren't possible in a sculpture: a cloud, lighting, a reflection, a flying bird…

A spatial sculpture is tangible, has a certain dimension, and especially can been seen and touched from all sides. A good piece of sculpture therefore preferably has something interesting to offer on all sides. A relief is situated halfway between these two: it could depict clouds, but a reflection becomes a bit more difficult, and lighting is even trickier, but on the other hand it is tangible, and can sometimes almost be viewed in the round…. but not always!

A high relief seen from the side. (Photo by Ser Amantio Nicolao, Wikimedia Commons)

bas-relief with Tree of Life

A bas-relief is carved much flatter (Photo by Philippe Chavin – Own work, CC BY 2.5, Wikimedia Commons)

The difference between high relief and bas-relief

sandstone coat of armsA distinction is often made between high relief and bas-relief. The first is almost as if a complete spatial sculpture is placed against a flat background, and the second is more of a flat depiction that is carved shallowly out of the material. Actually, the distinction between these two terms are not very important to know, except that a relief can be worked out very flat, or very spatial. Personally, I find a relief with a lot of differences in depth of carving the most interesting, but of course that type will also be more expensive, because it takes a little bit more material and a lot more work.

A coat of arms in stone made by a sculptor

That spatial thinking comes natural to a sculptor. As a sculptor, I always look for the expression and movement in the picture, and I try to bring some tension and liveliness to it. That's why I often tend to choose for the more voluminous shapes. I could also work out the picture a bit more shallow and then all lines are neatly carved, but it lacks the movement in the mantling and the rounded shapes of the helmet and shield.

a coat of arms, shallowly carved in stone, as a basreliëf

A flat coat of arms carved in bas-relief

Therefore, the costs will be higher

small coa of arms in Udelfanger sandstone completed

So when I compare the two images above, the difference is clear to see. One takes a few days to make, and the other takes a few weeks. That piece of stone will not be much more expensive, that stays about the same. So it will be just what you want: if you want a simple flat image, then that will have a certain price. If you'd prefer a more voluminous looking carving, then that would have a different price tag to it.

A clear view of my approach to carving a family crest in stone can be found in most blog posts on this topic, but perhaps the next link is clearest in this case: A sandstone coat of arms with deep relief ↑.

More coats of arms in stone

Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl

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Small coat-of-arms in Udelfanger sandstone

Small coat-of-arms in a baroque shape

For a customer I made a small coat-of-arms in Udelfanger sandstone. Since this time no mantling and helmet were added, I chose a somewhat more baroque shield shape to make it a lively relief. I also tried to give the shield a nice bulge, to create an interesting shape with curled edges as if it were a scroll.

Finishing

Because of the small size of the crest stone, it took a lot of care to get all the details clear cut. It is designed to stand out by strong shadows. This small stone crest will end up in the top of a facade, so the shadows will be important in order to recognize the picture. To enhance the contrast I therefore 'pointed' the background of the coat of arms, ie I've beaten small pits with hammer and point chisel in the background. The rough surface makes the smooth shield stand out well.

Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl

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Three sandstone lions for three herrings

sculptor Leo sandstone Deventer The Three Herrings

new sandstone lion

sandstone lion copy

side view

Head lion sandstone Deventer old and new

two small relief stones with lion's head, old and new

Lions Deventer old-new

The left hand lion will be put back, the right hand one is a reconstructed copy, carved in mirror image. On the shield the house sign is depicted


For a property in Deventer I was asked to carve a set of lions in Bentheimer sandstone. …Read the whole article…

A promo piece: helmet and shield

helmet and shield in dolomite, small example

As I mentioned a few times before, family crests among my favorite projects and in that context I visit will the Day of Heraldry at Kasteel Groeneveld in Baarn next Saturday, where I will also be on the 'market’ .. Unfortunately, I can not really show much of my work, because everything that's finished goes straight to the customer. …Read the whole article…

Hot weather and rough griffins

33 degrees tent← to the first post about this project-

With 33 degrees Celsius it's actually no weather to be carving right under the hot sun. In anticipation of my final shelter I just stretched a tarp today, and if I just keep the floor wet, it'll be alright.

The precarving is making good progress, just a while and I can start detailing the coat-of-arms finally. …Read the whole article…

Family crests or coat-of arms

wapensteen met familiewapens in Bentheimer zandsteen, kopie gehouwen in 2004 uit Bentheimer zandsteen

coat of arms, carved for Castle Twickel

Family crests or coat-of arms are among my favorite projects, and I have been fortunate to already carve some of them. Usually they are very lively, busy depictions, with helmets, shields, and lots more of everything around it. My best friend is restorer of paintings and painter of family crests. He has explained a little to me what's happening in such a family coat of arms, on the basis of its own crest. …Read the whole article…