Oriental Rugs vs Persian Rugs
There is a common misconception that Persian Rugs make up the vast majority of the Oriental Rug Market, and that Persian Rugs are superior in quality to those made in other countries. Contrary to popular belief, this is not the case. The rugs from countries like India, Pakistan, China, etc. can be just as good or better than rugs made in Iran. Currently, there is an embargo against Persian Rugs due to the sanctions imposed on Iran. This page contains educational material on Persian Rugs and their differences compared to Oriental Rugs from other countries.
Persian rugs have traditionally been considered the most expensive and easily re-saleable of all oriental rugs, and allowing for a few notable exceptions (usually older and more collectable items from different parts of the world)
The best pre-world war two Persian rugs were often some of the finest rugs available. One can only look at Persian court carpets of the 16th century (woven for royal courts with no regard to expense) in amazement. However, starting in the 1950s the great demand of prosperous American consumers for Persian carpets resulted in diluting of quality in order to meet demand. This trend has not reversed.
Persian rugs still possess an undoubted mystique, and are generally more expensive than those from other countries, but price differentials have been steadily eroding, and they are now generally cheaper in comparison to rugs from other countries than they have been for decades.
This is partly due to the relative costs of production and the public’s growing recognition that other countries can make good rugs but perhaps the main reason is simply that the output of workshops has increased dramatically in recent years. There are now approximately 2 million more weavers operating in Persia than there were during the time of the late Shah, and, even if this trend is reversed, existing stocks are large enough to keep the Western markets more than adequately supplied for a decade or so. This is not to say that fine pieces are no longer produced–I love some of the new persian naturally dyed tribal pieces and the best of city carpets (containing high knot densities and stunning detail). But, they are a miniscule percentage of what is produced. Moreover, the price of many new persian rugs is obscene and unwarranted. Consequently, the traditionally high resale value of Persian workshop rugs can no longer be automatically guaranteed, though the finest examples are still likely to retain their value. It is advisable, if you are looking for an investment, to buy the best. In contrast, the production of village and nomadic rugs has generally decreased, and the investment potential of better quality items is probably far more secure now than in the past.
No longer can it be said that the “best of the best” rugs are Persian.
Any given rug producing country (Iran/Persia included) offers inferior rugs that I wouldn’t dream of selling, beautiful rugs of solid quality, and the truly extraordinary. If you’re looking for an investment quality piece- purchase the best of the best, without consideration of origin.
If you are interested in purchasing a Persian Rug, stop by Ageless Rug Treasures to view our extensive inventory!
We have the finest Persian Rugs in town and are commonly recognized as the highest quality Persian Rug Store.
What is a Persian rug?
By definition a Persian rug was woven in the land of Persia, now modern day Iran.
Today the term Persian rug is often used to denote any hand-knotted oriental rug, regardless if it comes from Persia (Iran) or not. Persian rug designs are woven in a number of countries. How long have Persian rugs been woven?
We know that Persian rugs were being woven during the reign of emperor Cyrus the Great of Persia.
That being said, Persian weaving undoubtedly began far prior to being noted historically.
What kinds of Persian rugs exist? I’d like to divide them into three categories.
Tribal rugs are woven by various Persian tribes (like the Navajo or Hopi in the U.S.).
The weavers are exclusively women and their rugs exist for personal use or to sell. Often (and certainly historically) the rugs are dyed with natural dyestuffs (indigo for blue, the root of the madder plant for red, saffron for yellow or gold, etc.). Both the pile and foundation of these rugs are wool. While the rugs do not have high knot densities their beauty lies in their simplicity and glowing colors. They can be every bit as valuable as intricate Persian rugs with a great number of knots per square inch.
A second category would be village rugs. As per the name, these Persian rugs are woven in villages by a family or several families. They typically have higher not densities than tribal rugs but not as much so as city carpets.
Village rugs largely have geometric designs.
They’re not always (in fact rarely are) perfectly symmetric in design. This is not considered a fault, in fact it adds to the character of them. There’s no way you would confuse them with a machine-made!
