Glass Mosaics

A Brief History of Glass Mosaics

Stone age man was very familiar with the volcanic glass called obsidian, which he used to fashion cutting tools. Sometime during the early Bronze Age, man figured out the trick of manufacturing glass himself.

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Archaeologists have found Egyptian glass beads that can be dated back to 2500 B.C. The glass used in mosaics is trickier to manufacture, though, since it involves rectangular shapes. The earliest glass mosaics date back to the 3rd century B.C. where they seem to have arisen simultaneously in the workshops of Persian, Indian and Greek artisans.

The golden age of glass mosaics occurred during the Byzantine Empire. In Constantinople and the Empire's other great cities, the walls of churches and public buildings were adorned with portraits and figures created from gold leaf and iridescent glass tiles. These tiles, called Smalti tiles, were created by mixing molten glass with metal oxides.

In the 8th and 9th centuries A.D., glass mosaics were briefly popular in the Islamic world. This technique was adopted by the Venetians and incorporated into the familiar millefiore-patterned glasswork of today.

Contemporary Glass Mosaics

Today, glass tiles are a popular material for flooring and wall coverings particularly in the kitchen and the bathroom. Glass tiles are resistant to moisture, which helps retard the growth of molds. This makes them a very popular solution in areas like bathrooms.

Glass tiles used in bathrooms, kitchens and other household capacities are manufactured through a process called fusion, which uses kilns in which glass-making materials are typically heated to temperatures between 1,100 and 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Special printing processes have been invented that can facilitate the transfer of dyes when the proper backing is used, resulting in glass tiles with high-resolution pictures and designs.