The Comprehensive Guide to Collecting Oriental Rugs and Carpets

The Comprehensive Guide to Collecting Oriental Rugs and Carpets

Do you think carpets and rugs cannot be collector’s items? Of course, it can be as is evident from the tens of thousands of collectors who have carpets and rugs among their most prized possessions.

The history of carpets and rugs reveals that one of the biggest collectors of
these items was Henry VIII. He had hundreds of rugs in his collection, dominated
by Turkish rugs which are seen in many of his portraits. Other prominent
collectors of rugs were Cornelius Vanderbilt and Sigmund Freud. They displayed
some rugs prominently so that guests and clients could get an excellent view of
these wonderful creations.

Oriental and Persian Carpets – Know the Difference

It is generally assumed by many carpet buyers that all Oriental carpets are the
same and come from the same place. That’s factually wrong. Oriental carpets
and rugs are made in many countries and the most popular ones come from
countries like India, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Tibet, and Pakistan.

On the other hand, Persian rugs are produced exclusively in Persia, which is
known as Iran in the modern era. Persian carpets and rugs are believed by
experts to be of superior quality and are better crafted than most other types of
rugs available on the market. These rugs are reputed and acclaimed for their
detailed and intricate craftsmanship. This is because carpet making stretches
back to more than 2500 years in Persia. The artisans here have a distinctive
experience and expertise in making carpets which results in products that have a
clear stamp of superiority.

Which Oriental Carpets Should I Choose – Handmade or Machine Made?

When you are out in the market shopping for Oriental carpets and rugs, you will
be shown a wide range of products. A few will be handmade, but a large number
of carpets and rugs on display will be machine-made. Which one is better?

While ancient Oriental carpets were all painstakingly made by hand using
traditional weaving tools and methods, in the modern world, handmade carpets
are a rarity. The growing demand for these types of carpets and rugs across the
world has resulted in commercial manufacturing taking precedence over
traditional methods of carpet weaving.

Modern-day carpets are made using mechanical power looms. They are
powered by computers. Machine-made rugs use a variety of materials such as
wool and synthetic fibers. Artificial fibers such as polypropylene, nylon,
polyester, acrylic, and art silk are commonly used in machine-made carpets and
rugs. As they are produced in mass quantity and faster than handmade carpets,
they come cheaper. However, they do not last for as long as traditionally woven
carpets do. Machine-made carpets have zero investment value and are used
solely as decorative pieces to boost aesthetics.

Depending on whether you are buying carpets as collection items or for
home/office decoration, you can choose between handmade and machine-
made carpets. Your budget can also be a deciding factor.

Know Your Knots, Warps, and Wefts

The original form of oriental rugs was created using a traditional loom using
threads of cotton, wool, or silk. The threads called warps were stretched
between two wooden beams placed horizontally and stretched vertically. Rows
of silk, cotton, or wool were passed within the threads in alternation by passing
them over and under each wrap. These are called wefts.

The warp and the weft form the core of almost all types of carpets. Once these
are in place, a third crucial element is introduced by the weaver. They are called
knots and appear as rows in between wefts. Knots are an important matrix of
carpet quality because:

  • The fine quality of a rug is determined by the number of knots.
  • More knots indicate a finer rug with intricate designs and patterns.
  • The knots are clipped uniformly to produce a pile.

This technique has stood the test of time because of the high durability it brings
to carpet and is used even today by modern weavers.

How Are Carpets Classified?

Nearly all ancient carpets and rugs are classified by taking into account the place
of their origin – meaning where they were created. Carpets and rugs were
created in many different places in the early days

  • Woven by hand in the small loom by a nomadic tribe
  • Created in a cottage industry in a local village
  • Produced in a professional setup carpet industry
  • Made in any royal workshop in a city

Types of Carpets:

Royal Carpets
These were premium design carpets made in the 16th and 17th century for use
in the Islamic courts. Royal carpets influenced the carpet designing methods in a
big way. They were popular around the 18 th and 19 th century but there are very
few of these carpets available today.

