Mosaics were first examples of decorating with glass
Mosaics are tough enough to serve as floor surfaces, but are also found liberally on walls and ceilings throughout the world. Mosaics have evolved over time, and, although they can be used to decorate exterior spaces, they’re usually found indoors. Decorating with glass via the mosaic was common in both ancient Greece and ancient Rome. Many early Christian and Islamic sites also featured mosaics prominently.
For hundreds of years (including today) mosaics have featured very small, generally square pieces of stone, tile or glass known as tesserae, but when decorating with glass, artisans can incorporate glass pieces of any shape. The earliest mosaics used naturally colored stones, but by about 1,500 BC, artisans began to incorporate glazed tiles in their mosaics. The earliest mosaics did not initially employ patterns, but they did strive to create imagery. Pattered mosaics became popular in the latter half of the Roman Empire.
Decorating with glass was common in early Christian sites, and many surviving sites feature richly colored images on walls and ceilings. Mosaics were not reserved for religious worship. They were also commonly found in private, upper class homes. Over time, mosaics became rather elaborate, and incorporated gold leaf, a broad range of colors and other adornments that gave them a distinctive appearance. Although mosaics can survive indefinitely, many mosaics from certain periods in history were destroyed, more for political and religious reasons, rather than wear.
Today, mosaics are enjoying a comeback in homes around Europe and North America. Decorating with glass is comparatively easy, and the resulting product (often backsplashes in kitchens and bathrooms) definitely stands up well to everyday use and cleaning. Colored glass (or transparent glass that is colored with glass paint) is often incorporated into modern mosaics.
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Photo Credit: Tim Green , via Flickr