A Brief History of Ceramic Tiles

Ceramic tiles are remarkably common these days, used in everything from flooring to walls to countertops in a variety of rooms in the house. Indeed, you can find tiles in the bathroom, kitchen, utility room, and more.

But as common as ceramic tiles are today, they were surprising just as popular when they were first developed centuries ago.  You see, the use of Carreaux Metro ceramic tiles actually dates back to the ancient Greeks.  At that time, however, ceramic tiles were used more often in clay roof coverings.

However, the simplest form of ceramic art has been found among Egyptian artifacts dating back to 4,000 BC.  We also have evidence of similar tiles in Assyrian, Babylonian, and Islamic Empire civilizations throughout history.  Also, tiles have been found from 9th century Tunisia and 11th century Kashan Iran.   


As a matter of fact, our English word “ceramic” comes from the Greek “keramos” which refers to pottery. However the origin of this Greek word is old Sanskirt verb for “to burn”.  Obviously all this etymology is related since ceramic materials that we use today generally refers to clay or another molded textile that hardened in a very hot kiln. Of course, the earliest ceramic tiles would have used only the heat from the sun.

The earliest tiles found in Western Europe date back to the late 10th century and not just in a single place.  By the 16th century, we have evidence that ceramic tiles were also being used by the Moors, spreading through Spain.  


In the 18th century, the English industrial revolution helped to spurn mass production of tiles, which peaked in the late 19th century.  Of course, that means ceramic tile use quickly developed throughout Britain and Europe.  At this time, tile making also grew in America but struggled in the fact of the English imports.  Still, a growing arts and crafts movement found more uses for ceramic tiles, binging inside the home for fireplaces and even for wall decoration.

This trend, of course, continued into the 20th century, as growing concern and emphasis on sanitary hygiene helped to encourage ceramic tile installation in kitchens bathrooms.  Ceramic tiles also became a popular textile for decorating subways, which was quite the common mode of transportation at the time. Also at this time, many architects came to be known for their use of tiles in the buildings they designed.