Persian Area Rugs | A Brief History of Persian Rugs

Monday August 24, 2009
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The fine art of making some of the world’s most beautiful carpets and rugs has evolved through the centuries in Persia, now known as Iran. It continues today though to a lesser degree, as traditional Persian area rugs are painstakingly hand-made. Nonetheless, genuine Persian carpets and rugs still command astronomical prices. Many people invest in carpets and rugs that are referred to as Iran’s stocks and shares. Today the term “Persian” is rather loosely used and is intended to signify oriental carpets made anywhere from Turkey in the West to China in the East and almost all countries in-between like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and India. It would take an expert in rugs to tell the origin of a real Persian area rug.

The art of making fine rugs is traditional and has been handed down from father to son. In the old days, making a rug was a labor of love that involved the whole family. Some area rugs were so intricate that it took a family as much as a year or two to make. In the heyday of the Empire when Britain held sway in most of the Middle East, a buyer from the leading British stores like Harrods, Selfridges etc., would travel once a year going into the hostile, mountainous interior of many countries to buy Persian rugs. In certain countries he would commission a family to make a rug of a particular complexity and would give the family an advance to keep them fed for a year till he next visited to collect.

There are three major classifications of Persian rugs – Farsh, Qalicheh and Kilim. Of these, there are several sub-types generally according to the cities or regions where they are made. There are still further classifications depending on design, fabric and the weaving technique employed.

The essence of oriental rugs is that they are all knotted with different types of knots. The rugs of some areas are distinguished by an asymmetric Persian knot while in others the Turkish symmetrical knot is used. Other less common knots are the Spanish and Jufti knots. Another feature of an oriental rug is the natural fibers that are used in its manufacture, primarily of wool, silk and linen. Silk is by far the most expensive and delicate, hence silk rugs are used more as tapestries.

Persian rugs have very ornate patterns. Most common are floral themes though they might depict landscapes, mythological figures and historic scenes. A few are made to a purely geometric design that is repetitive and hence requires a keen eye for detail to retain the symmetry of line.

Antique Persian rugs is big business where large sums of money are invested in beautiful rugs that might be as old as two to three hundred years. It requires a special expertise to dabble in antique rugs as some unscrupulous dealers are not beyond fast-track aging their products to enhance the price.

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