Mosaic is a decorative art involving coloured small pieces of glass, stone, minerals, and fragments of pottery or other material.

Mosaic roots and history

The oldest known mosaics come from the 8th BC. They were made of pebbles. Greek manufacturer developed this technique further in the 5th BC. Pebbles are homogeneous and vary in the colour range between black and white only. Manufacturers gathered the pebbles and used them for floors and footpaths.

Greek manufacturers were able to create complex and first-class designs using this simple mosaic technique. They inserted stones on the scale of 1 to 2 cm and filled the outlines with small black pebbles. In the 4th BC the colour range was extended by green and red pebbles.

In the ancient world mosaics were basically used for floors and footpaths. Life time was an important reason for using mosaics. Especially stones made of marble and chalk came out as particularly suitable for mosaics. Marble can be broken in very small pieces and provides a natural range of colours. So artists were not very much restricted in their possibilities to create mosaics. A full range of nice colours could be used to design premium arts. Although the origin of mosaics is accredited to the Greeks, mosaics were also used in Assyrian, Egypt, Persia and other ancient civilisation. Roman mosaics enjoyed a good reputation. The Romans sophisticated mosaics for the use onto walls and floors in halls, villas and public houses. After the roman era mosaics were integrated in Christian, Byzantine, Persian and Indian architecture. Today’s centres of hand made mosaics are Lebanon and Syria. In countries like Italy and Greece hand made mosaics are very expensive. Despite a big tradition in making mosaics the craftsmanship here seems to be lost.

Form and Manufacturing

Normally the pebbles are triangular or foursquare and are put together to mosaics. They are applied with mortar or another adhesive (tile adhesive or adhesive for pottery) onto walls and floors. Increasingly mosaics can be found integrated into furniture, e.g.

For the attachment of mosaics on wood silicone appropriate to marble (that means chalk in general) has to be used. In the case that a mosaic should be attached on metal it is recommended to use a two-component epoxy resin (e.g. Araldite).

Compared to inlays mosaics are attached on top of the surface. Mosaics are not inserted in a block out. It can be said that every single mosaic tile itself is inconsiderable. But the composition of lots of mosaic tiles and the reckoning from a certain distance create the overall picture with the incomparable artistic feeling and quality.

In terms of art form mosaics soonest can be compared with painting. Mosaics provide two-dimensional designs or pictures. As in painting mosaics are often used for large-scaled ornamentations. But the manufacturer is a bit restricted regarding the colours due to the natural characteristics of the material (e.g. marble).

Hence it is much more challenging to achieve the same effects of lightening and shadows with mosaics compared to paintings, even if, looked from distance, pixels merge to an overall picture.

On the other hand the special kind of light reflection leads to a luminance that never can be achieved with coloured or printed pictures.

As every media that is used for decoration, mosaics have specific characteristics which differ to other media. Mosaics are especially advantageous in cases where an artistic picture should exist over a long time period and has to resist heavy conditions like extreme weather or lots of people walking on it. Byzantine mosaics, established centuries before, impress until this day. The same applies to the tomb slabs in a nave in Malta. The mosaic there meanwhile has been perpetrated and admired by a hundred thousand people.

Time stops with the creation of a mosaic. It stands for its manufacturer or designer until it will be damaged. Mosaics are pictures for eternity as long as the places or objects where the mosaics are attached, last an eternity. Used as decoration for houses mosaics provide a front that never fades and never has to be renewed. Cleaning and maybe reparation of the joint compound might be necessary.