SO YOU WANT TO BUY A PERSIAN RUG ?Historically Carpet Sellers have a Reputation for Dishonesty !
In many European countries to call someone a carpet dealer is intended as a slur on their integrity and, unfortunately, many modern day dealers in, so called, Persian Carpets, continue this tradition of deceit as if by right.
Through more than a Century of Miss Use the words Persian Rug have become a Generic Term to mean virtually any hand made rug and sometimes any rug with a curvilinear design, often even machine made and for the Unwary and Uninformed buying a so called Persian Rug will usually result in disappointment. A Persian Rug must be Hand made and it Must come from Iran to bare this name. But do not be deceived into thinking that the best and most valuable hand made rugs come only from Iran.
If you are interested in obtaining a Persian or other Hand Knotted or Hand Woven Carpet for your floor it is Necessary to do some Research before making a purchase and to have At Least Some Idea of what you are buying as, unless you deal with someone who has a long history of research and specialty in the field, even the sellers will not know anything about the rugs they offer accept what is written on the ticket by the exporter. AND ANYONE who has TRAVELED ANYWHERE in the Middle East, Far East or Asia KNOWS that it is NOT SENSIBLE to BELIEVE what you are told about ANYTHING, especially where money is concerned.
It is Imperative to have Some Way of Classifying Hand Made Rugs and Carpets before any Credible Description can be given or understood and it is also necessary to know in which geographic region they were made as well as the heritage of the makers.
Any Knowledgeable and Honest Dealer will Classify their Rugs by the Long Accepted Method of the Manner of Their Creation.
Those Made in a Traditional Tribal Situation From Hand Spun Wool from the Tribes Own Sheep, On Horizontal Looms, Virtually Always Portable Due to Migratory Concerns and Using Design Motifs and Styles Passed Down from Mother to Daughter. Most Tribal Rugs Have a Hand Spun Wool Warp and Weft with a Wool Pile. In the Early 20th Century some Tribal Groups Like the Afshar and Bakhtiar in Iran began a semi-nomadic existence due to government intervention in their lifestyle and some of their output up until the 1950s is still credible and can be classified as Tribal even though it is made on cotton warps. Other examples of Tribal Carpets are Turkoman (Sub Groups Ersari, Tekke, Beshir, Yomud), Baluch, Kashkay, Khamsah and Kurd.
Late 19th Century Yomud Turkoman Hatchli or Engsi Circa 1880.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A NEW TRIBAL RUG. No Present Day Tribal Group has the Capacity to Live in a Traditional Environment and to Produce Rugs in a Traditional Manner so if you ever see a rug Described as a Tribal Rug which is New or Created in the Last Twenty Years you Know it is MISS DESCRIBED. There have been some programs among some tribal groups to encourage them to continue creating rugs but these are NOT TRIBAL RUGS as they are created under sub-contract conditions and the necessary evolution of design and weaving style has been broken and lost. Most look nothing like an Authentic Tribal Rug from the group.
Late 19th Century Turkoman Ersari Beshir Jollar, Storage Bag Face
Some Tribal Groups in Afghanistan Continued to Spontaneously Create Traditional Rugs Until the Late 1970’s but New Rugs From Afghanistan are Created in Workshops and are ONLY COPIES of Traditional Tribal Carpets. Some Rare Kurdish Groups survived until the Same Time but these Tribes were so poor and lacking in wool and skills that their output was very mediocre.
If you want to own a Genuine Tribal Rug it is Necessary to Look at Rugs Made Before 1960, some Afghan examples until the Late 1970s, and in the case of Iranian Tribal Groups, Prior to 1940 and even then some will be copies. The Best and Most Desirable Tribal Rugs from Any Tribe or Region were made Prior to 1910 and Utilised All Vegetable Dyes. They are Unmistakable and Irreplaceable.
Be aware that many dealers call Rugs Tribal When they are Mass Produced in a Workshop Environment and do not even include a Genuine Tribal Design. Nearly All Tribal Rugs will be asymmetrical in shape to some degree due to having been made on a horizontal loom which has been moved during the knotting or weaving process and virtually NONE will be in as new condition unless they have been in the hands of collectors or museums for many years.
Historically Village Rugs were Produced in a Number of Regions of Iran, the Caucasus and Turkey in the Homes of the Weavers and Using Designs and Knotting Styles Handed Down Through Generations. Each Village had its Dye Master and this Skill was also Passed Down through the family. This Evolution of Design Styles and Colours is the way in which they can be Dated.
Early 19th Century Ghiordes Village Rug from Western Turkey Circa 1800
During the 19th Century European designers and dealers had some input into style and size and Many Famous Persian Village Rugs (Those Made in Villages in Iran) have Been Named by these Designers, for Instance the Ziegler Mahal, a very rare and Valuable Example of this Type of European Influenced Village Carpet. Unfortunately this change in design made the rugs into Workshop Produced carpets rather than true village rugs. Other Well Known Village Rugs from Iran are Heriz, including Gorevan and Karaja, Hamadan, including Senneh, Tuisarkhan and Mazlaghan. Village Rugs from Turkey include Konya, Sivas, Ghiordes, Kirsehir, Melas, Mudjur and Ladik.
Daghes tan Prayer Rug, Caucasus Mountains, Mid 19th Century
The other Rare and Highly Desirable Group of Village Made Rugs were created in the remote Regions of the Caucasus Mountains. A Genuine and Authentic Caucasian Village Rug MUST have been Created Prior to 1930 and the Most Highly Regarded Prior to 1900. Most Rugs made in the Caucasus after 1930 were Organised Production in either sub contract village or workshop situations. Some Examples are Kazak, Shirvan, Kuba and Karabagh. In Armenia many village dwelling weavers continued to create kilims in traditional design and style until well into the sixties and these are usually described by the name of the village where they came from.
