About Glass Mosaic

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What you should know about Glass Mosaic

     Mosaics are composed of many small pieces called tesserae - these can be glass, stone or occasionally other materials. GLASS MOSAICS are composed of glass tesserae (either Italian smalti, pressed glass tiles, or other types of tesserae made in the studio) and come in a very wide range of colors. They are mounted on a substrate with a variety of adhesives (cements, mastics, etc.) depending on the type of installation.

     Mosaics are opaque since they are mounted on a solid background. This means that mosaics are meant to be viewed with reflected light - the light has to come from behind the viewer for the image to be seen. The light source is on the same side as the viewer.

     In contrast, stained glass windows are meant to be viewed with transmitted light - the light has to actually pass through the stained glass (i.e. a window) to the viewer in order for the color and texture of the glass to be appreciated. The light source has to be on the opposite side of the viewer.

Other characteristics and qualities of glass mosaic are:
Spaces between the tesserae (the interstices) are filled with grout.
Should be installed on a very solid substrate.
Perfect for exterior installations since the colors of the tesserae are permanent and are resistant to environmental conditions.
Good for floor installations due to the high compressive strength of glass.
Perfect solutions for areas in which stained glass windows are wanted but there is not an actual window opening.
Good for ceilings, floors, fountains and pools, etc.
Best of the mosaic media for traditionally representational work.*
Shipped to the site usually mounted on paper sections.
Executed in the indirect method (reverse reading, upside down) on a paper cartoon, they are mounted to the final surface with the paper side out. The paper is removed, thus revealing a right reading design.
If installed correctly, they should last 1,000 years. There are no parts that "wear out" or fade.

Maintenance is almost nil except for an occasional washing with a brush and soapy water.

Smalti come in a variety of colors from very soft, pastel, to very vibrant hues.
For additional brilliance and contrast, smalti are available in 24 kt. gold, silver and copper metals.
Smalti average 1/4" x 1/2" - they are about 1/4" thick.

*NOTE: Usually, when the design calls for a very traditional figurative glass mosaic, we develop the design, then have our associates in Italy, under our direct specifications and supervision, execute the figurative elements (occasionally the entire piece). They have much better access to the 3,000 plus shades of tesserae (smalti) than we do and are master mosaicists. The mosaics are shipped to us - we provide the installation.


Of the various media in which our studio works, traditional Byzantine style glass mosaics are one of the more costly. There are only a very few fabbrica (factories) in Italy that make true smalti, thus the basic material is difficult to obtain in the United States. The individual tesserae are each hand cut from a relatively small "pancake" of hand made glass so obviously, they are costly. After the development of the intricate art work (design) that is usually characteristic of a mosaic of this type, the actual execution of the piece requires a great deal of time. A mosaic of 10 sq.ft. could contain about 10,000 tesserae. Selection of each of these smalti would represent several decisions as to size, color and placement. Then most likely the piece has to be cut to a specific shape and mounted directly onto its substrate (or indirectly on paper, for a reverse type of installation). Mosaics are often installed in difficult to access locations such as domes, high arches, etc. At the site, installations can become quite a laborious process. Hopefully you will appreciate that since mosaics are so time consuming, they are costly. But this is a medium, that if installed properly, will last indefinitely.

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