Stone Mosaics

A History of Stone Mosaics

Inlay variants of stone mosaics have been used in many cultures, from Southeast Asia to the pre-Columbian New World, since ancient times.

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In Renaissance Florence, artisans frequently used colored marbles and semiprecious stones to create geometric or floral patterns on the furniture they designed for wealthy aristocrats. This particular art form, called pietre dure, is a form of stone mosaic, although tiles were not of uniform size, and grout was not used to cement tiles together.

More traditional marble tiles were occasionally used in Roman buildings and ceremonial routes. In general, however, the use of stone mosaics is a more modern decorative convention.

Contemporary Stone Mosaics

Natural stone tiles are extremely popular with today's interior designers, particularly in rooms like kitchens and bathrooms. They are used primarily as flooring and backsplash materials. Different types of stone tiles include:

• Marble tiles: Marble tiles loan an elegant look to a floor. They are very heavy, however, and stain easily. They don't maintain that sheen that made you fall in love in areas of heavy foot traffic either. Today, marble floors are most often found in public buildings.

• Slate tiles: Slate is a metamorphic rock that is often used in both interior and exterior flooring, as well as on roofs. It has a slightly roughened surface, which means it's relatively slip-proof.

• Travertine: Travertine is limestone formed by the precipitation of calcium carbonate due to geothermal activity. In its natural form, it's white or cream-colored, but it takes dye easily. Due to its highly absorbent properties, however, travertine can also stain easily.

Stone tiles can be mixed and matched to create visually striking stone mosaic patterns on floors and walls. Many home improvements stores also sell stone mosaics as preassembled sheets.