Ceramic Tile History
Ceramic tiling has been found in ruins over 6000 years old. It is an ancient way to beautify dwellings, buildings, and public structures. Ceramic tile has even been found in the pyramids of Egypt.
The actual discovery of the creation of tile has not been recorded. Nevertheless, it can be imagined that some individual lined a fire pit with clay and after several intense heatings found the clay to have hardened. Various glazes could have been formed the same way. Often we presume that ancient discoveries were come on by accident, but we cannot discount the inquisitiveness of the human mind. It is well to remember that bricks had been understood and used for a long time and they required only that the clay be dried in the sun. Once the basic idea of tile was discovered, it was probably not long before it was used in a variety of ways, from roof tiles to keep out the elements, to floor tiles and even mosaics for beautification.
To make effective and durable tile required that tile makers use hotter temperatures than could be achieved by the sun or open fires, so the kiln was developed to intensify the heat for longer periods. Unglazed tile needed to be fired only once. Glazed tile was made by taking a once-fired tile, painting on glazing, and then firing it again. The first glazes were blue and made from copper.
Glazing techniques and methods for painting designs on tiles were probably developed by individuals who tried to keep their trade a secret. There were no patent laws in ancient times and trade secrets were held tight in order to take advantage of them for as long as possible. Painting designs on tiles and then arranging them in patterns or images seems to have been developed before the mosaic technique, where each tile is a single element of the design.
Ceramic Tile, originated in the Middle East and spread around the region to the civilized peoples who populated the Mediterranean Coasts. It is not thought to have been used extensively in Medieval Europe until the 1100s when it seeped through the borders of Moorish Spain.
Ceramic tiles for centuries were laid out in layers and cut by hand, sometimes pressed with wood molds to give them shape. In the 1840s tile-making was mechanized with a process called "dust-pressing" where the tile was stamped between two sheets of metal. Soon the kiln process became mechanized as well, instead of batch firings, industrial kilns in a tunnel shape, 200 feet long and longer, could continuously fire ceramic tile that was pushed through by machine power. Once these processes were mechanized ceramic tile soon became available to the middle and lower classes, so that today ceramic tiles can be found in most homes in the industrialized world.