Last month, I spent my vacation in the heart of the Amazon jungle, thousands of miles from the nearest major city. It was my chance to get away from phones, computers, e-mail, and all the other trappings of civilization. Much to my surprise, there was one part of my job that I could not escape, even in this remote locale - tile. Strolling the streets of the quaint city of Iquitos, Peru, the capital of the jungle region of Peru known as Loreto province, I was amazed by all the beautiful ceramic tiles covering the building facades of the city’s historic buildings. How on earth did these stunning tiles end up here?

After conducting my own research, I found out that these buildings dated back to the rubber boom of the early 19th century. Innovative entrepreneurs had settled near a small mission at the headwaters of the mighty Amazon River in search of fortune from the area’s vast natural resources, especially rubber and timber.

The beautiful, hand-painted ceramic tiles I had been admiring were brought by the rubber barons from Portugal to enhance their buildings and give them a fashionable, European look. The amazing part is that although these tiles are originals, they are still stunning after more than 150 years of exposure to torrential rain, blazing sun and oppressive humidity.

The amazing performance of these tiles under harsh conditions is testament to the outstanding beauty and durability of ceramic tile. There is simply no other surface that could endure this environment and retain its beauty so well. Even more amazing is that tile’s durability and versatility continues to evolve each year.

Today’s technical porcelain tiles boast much lower water absorption than traditional red-bodied glazed ceramic tiles, making them nearly impervious to extreme temperatures and humidity. Large format ceramic tiles are being used in applications where tiles have not been used before, such as exterior cladding systems where their lower weight and superior technical characteristics make them an attractive alternative for more conventional materials, such as natural stone.

Innovative new technologies, such as slip-resistant finishes that activate in the presence of water, make tile a natural choice for high-traffic floors in commercial applications. New glazing and pressing technologies allow tile to mimic the texture and color of virtually any type of surface, from wood and stone to metals, glass and textiles.

All of these technologies, along with other new innovations, will be showcased in October at Cersaie in Italy - the world’s largest tile trade show. Each year that I attend Cersaie, I’m amazed by the innovative and beautiful tile designs, and I can’t wait to see what’s new this year. Undoubtedly, some of these new tile designs will be found gracing buildings centuries from now, still looking as beautiful as the day they were installed.