Gold glass tiles are found in numerous collections throughout the world, but until now there was little evidence as to their date, fabrication and use. I will try and answer some of these questions with the help of fragments of gold glass tiles that were found in recent years in the salvage excavations in the Land of Israel. These fragments which date to the latter part of the Byzantine period and the beginning of the Umayyad period were found in many sites throughout the country, in cities and small settlements.
The tiles were made of two layers of translucent glass, most of them colorless or with a greenish or purplish hue. The bottom layer is thick (c. 5 mm) and very thin gold leaf or gold dust was applied to it; this was overlain with another very thin layer of glass less than 1 mm thick. Using the same technique they also made gold glass tesserae.
Similar to the use of gold glass tesserae they also used to use tiles in architectural decorations or as inlay in wooden furniture. Such uses of gold glass tiles are known from churches dating to the Middle Ages. In his excavations in the “Bird Palace” in Caesarea last year, Dr. Yosef Porat uncovered a truly unique and unparalleled discovery. Until now no objects of this kind have been found in archaeological excavations. This is a large plaque (1.03 x 1.03 m) made using opus sectile, combining gold glass tiles and small platelets and glass tesserae in an intricate geometric pattern. The plaque which was made entirely of glass was extraordinarily well-preserved and is being treated by the conservation experts of the Antiquities Authority.