Maybe it's something about having degrees in writing and literature makes me a little persnickety about words and their meanings. I dunno. Everyone makes mistakes, especially me, but I'm not talking about accidental errors. What I'm getting irritated about is when someone calls something by the wrong name--on purpose. Things have names for a reason.
So, here it is, the scandal that I just can't keep quiet about any longer... Encaustic tiles and cement tiles are not the same thing! Yet, I keep seeing the very people who make and sell cement tile calling it "encaustic" tile. Of course, I know (and adore) many of the people who do this, so I hope I'm not stepping on any toes. Here's the deal:
Briefly, encaustics are made of two or more colors of clay which are inlaid together making a pattern, then fired, sometimes more than once. This type of tile making has been around for hundreds of years and was popular during the Renaissance. Minton tile is a more recent type of encaustic tile.
Here's a picture of the slip being poured into the tile:
Photo by H & R Johnson Tiles
With cement tiles, on the other hand, the color comes from mineral pigments which are set into a mold at the beginning of the process. The cement is poured on top, then the tile is hydraulically pressed and the tile is cured for about 3 weeks or so. This method was developed in the mid-19th century.
Avente Tile has a video on YouTube showing how cement tile is made, with the pigment being first poured into the mold and then the cement going on top. Avente Tile's video of cement tile manufacturing process.
Both cement tiles and encaustic tiles are usually patterned and unglazed--perhaps that's where the confusion arises? Either way, cement tiles are a perfectly lovely art form that don't need to borrow a name to make them sound fancier.
Whew! I feel better now.
For more info:
Website describing encaustic tile history and manufacturing process.
National Park Service site on preserving encaustic tiles.
The very excellent Villa Lagoon tile has a whole section on cement tile in the media including a link to an article I wrote on the subject.
Not that I'm selling anything, but here's a whole Book on Cement Tile (which I edited.)