Diatoms are in focus as biological materials for a range of photonic applications. Many of theseapplications would require embedding a multitude of diatoms in a matrix (e.g. paint, crème or lacquer); however, most studies on the photonic and spectral properties of diatoms frustules (silica walls) havebeen carried out on single cells. In this study, for the first time, we test the spectral properties of layersof frustules of three diatom species (Coscinodiscus granii, Thalassiosira punctifera and Thalassiosira pseudonana), with special focus on transmission and reflectance in the UV range. The transmittance efficiency in the UV A and B range was: T. pseudonana (56–59%) >C. granii (53–54%) >T. punctifera (18–21%) for the rinsed frustules. To investigate the underlying cause of these differences, we performed X-ray scattering analysis, measurement of layer thickness and microscopic determination of frustule nanostructures. We further tested dried intact cells in the same experimental setup. Based on the sedata we discuss the relative importance of crystal structure properties, nanostructure and quantity of material on the spectral properties of diatom layers. Characterization of the UV protection performance of layers of diatom frustules is of central relevance for their potential use as innovative bio-based UV filters.