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You are here because you want a genuine Persian rug that is worth the money you pay for it. This guide will arm you with all the knowledge you need to find the long-lasting, hand-crafted rug you desire.
The most important thing to keep in mind when shopping for a Persian rug is knowing how to tell if the rug is handmade. A handmade rug is superior in quality to anything machine made. Authentic Persian rugs are always made by hand. Buying from a specialized Persian rug dealer will ensure that you are getting a top-quality, genuine Persian rug.
What is a Persian Rug?
Skilled Iranian artisans weave Persian rugs. Persian rugs are one of the most sought-after rugs in the world; being deeply respected for their durability, quality, and beauty. Iran supplies three-quarters of the world's handwoven carpets.
The weaving of Persian rugs is a time-consuming process. A rug can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to complete, depending on the quality and size of the rug.
Persian rugs are usually made of wool, though cotton rugs are also available. A variety of wool is used, including camel hair wool, Manchester wool, and Kork wool. Silk is rarer and less durable, as well as much more expensive.
Production methods of hand woven Persian rugs have not changed much since antiquity. The age-old process of selecting wool, utilizing natural dyes, and hand-weaving symbolic designs make the Persian rug an object of luxury, beauty, and art.
Why Buy A Persian Rug?
There are a few reasons to buy a Persian rug; first of all, a Persian rug is an Eco-friendly choice, because it is hand made with natural materials. Also, a Persian rug will last you decades when properly cared for, and it will only get more beautiful with age. Finally, a Persian rug is an investment, the value will never go down, and may increase significantly with time.
Types of Persian Rugs
There are a few types of rugs labeled as Persian rugs. Some are genuine handmade, others are machine made, and some are vintage collectibles. A machine-made "Persian" rug is not considered authentic.
Genuine hand woven Persian rugs are either hand-knotted, hand-tufted, or flat weave.
Flat woven rugs gain their color and pattern from the weft which is tightly intertwined with the warp. The foundation of these rugs gives them their design, rather than the actual pile. The weft is woven between the warp until a new color is needed, it is then looped back and knotted before a new color is carried in.
Flat woven rugs are reversible and do not have much of a pile. They lie "flat" on the floor. The life expectancy of a flat woven rug is slightly less than a hand-knotted.
The most famous of flat-weaves is called the Kilim. Flat weave is the least costly weaving method.
A stenciled canvas is stretched behind the rug so the design can be traced/punched into the rug with a tool called a tufting gun. After the design is finished, a fabric backing is glued onto the back to hold the rug together. A decorative fringe is then added to give the appearance of a hand knotted rug.
Tufted rugs do not take as much skill or time to create as a knotted rugs, and are therefore less costly. They will rarely wear as well as hand-knotted rugs because the inexpensive latex glue used in their manufacture becomes brittle over time. Also, cheaper grade wool is often used.
The lifetime of a hand tufted rug is about 7 years. Hand-tufted rugs are not seen as an investment because their resale value is equivalent to a machine-made rug of the same size.
Hand-knotted rugs are the best quality rugs you can buy. Each knot is tied by hand by a skilled weaver to create intricate patterns and designs.
When properly cared for, hand-knotted rugs will remain as beautiful as the day they were purchased for twenty or more years, even in high traffic areas.
Hand-knotted rugs are the most expensive, due to the time-consuming process of making them and the durability of the finished product. Hand-knotted rugs will vary in price according to quality of material, knot count, and size.
Many Persian rugs are made using either a horizontal or vertical loom. Rugs produced on horizontal looms are usually small, and the weave quality is inferior to rugs rendered on a professional standing loom.
Nomads in Iran would use horizontal looms that could travel with them. Rugs made in urban areas could be made on large vertical looms.
Hand-knotted rugs from Iran are the highest quality Persian rugs.
The Persian knot is different from that of carpets not made in Iran, and the quality of the wool is also different. Rugs from Turkey, Afghanistan, the Caucasus, Pakistan, India, or Nepal are not considered Persian rugs; they are considered Oriental rugs.
Hand-knotted Persian rugs are designed to last centuries. A genuine Persian carpet will outlive you and your grandchildren.
How to Identify a Genuine Persian Rug
Persian Rug Designs
Persian rugs have a particular layout or design, these designs have been passed down from generation to generation and have changed little throughout history. Particular motifs have different meanings, and these motifs can be used to identify the region where the rug was made.
Persian rugs often feature one of four layout patterns:
- all-over layout
- central medallion layout
- compartment layout
- one-sided layout
The most common types of Persian Motifs:
- Made in northwestern Iran’s Ardabil Province.
- The most common layouts are medallions, all-over octagonal shapes, and multiple connected diamond-shaped medallions.
- The most recognized design is a diamond medallion and small fish throughout.
- Colors include dark red, pink, khaki, light green and cream.
- Named after the city in which they’re made.
- Often feature a large diamond pattern in the center, with smaller ones in the corners.
- Colors include light red, dark blue, bright green.
- The corners are usually ivory or white.
- Small rugs made by nomads living near the border of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran.
- Typical colors used in their various designs are dark blue and red, often combined with dark brown and white.
- Originate from Birjand in Eastern Iran.
- Designs vary, but the main difference these rugs have is that the corners are very detailed.
- Colors used are light reds, intense blues, and ivory.
