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Zellige tiles : What are they?

Zellige tiles, also known as Zilij or Zelij, are traditionally handcrafted tiles made with natural clay extracted from Morocco. The clay is kneaded with water, before being moulded by hand, and naturally dried and fired in a kiln. At that point, glass enamel is applied to the tile surface in multiple shades creating a metallic or opaque finish. The enamel is then melted and vitrified during another round of firing in a kiln. The final stage of the production process consists of cutting the enamelled pieces into a collection of tiles in various shapes and sizes. As result, each tile is unique.

Originating in Morocco, this production method dates back to the 10th century. The true nature of the production is a highly skilled craft that has been passed down from generation to generation.

Entirely hand made, local clays are mixed, formed and then cut by hand, hand-dipped in enamel glaze, hand stacked in open kilns, open fired (often using olive pits) and hand-finished with hammer-chisels.

So as beautifully crafted as these tiles are, they do present significant challenges to the installer (of course, always work with professionals) or to the consumer.

As they are made by hand, imperfections (e.g. corners and edges protrude) are part of the charm of this product.

Zellige is not a DIY product. Skilled installers are required to follow the recommended procedures that experts say are required to fix Zellige tiles without using grout.

Nowadays, there are plenty of Zellige inspired ceramic and porcelain tiles. One of our favourites is our Comptoir and Medina collections.

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With over 15 years of experience within the industry, Paolo is an expert consultant of stone, tiles and wood flooring. Driven by the passion of what is aesthetically pleasant and practical at the same time, Paolo has a strong voice within the marketplace and he is not afraid to use it.