The Rug Renaissance Part 1
Americans and Europeans of a certain stripe have been in love with Oriental rugs for over a century.
But we have preferred old rugs to new. Nearly all collectors and many home decorators have perceived a beauty in the soft colors and polished wool of rugs that have been walked upon for decades, and they have found new Oriental rugs too bright.
Before the twentieth century, Americans imported old rugs almost exclusively, and began to buy new rugs only when the supply of good old pieces in the Middle East was exhausted.
No doubt our preference for old rugs was merely a cultural prejudice. The people who made them preferred the cheerful colors of new rugs. But as the twentieth century wore on, Americans seemed to have more grounds for their prejudice, because over the early and middle decades of the century weavers gradually abandoned the use of their traditional, vegetal dyestuffs and substituted synthetic dyes of poor quality.
Certain early synthetics quickly faded into nothingness (from purple to almost no color for instance), others bled when exposed to water, and some colors never lost an irritating, overly bright quality… and never will. By shortly after World War II, for all purposes, natural dyes in Oriental rugs were a thing of the past. The only way one could own a rug was to inherit it or buy an old one Of course, as the quality of new rugs declined, the cost of new rugs began to rise.
As the twentieth century progressed, rugs showed a decline in quality far beyond their loss of natural dyes.
In the disruption of two world wars, traditional designs and techniques associated with certain villages and tribes disappeared. In fact, the rug production of whole countries was lost to the West because of political conditions. For many years, for instance, the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West deprived us of Caucasian and many Turkmen rugs, and hostilities between the West and China made new Chinese carpets unavailable.