Tribal Carpets
Tribal carpets were created by the different ethnic groups of those times. These
carpets are also known as nomadic carpets and were created more for the
tribe’s own use and less for commercial considerations. These carpets do not
have any defined length, but the width was always limited to around eight feet,
which is the standard size of the loom on which these carpets were made.

Village Carpets
Village carpets were created in well-settled environments such as villages. The
loom for weaving the carpets was set up within the homes of the weavers.
Village carpets did not follow any pre-design and were generally created by
recalling the design by memory by the women who wove them.

This made each carpet different as they had minor errors and design mistakes.
This was seen as a value-enhancer, as every carpet had the stamp of
authenticity and uniqueness. They were moved to the market located near the
villages. The carpet was known by the name of that village and was sold either
to a local buyer or a carpet merchant for export.

Town Carpets
Town carpets, as the name indicates, are those that were made in the leading
carpet making cities of those times. These workshops were established in the
19 th century to meet the growing demand for authentic carpets of the Western
markets. Town carpets consisted of finely woven, premium quality rugs and

A famous workshop of these times was called Kashan of the famed weaver Hajji
Mollah Hassan Mohtasham. His carpets were unique as they stood apart for the
harmony of their design and color combinations. The carpets have the symbolic

purple silk finish that held each side of the cord. Lanolin was liberally used in
these carpets.

Ziegler Carpets
The demand for Persian carpets was at its peak around 1883. This led to a
Manchester-based firm Ziegler & Co launching its own factory to meet the
demand and deliver the unending stream of orders. The first factory was
launched in the district of Sultanabad, West Persia.

Ikat Carpets
These types of rugs and carpets are identified by their unique design pattern. It
is achieved by dyeing and over-dyeing the threads. It is aimed at creating more
color variations and an intense depth. Some of these Ikat designs may have a
historical connection or significance. But generally, they are influenced by
aesthetic needs. As Ikat rugs and carpets have a lower knot count, they are less
expensive than other high-end rugs.

Bokhara Rugs
This Oriental rug has its origins in the historic Bukhara, which is today’s
Uzbekistan. There is a robust carpet-making industry still active in Uzbekistan,
but Bokhara rugs are made in many other countries as well.

Bokhara rugs stand apart because of their asymmetrical knot counts. The pricing
is also based on the number of knots in the carpet. Some key aspects of Bokhara
rugs are classic colors, oval-shaped motifs, and a neat, clutter-free background
which are absent in other Oriental rugs. Red is the dominant color in Bokhara
rugs with hints and traces of gray, ivory, green, and rose also interspersing the
red threads.

Kilim Rugs
The name comes from the Persian word Gelim which means spreading roughly.
Kilim rugs stand apart because of their unique and linear designs. It is common
to find rugs having squares, straight lines, and rectangles as designs on Kilim
rugs. They are crafted using a flat weave. This makes the rugs less plush than
other forms of Oriental rugs and carpets. Kilim rugs are generally bold in color.
The colors used include deep gold, navy blue, red, and forest green.

The other types of Oriental rugs you can look for while shopping for the best
ones are:

  • Baluchi
  • Gabbeh
  • Heriz
  • Kazak
  • Khan Mamdi
  • Shairwan
  • Qashqai

What To Look For While Buying Carpets

One of the key factors to consider while buying carpets is their design. It must
be well-spaced, and there should a sense of visible balance in the design.
Another important factor is the materials used. Clarity is another vital element.
If these factors are missing or not very prominent, then the carpet is unlikely to
catch attention or create the desired impact.

Persian carpets are rugs are crafted using a single type of fiber. They either use
wool, cotton, or silk. And one type of fiber is never mixed with any other in the
same carpet. Also, you will never find synthetic fibers such as jute, nylon, acrylic,
or polypropylene in authentic Persian carpets.

The following designs are generally seen in all authentic carpets crafted in
Persia. They are:

Carpets with a Central Medallion
The center of the carpet has a circular, oval design which is in contrast with the
design of the rest of the carpet. The medallion can be a geometric design, an
animal pattern, text, or even a blank space.

Carpets with Patterns All Over

A geometric or floral pattern that is repeated across the entire length and
breadth of the carpet is another common design pattern seen in Persian carpets.

