Glass Gems and Toy Marbles as Glass Mosaic Tile
Glass gem and toy glass marbles are not certified by their manufacturers
as mosaic tile or building material, yet it is possible to see some older mixed-media mosaic in
houses and churches, particularly in Mexico, where marbles and objects of recycled glass have been used, and these materials
seem to endured quite well, certainly much better than most types of ceramic tile, which can be
highly susceptible to freeze-cracking.
Glass gem marbles have a variety of names: glass globs,
flat marbles, craft marbles, accent marbles, mosaic marbles or glass gems.
All of these terms refer to a glass gem that is flat on the back side for gluing to surfaces.
The shape of the gem is like an enlarged bead of water.
Glass gem marbles are great for
mosaic mirrors, picture frames, backsplashes and mosaic stepping stones, but
they also work well as accents in mosaic images. You can also use these gems
successfully in mosaic art other than "found-object" collage pieces.
For example, this
goldfish mosaic makes use of tumbled
cobalt gems for the background. The rest of the mosaic was made with iridescent glass.
While the centers of the gems are slightly thicker than glass mosaic tile, the
edges curve downward, allowing the gems to provide a 3-D texture to the surface without
sticking out too far or too abruptly.
Toy Glass Marbles
Toy Glass Marbles
of the traditional spherical type can also be used in mixed-media mosaic. However, the rounded bottoms
mean that marbles make it more difficult to glue them to flat surfaces alongside tile which is much thinner.
Thus, toy marbles are best used by pressing into concrete in
stepping stone molds or pressing into
a special type of sticky concrete known as
thinset bonding mortar.
Toy marbles can be glued to a flat surface, but it is best to use a thick and tarry adhesive like
Liquid Nails brand construction adhesive or use thinset. Both materials are good at holding the rounded
bottoms of the spherical marbles, but thinset has an additional advantage: Thinset is concrete and can be
applied extra thickly under thin tile to make up for the differences in height when thin tile is used alongside
more rounded materials like glass marbles and gemstones.
Safety and Maintenance
Most types of glass, including glass gems and marbles, can produce extremely sharp edges when chipped or flaked, but so can many
sorts of glazed ceramic tile, and all such damaged edges should be removed or smoothed with the fine side of a
Ceramic and Marble File
to prevent injury.
As always, you would file broken tile when wet, misting as needed, and collect the dust in wet bag for disposal. Keeping the
dust wet is an easy was to make sure it stays out of the air, and you shouldn't risk breathing construction dusts of any type,
especially glass dust.
For advice on how select and use mosaic materials and how to plan projects for durability and ease of construction, please see our
Mosaic Frequently-Asked Questions
page or our
How to Make a Mosaic illustrated instructions page.
For a summary description of all our mosaic project pages, visit our
Mosaic Information Guide.