- These rugs are considered the highest quality.
- Made in Eastern Iran, and are among the highest quality Persian rugs.
- Light blue and cream are the most typical colours used in these rugs.
- Often depict a historical or garden scene.
- Well known for their patterns and smooth structure.
- Newer rugs utilize soft greens, reds, and browns.
- Originate from the Western Iran city of Navahand.
- Feature nomadic and geometric patterns that usually consist of a single medallion set in a background full of small motifs surrounding the medallion.
- Colors used include rich red and khaki over a dark blue background.
What to Consider When Buying A Persian Rug
This is your first step. Consider the amount you want to spend on a new rug. A genuine, hand-knotted Persian rug will cost you at least $500. In the rug world, you get what you pay for, higher quality will cost more.
You need to know where you want to put the rug and what size it needs to be to accommodate the space. The larger the rug, the more expensive it will be. To save on cost, go for the smallest rug you can that will still fit where you want to put it.
Measure the floor (or wall) space you are looking to cover. Think about a minimum size as well as a maximum size for both the length and width.
Persian rugs usually range from 30 to 300 knots per square inch. Rugs that are 30 knots per square inch will be lower quality and have a coarser texture; they will also cost less. Rugs that are 300 knots per square inch are costly but are exceptionally high quality and very thick. The higher the knot density, the more detailed the design can be.
- 30 knots/sq in = very coarse
- 30 - 60 knots/sq in = coarse
- 60 - 130 knots/sq in = medium fine
- 130 - 160 knots/sq in = fine
- 160 - 290 knots/sq in = very fine
- over 20 knots/sq in = extremely fine
Look for upwards of 120 knots per square inch for high quality at a reasonable price.
Type of Wool
Although camel or goats hair can be used, in excess it is undesirable. Although these fibers may add sheen to a carpet, they are tough to dye, and the rug may lose its color faster than if woven with sheep wool.
Kurk wool comes from the neck, belly and underarms of the sheep. This wool is considered the best choice of wool, as it is very fine, thin, and long stapled. Kork wool is ususally reserved for only the finest of weavings. The appearance has almost a dull finish, yet very compact, firm and dense feeling pile.
Hand-Spun or Machine Spun Wool
Rugs are made with either hand-spun or machine-spun wool. Hand-spun wool rugs are considered more valuable. The hand spinning gives a uniqueness to every rug. Machine-spun wool rugs have a more even, uniform look.
Handspun wool is stronger and more textured than machine spun wool. Handspun wool has a noticeable glow, it feels fleecy, and a little oily and soft. It absorbs dye well and takes heavy use.
Synthetic Or Natural Dyes
Natural dyes increase the cost of a rug by about 30%. Natural dyes are considered more authentic and are more sought-after. However, they offer a more limited color variety.
Natural dyes provide a more muted palette, whereas chrome (synthetic) dyes can be brighter and more vivid. Some chemical dyes are more color-fast than vegetable dyes, while some vegetable dyes are more color-fast than chrome dyes.
Synthetic dyes will color very evenly, whereas natural dyes will show minor variance. Avoid "hot" colors such as bright reds, orange and pinks. These are most likely chemical dyes. Natural dyes are earthy and toned down.
We recommend finding rugs that are dyed with natural dyes, as these are better for the environment.
A Persian rug that is over 100 years old is considered antique. A rug that is 50 - 99 years old is seen as semi-antique. Antique Persian rugs are considered to be a collectible and when well-cared for, increase in value over time.
Buying a Persian rug is akin to investing in a timeless art piece, it increases in value over time. If you keep your authentic, high-quality Persian rug in excellent condition, it is possible you could see your piece triple in value over 10-15 years.
Where to Buy A Persian Rug
Would you go to Walmart or Home Depot for an art-piece investment? No, you would not. Big box stores sell mass produced items that have a short lifespan. Their products are meant to look good for a short period, after which they break down or are thrown away. You want quality; you want something that will age gracefully with you.
There are not many brick-and-mortar stores left selling hand-made rugs. Synthetic rugs have flooded the market, and demand for cheap products has grown, pushing authentic rugs out of physical stores.
Do not be afraid to shop online for your authentic Persian rug. As long as you find a reputable online store; you will have a great shopping experience. Online stores that specialize in high-quality, authentic Persian rugs offer you access to a large variety of rugs at different price points.
A reputable online dealer will have a money-back-guarantee. If an online store does not offer a return policy, do not purchase from them. Rugs look different online than they do in your home. You need to be able to see a rug in your space before you can adequately decide if it is right for you.
A good online store will have customer representatives and experts to answer any and all of your questions. Make sure you ask about wool quality, knots per square inch, and country of origin to ensure you are getting the quality you want.
Want to know what Online store fits these criteria?
Based in Montreal and New York since 1996, we have sold millions of rugs to date. Today, eCarpetGallery has become one of North America's most popular home décor e-retailers with an extraordinary collection of traditional and modern rugs.
- One of the most respected online rug retailers
- Free shipping to Canada and the US
- Sell all types of rugs, including high-quality handmade
- 20 years experience
- Affordable prices
- 30 day return policy
I hope this guide has helped you in your search for a genuine Persian rug. Please leave any questions you may have in the comments below, we always answer!
This post was originally published on February 24, 2016.