The look of natural tile materials have always captivated people since ancient times. And while most consumers are familiar with many of the stone options, they have no idea that shells can be used to create tiles as well. Mother of pearl tile has a unique lustrous look that is unequaled when it comes to building materials and here is your guide to it.
What Is Mother Of Pearl?
Many people aren’t sure exactly what mother of pearl is. Well, it is actually the coating on the inside of the shell of different types of mollusks. Most mother of pearl comes from the shells of freshwater pearl mussels, pearl oysters, and abalones.
This coating is produced to protect themselves from parasites and builds up over time. It is also called nacre and is the building block of pearls. However when a pearl is made, the mollusk (usually an oyster, mussel, or clam) secretes nacre to coat a piece of debris like sand that has gotten inside of the shell.
To protect itself from the potential threat it coats the debris with nacre. As these coats build around it they slowly form a pearl. By using mother of pearl tile you can transform ordinary looking gorgeous iridescent look of pearls
A Splash Of Iridescence
Mother of pearl tile provides a special visual experience. It is famous for its rainbow-like shine with gorgeous hues of all shades just like that of pearls. These rainbow like colors can change depending on the angle from which are you looking at them and can be enhanced by the type and position of your lighting (this is something you will want to remember).
Colors Straight From Nature
The color of the mother of pearl tiles is influenced by the type and color of shell they come from. As you might be able to guess the most common tile color is white. (If you are looking for a new take on plain looking white tile this could be it.) There are also different shades of yellow, pink, and green. Brown is very popular as well.
Although you won’t see it as often these tiles can even be black. Many are naturally multi-colored which in addition to their iridescence can provide a stunning display. While these are the natural choices they also can be dyed to create others.
The glimmer and colors of this material make it extremely extravagant looking. This combined with the fact that each tile has totally a unique texture and markings make it a top choice for someone looking for a natural material that is at the same time very high-end.
It is also a superb alternative to natural stone or as another natural material that can work well with it. A mother of pearl tile backsplash for example can look great with stone counter tops or flooring. Marble tiles and counters in particular seem to make an excellent pairing for mother of pearl.
From an elegant beach or coastal theme to something highly modern mother of pearl tile can work with a wide variety of styles. It is also a timeless choice so you won’t have worry about it looking outdated in the future.
This upscale appearance, versatility, and natural beauty is the reason you will see it used not just in the home but installed in many upscale businesses and restaurants as well.
Different than other choices, you are not normally going to find large or even medium sized tiles. Instead they are cut thin and small, and usually bonded to a ceramic or fiberglass base. A large number of these small individual tiles are then attached to a mesh sheet and spaced evenly. These sheets are known as mosaic tile.
Mother of pearl mosaic tile makes for a simple installation because you don’t have to painstakingly line each tiny tile in place and set them one at a time. The mesh can be cut with scissor so that you can easily use only part of a sheet to fit your space. If you will need to cut the actual tiles, you can use a wet saw instead of tile nippers.
Another option which has become popular are peel and stick tiles. Not to be confused with tile stickers which are made to look like real materials, these are authentic mother of pearl tiles that have a backing that can be peeled and stuck onto a surface.
How And Where It’s Used
Since it does come from a shell, this material is of course totally waterproof. It also happens to be scratch and heat-resistant too so it is great for the backsplash in kitchens and bathrooms. Of course it can be used on walls, floors, around tubs, and in showers.
You may want to consider installing it in all of these places to create a complete mother of pearl bathroom that shimmers all around you. Or when used in one area it will usually make it the focal point of the room which is often the case with backplashes. Their elegance and natural water resistance also makes them a favorite choice for use in and around swimming pool and spas.
The ability to deal with very high temperatures also makes it an interesting choice for the fireplace too. A mother of pearl tile fireplace will definitely draw some serious attention. Some people even use it on the ceiling. It is also used by mosaic artists for projects like tabletops and vases.
Because in general it is cut thinner than other materials mother of pearl wall tile is more common than floor tile. So it is important to remember that if you would like to use it on the floor, which you definitely can, you will need to make sure that it is rated for floor use by the manufacturer. These tiles will be thicker than those used on the wall to give them the added strength and durability they need.
Shapes and Types
Because it can be cut into many different shapes consumers have a lot to choose from. Since they are pre-attached to either a mesh or self-stick backing they also may come in different tile patterns. The running bond using mother of pearl subway tile is one the most popular especially for the backsplash.
Of course these are not full sized rectangular shaped subway tiles but much smaller ones. Normally the running bond pattern leaves a very narrow space in-between each rectangular tile for a thin grout line.
However, another option if you like this layout is groutless mother of pearl tile which does not have any space between the tiles at all. Groutless tiles do come in other patterns too like the straight lay of course.
This material can be cut into many shapes other than rectangular such as square or hexagonal. Semi-round fish scales, oval, three-dimensional looking cubes, and triangles are options as well. But don’t forget mother of pearl penny tile which is circular in shape and is usually used to create classic looking spaces.
Iridescent pearl-like surfaces can drastically change the appearance of any room. Regardless of what style you are going for, mother of pearl tile will be sure to help you make it look extra luxurious and with it’s one-of-a-kind natural beauty.
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