5 Types of Mosaic Tile

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Mosaic tiles (tesserae) come in a variety of styles, colors, shapes, manufacturing methods, and chemical combinations. Some tiles are man-made while others are found in nature. The following provides a list and description of the main types of mosaic tiles.

Ceramic Tiles

These are the "everyman" of tiles. They are mass produced and commonly sold at craft stores for simple projects. The tile looks more like stone and comes in either a glazed or unglazed finish. They are easy to cut or crack with a hammer, resulting in a clean edge. They come in a wide selection of colors and are often sold in bulk bags. Ceramic tiles are the weakest of mosaic materials. They do not hold up well under intense heat or freezing temperatures, so they should be limited to decorative uses only.

Vitreous Glass Tile

This is an opaque, almost stone-like glass that is also one of the most inexpensive and common tile types. They are easy to cut and will leave a clean edge that is not as sharp as the more expensive glass tile. Average size is 1-inch square and are most commonly sold in bulk sized bags of 100 or more. They are good for indoor and outdoor use but not recommended for floor projects.

Smalti Glass Tile

These are the jewels of the mosaic tile world. Made by hand in Venice Italy, they are the most beautiful and expensive of all the tesserae available today. The price will vary, determined by the color and weight of the tile. They are famous for their applications throughout the world. First used by the Romans and the Byzantines, they have stood the test of time and continue to appear in higher-end design contracts. The reflective properties are second to none and the brilliant light refractions are unsurpassed by no other tile on the market.

There are 2 styles of Smalti glass tile available: "Light Reflective" and "Gold & Silver." The "Light Reflective" type is described above while the "Gold & Sliver" includes gold or silver pressed between 2 thin, glass sheets, and then fired.

Organic Tile

These are tiles cut from marble, granite, basalt and limestone. The range and beauty of each tile is determined by the stone itself. They are sold in sheets or individual squares.

Creative Tile

These are tiles made from broken china, glass, marbles, jewelry, wine bottles or even stone. Craft stores often carry a variety of these "broken" objects or you can simply make them yourself. The basic consideration is to find materials that are all about the same width so your arrangement will not become irregular and bumpy.

Each of the glass tiles described above can contain one or more of the following properties:

  • Iridescent: Glass firing process that includes mineral salts to give the glass a pearlized appearance.
  • Metallic: Tiny metallic flakes are swirled into the glass and then fired, which creates a beautiful shimmer within the tile.
  • Swirled: Mixture of different glass colors swirled into the base color, creates various depths of hue and color within each tile.