Carpets with Compartment Designs
The compartment design is similar to the all-over design because it follows the
repeating pattern process. The artisan may use geometric or floral designs all
over the carpet but in the shape of a patchwork. Each compartment is shaped
like a diamond, square, or even as an interlocked design.

Carpets with Asymmetrical Pattern
In this type of design, the patterns are different on each half of the rug when
seen lengthwise. However, there is symmetry between each half.

The Use of Dyes In Ancient Carpets
Antique carpets stand apart as they are made using hand-spun yarns that are
dyed naturally. It is almost impossible to recreate the unique patterns and
subtle design elements on carpets made using synthetic dyes.

The use of synthetic dyes in carpet marking began around the 1860s. They are
not regarded as of good quality as they are conspicuous by the absence of soft
hues and natural appearance that natural dyes impart. Synthetic dyes also fade
over time. That’s why such carpets do not find favor among collectors and
connoisseurs of carpets.

Why Colors Are Important:
Some colors are considered rare in the field of carpet making and are hence in
demand. These include Tyrian purple, saffron yellow, specific shades of green,
and cochineal rose. How to tell if a carpet is woven using natural colors or
synthetic dyes? Look for tonal changes within the color. There will be visible
bands of slight variations in carpets with natural colors as each yarn is dipped in
a freshly prepared batch and hence bound to have slight variations in the
absence of any standardization in the dye-making process.

Wear And Tear – Signs of Genuineness?

Antique carpets require careful handling and lots of care. The general rule is that
some amount of restoration is acceptable for rugs and carpets of a certain age.
The focus of collectors is on artistic merit and rareness of the carpet while

accepting that perfection and finishing will be rarely seen in antique pieces. A
rug that has undergone multiple restorations or poorly restored can lose value.
It is better to leave the natural wear and tear visible.

The carpet’s value will also be affected adversely by factors such as chemical
washing, staining, reduction in size, and fading due to extreme exposure to the

If you prefer carpets made of silk fibers, you must note that they are highly
fragile when compared to other materials and hence more prone to wear and
tear. They are also cannot withstand extreme humidity. If silk carpets are dried
improperly, the fibers can become dry and brittle. This can cause splits to
appear at random places. If you follow the basic rules of carpet caring and
maintenance, they can last a lifetime provided the carpet is made of quality
fibers and crafted by expert hands.

Caring For Your Carpets:

Carpets need proper and regular cleaning and maintenance. It is always better
to let a professional carpet cleaner handle the cleaning part instead of trying it
yourself. Regular cleaning done in a proper manner can keep your carpet in
great shape for long.

It is important to clean carpets regularly. This can be done using simple hoover
with light setting. However, for carpets that require a more thorough cleaning, it
is better to let a professional carpet cleaner handle the task.

Storage of Carpets:
There is an established way of storing carpets. Follow these steps and you will
be able to handle them more conveniently.

  • Roll carpets up from the bottom with the pile facing inside
  • Silk carpets must be rolled with the pile facing outside as it will not put pressure on the foundation
  • Always roll and never fold a carpet. Folding can result in the formation of lines and carpets may crack along those lines over time.

One of the most common problems associated with poorly stored carpets is the
damage inflicted by insects and water. Check regularly for mold and mildew
formation by unrolling the carpets.

Where To Buy From?

When you begin your search for the best Oriental carpets online, you will come
across hundreds of resources. Look for a name with a long-standing reputation
and experience. One name that stands apart is Istanbul Rug. The premier rug
distributor is the favorite of many people looking to buy Oriental carpets and
rugs as an investment or for decorating their homes and commercial
establishments. The company’s showroom has moved from San Francisco to Bay
Bridge in Berkeley and offers one of the largest collections of exquisite 19 th and
20 th -century handmade carpets and rugs.

Istanbul Rug is also a dependable and highly acclaimed resource for buying
authentic Oriental, Modern, or French design rugs. Customers can look forward
to a wonderful and highly satisfying shopping experience, thanks to the valuable
suggestions and tips offered by the establishment’s carpet experts.