A third category of Persian rugs are city rugs. They are woven in ateliers in cities.
Weaving is closely overseen and the designs are expected to be symmetric, exacting, and highly detailed.
When most people think of Persian rugs they are thinking of city rugs. These rugs have piles of wool or silk. They can have hundreds or even thousands of knots per square inch. The supreme examples of city rugs are the Persian rugs woven for royal courts in the sixteenth century. The royal courts demanded the best and were not concerned with cost. Because of them (and equally impressive weaving in other parts of the world) the sixteenth century is often known as the golden age of weaving.
Weaving region: Iran
Categories produced: masterworkshop, workshop, village, and nomadic
For many people, the terms ‘Persian Rug’ and ‘Oriental Rug’ are the same.
Persia is seen as the spiritual, if not actual, home of rug-making and its name has become synonymous with some of the finest and most outstanding achievements in oriental textile art.
Much of this is due to the magnificent Court carpets of the 16th and 17th centuries which grace Western museums, and the 18th and 19th century masterpieces to be found in royal palaces and stately homes throughout the world.
Yet these intricate and highly sophisticated masterworks are only a part of a rug-making tradition that encompasses the entire spectrum of the weaver’s art.
Persia is exceptional in the number and variety of weaving groups.
No other country can boast the same range of masterworkshop, workshop, village, and nomadic rugs, and none even come close to the diversity of Persian design.
It is therefore hardly surprising that Persian compositions have not only been reproduced in countless machine-made carpets in the West, but also emulated by most other rug-producing countries in the East. Today most oriental rugs- whether from Pakistan, India, or the Balkans- are based on Persian designs, and even China, with its own ancient and unique heritage, is now producing rugs with Persian schemes.
Pahlavi Rugs- Special mention must be made of these masterworkshop and workshop items made in a handful of weaving centers from the 1930′s onwards, and generally considered to be among the most technically accomplished rugs ever made.
When the late Shah’s father came to power in 1924, he began a program of sponsorship aimed at elevating the Persian rug industry to levels not seen since the Golden Age in the 16th and 17th centuries. The term Pahlavi should only be applied to items made under royal commission, but in practice it is used for any rug made from these weaving centers produced in Pahlavi style.
Some fun facts about Persian rugs:
* Persian rugs are said to date back 2,500 years and Persian rugs remain a big export earner and employer, with foreign sales of $635 million in 2005, most Persian rugs being hand-woven, according to the state Persian Carpet Company.
* Persian rugs are made of wool, silk or cotton, or a combination of the three
It can take weavers of Persian rugs months or even years to make a large, top-quality persian carpet with intricate floral and other designs. Some Persian rugs use natural dyes derived from plants, the weavers of Persian rugs are traditionally women.
* Famous Persian rug regions include the northwestern province of East Azerbaijan, Isfahan in central iran (formerly Persia) and Kerman in the country’s southeast. Persian rugs have different styles regionally. Prices for Persian rugs can range from a few hundred to many millions of U.S. dollars.
* Flying, or magical, Persian carpets have long been the stuff of legend and literature in the Middle East, famously featuring in the tales in One Thousand and One Nights believed to have been collected in the 9th century.
* The Iran Carpet Company in July claimed to have made the world’s largest hand-woven Persian carpet: at 5,600 sq metres, for a large mosque in the United Arab Emirates. Containing more than 2 billion Persian knots, it took weavers two years to make and is reportedly valued at $5.8 million.
* A 17th century Persian rug sold for over $30,000,000 at Sotheby’s in 2013.
* Silk Persian rugs can have as many as 1,200 knots per square inch.
* Silk Persian rugs almost invariably sell for thousands of dollars, regardless of size.
* Qum, Isphahan, and Tabriz are cities best well known for Persian silk rugs.
* Persian silk rugs are made with true silk, not faux silk as sometimes found in rugs from other countries
* Silk as used in Persian silk rugs is extremely strong. Were a strand to be the diameter of a pen it could lift a jumbo jet.
* A 400 year old Persian silk rug sold for $4,450,500 at Christie’s auction house.