what to expect with authentic handcrafted zellige tile

perfectly imperfect moroccan zellige tile


clé has brought to prominence one of the most time-honored materials that has graced the tile community since at least the 14th century. zellige is a tile that has retained its ancient and archaic tile making process and, therefore, has all the primitive qualities that have become synonymous with the monicker - zellige. essentially, a glazed terracotta tile; hand hewn, olive-pit fired and hand chiseled to-size, zellige are a testament of ancient tile craft. we like to refer to them as the prima materia of the tile world. if your order doesn’t contain tiles with pits, cracks, shade/size variations and chipped edges - it is NOT authentic zellige. 


general description

zellige is a series of glazed terracotta tile, handmade in morocco. it is a low-fired terracotta that is used throughout morocco for all applications- floor and wall, interior and exterior, and water treatments ( pools and fountains .) available in a variety of sizes, and colors, zellige is a prestigious architectural finish for the finest projects. they may be installed using most industry accepted processes, typical for standard ceramic installation on a variety of substrates.

color variation

zellige glaze colors vary from tile to tile, some more than others. these variations are intentional, resulting from our commitment to the use of ancient glaze production methods and use of raw materials. when specifying zellige, if color consideration is paramount, it’s always useful to work from a sampling of 3 or more tiles, which will represent the range of color you can expect on the job. however, be clear that color in zellige glazes can still vary from your samples or our photographs on our website.

for unglazed zellige - referred to as the color “natural”– this finish will require the same sealant methods as our standard unglazed tile sealing.


crazing refers to the hairline cracks which may occur in the glaze surface of zellige after firing and is common in hand crafted tile. to minimize the possibility of staining clé recommends using a penetrating sealer or grout release. if sealer or release is required, please test a small section following the sealer/release manufacturer’s instructions.

size variation

all zellige tiles are hand chiseled to size. this creates obvious size variation which is part of the zellige effect. please anticipate size variation in width and length, based on this chiseling. due to shrinkage from wet to fired clay in the firing process, our tiles are subject to size variation in depth, as well. the thickness is 3/8" ( for all sizes except 2"x5.5". that thickness is 3/4") and can vary, along with other specified dimensions.

pitting, cracking, edge-chipping & more

again, based on the archaic methods of the mining and firing of the terracotta zellige clay body and the impurities found in the raw materials used for the glazes, your order of zellige will contain tiles that are pitted through the glazes to the clay body, as well as have a percentage of about 20%-30% that will contain cracks, crazing and edge-chipping and iron spots. should your project not want as many tiles containing these imperfections - order at least 20%-30% more tiles, to allow your contractor to cherry-pick these imperfections from your order.

NOTE - clé does not recommend cherry-picking. it is only suggested to clients that do not prefer the traditional zellige surface which is well-known for these pronounced color variations as well as surface and edge imperfections. without these standard traits your zellige installation will not be traditional.

blending before installation


FOR FLOORS - unbox and lay out all the tiles, first, to blend them exactly as you would like them with even disbursement of color and imperfections.

FOR WALLS - measure each wall surface and recreate this measurement with tape on a nearby surface. then unbox and lay out all the tiles into the measured space in order to blend them exactly as you would like them with even disbursement of color and imperfections.