Understanding the Thickness of Mother of Pearl Tile

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Each mother of pearl tile should glimmer beautifully as it catches the light, adding a touch of luxury to any room in the house. Made up of the former inner area of mollusk shells, the thickness of mother of pearl is naturally 2mm.

One major difference in mother of pearl tiles is the quality of the shell. Another very important difference is the variety of different thicknesses of the tile. You’ll find mother of pearl tiles that are 2mm thick (such as the majority of ours here at Tile Circle) or 8mm thick.

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Thicker doesn't mean better quality

It’s tempting to believe that because the thicker tiles are also more expensive, that they will be better quality and last longer. That’s not actually the case. What a thicker mother of pearl tile has is a ceramic backing. The actual mother of pearl content on that tile is the same as the 2mm version.

Myth: Thicker mother of pearl tiles are better for mixing and matching

If you have been looking for mother of pearl tiles, you may have come across mother of pearl tiles that are around 8mm or 3/8”. The standard thickness of most tiles in the marketplace today, excluding glass tile, is 3/8” so if you are placing natural mother of pearl tile that is 2mm thick directly next to porcelain or marble tile that is the standard thickness of 3/8” it will not sit flush against the porcelain or marble tile. If you find yourself concerned about this for the design of your project, there are many simple design solutions that will be easy to do and end up being less expensive than purchasing the thicker mother of pearl tiles.

Design Solutions

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The first design solution and the simplest is to place bullnose pencils between the two tiles (as seen above). For a fluid design, we recommend using bullnose pencils that match with your tile. For example, if you are installing white marble tile with pearl tile, we recommend using an aspen white bullnose pencil to separate the marble tile from the mother of pearl. This creates an edge for the mother of pearl tile border and the two different thicknesses add depth to the tile design.

Tile Circle - 1" Pearl Tile Accent Border in Shower Another easy solution is to simply use backer board to build up the area behind the mother of pearl tile. Backer board can easily be found at your local home improvement store. It is a common material that is used for tile installations in bathrooms and kitchens. Another good idea is to speak with your contractor who has probably used backer board for installations in the past.

When does it make sense to add ceramic backing to mother of pearl to increase the thickness of the tile?

Our designers have more than ten years of experience using the mother of pearl tiles that we manufacture. The clear cut answer after polling many designers and tile experts was that it is only worth spending extra money on thicker mother of pearl tiles when mother of pearl is mixed with another material within the same tile like in our haisa marble and pearl blend and our marble and pearl basketweave tiles. It makes sense then for manufacturers to add the ceramic backing onto the mother of pearl material rather than reduce the width of other types of tile.

Thicker shell tiles aren’t more durable than thinner version

Our mother of pearl tiles can be installed on floors, walls, and showers. Just because the mother of pearl tiles with a ceramic base are thicker, it doesn’t mean they are any more durable. That’s because it’s the mother of pearl that matters. Once you’ve protected that top layer with sealant it makes no difference whether the pearl tile is 8mm or 80mm thick. Meanwhile, it’s also a good idea to use non-sanded grout when installing to prevent any possible scratching at that point.

Thicker pearl tiles don’t necessarily look better

Thickness of the shell doesn’t lead to a ‘better’ look either. The selling point of mother of pearl tile is the shine and luster that’s created when it’s touched by light. But no doubt, if you’ve been checking the mother of pearl tiles out, you’ll be well aware of that already.

The bottom line. If you’re not installing your mother of pearl tiles with other tiles then you definitely don’t need the thicker tiles. It would just be a waste of money. Simple as that (in fact you’ll be paying up to one third more for a tile when the thinner version would have done the same job equally as well).

Take a look at our mother of pearl and marble tile collections today at www.tilecircle.com and if you have any further questions, then please feel free to contact us either via email or telephone 212-920-4601.

See also: Mother of Pearl Tile Installation InstructionsHow to Measure the Quality of Mother of Pearl Tiles