Hamadan Village Rug, West Iran, Turn of the 20th Century.
From the 1960s Production of Village Rugs in All Areas became organised and weavers were supplied with looms, patterns and pre-dyed wool so little individuality was possible. Some new rugs are still produced in a village situation but the output shows little credibility and the payment and working conditions of weavers is very poor. Credible Village Made Rugs Must Have Been Created Prior to 1970 and Most Prior to the Second World War. Those made Prior to 1910 are Very Rare and Highly Sought After.
Those Made in a Workshop Situation where in Recent Times Designs are Created by Western Markets and Graphed so the Individual Colours Can be Knotted Across the Warps to Create the Design. This Knotting Arrangement is Often Broadcast to the Workers in the form of Two Reds, Three Blues, One Yellow etc and Weavers, Nearly Always Young Women and Sometimes even Children, are forced to hand knot these Colours at this pre-arranged recorded speed for hours at a time to create the carpets and there can be up to 1000 looms in one workshop with up to four weavers working on each rug.
These Workers are Extremely Poor, Many Have to Work in very Basic Conditions and they receive a pittance for their labours. These Workshop Produced Rugs are Sometimes operated by Unscrupulous People and so Created in Virtual Slave Labour Situations where the poor weavers have no choice but to work under these conditions or starve. These hand made Workshop carpets are The Most Commonly Found and Most Often Miss Represented Rugs in so called Persian Rug Shops Everywhere.
Most Workshop Rugs can be Recognised by The Name and Any Rug with a City name like Kerman, Nain, Tabriz, Isfahan etc is a Workshop Rug. BUT Recently, with workshops creating very poor copies of traditional Afghan and Caucasian designs, many rugs Dishonestly Called by Traditional Tribal and Village names are Workshop Products.
These workshops came into being in the mid 19th Century when the European designers found village rugs they thought they could market and arranged to have them mass produced – see the Mahal example in the Village Rug Section. Over the Last Forty Years Rugs Produced in these Situations have increased enormously and the Vast Majority of ALL NEW Hand Made RUGS are Created in This Manner.
The Rugs are then marketed by some pseudo design name often based on an old Tribe or Village to Gullible Buyers who know nothing about the production or history of Genuine Oriental Rugs. So if you buy a New Hand Made Rug you must take Extreme Care and do Adequate research to Know What You are Really Buying otherwise you may be responsible for the exploitation of weavers and the terrible working conditions and lifestyle many of them have as well as buying a very POOR IMITATION of a Genuine Tribal or Village Rug.
Workshop Rugs are made Now in Pakistan, Iran, India, China, Morocco, Turkey - Kayseri is the historic centre of workshop production there -and Other Third World or Eastern European regions.
Many Early Persian Workshop Carpets, usually made prior to 1960 and these only in small numbers and in special conditions where artisans were trained and nurtured in their skills in exchange for a better living standard, are Highly Collectable now and, once adequate research has been done, these will be easy to recognise.
HAND KNOTTED NAIN SILK PILE RUG 1970s
Identification of this rug can only be accurately assessed by studying the weaving style and structure.
MAIN WEAVING REGIONS
The Main Regions where Rugs have Traditionally Been Hand Knotted or Woven are Iran, Turkey, Bessarabia, Turkestan, Morocco and Other Magrebian Countries, Afghanistan, the Caucasus and Tibet. Other Countries where Hand Knotting and Weaving Has and Does Take Place are India, Nepal, China, Roumania and Poland.
TYPES OF HAND KNOTTING
Two Major Types of Knots are Used to Tie the Pile to the Warps in Hand Knotted Rugs. They are the Symmetrical Knot and the Asymmetrical Knot.
This is a Close up of a page in My Book so no Copyright is breached.
Many dealers state the amount of knots per square inch in rugs they offer for sale. In most cases the figure they give is inaccurate and in it is common for dealers to call one symmetrical knot two knots as they can count both sides when showing a customer the knot count. Also the amount of knots per square inch has NOTHING to do with a rugs durability. As an example a loosely woven rug from Pakistan may have 150 knots per square inch but it is knotted from inferior quality wool, often recycled pullovers which include synthetics imported from charities in the west and respun then hand knotted into a rug in extremely bad conditions. Where as a genuine Hamadan village rug from the 1940s will have only 60 knots per square inch and last on the floor in any household situation for over 100 years.
A NOTE ON KNOTTING DENSITY
As a guide:
Less than 5% of all hand knotted rugs EVER created have a knot count of more than 200 per square inch and at least half of these have been made in the last 30 years from poor quality wool in very bad conditions for the people who make them.
Tribal Rugs will usually have a knot count of between 40 and 100 per square inch.
Village rugs will usually have a knot count of between 40 and 120 per square inch
So if someone tells you they are selling a Hamadan rug which has 200 knots per square inch you will know they are lying about the origin of the rug or the amount of knots.
SOME WEAVING STYLES IN KILIMS – FLAT WOVEN RUGS
Slit Woven Tapestry: The dyed weft threads are used to create the pattern, woven under and over alternate warps until the design demands a different colour. At this point another weft is begun and the different coloured area woven, but the closest the colours get is adjacent warp threads and there remains a small gap in the rug where the design colours meet.
Slit Woven Tapestry Kilim, Konya, Central Turkey Circa 1870 photo from our Book, "Antique Turkish Rugs".
Floating Weft Brocade: The weft threads appear on the front of the rug where they are necessary in the design, usually only being woven through small numbers of warps, then they “float” on the back of the kilim and the next colour is woven through the warps. Floating weft kilims usually have patterns designed in stripes from 2 to 20cm wide which are filled with finely detailed motifs. These design stripes are separated by plain weave areas.
Soumak: Fine design details are also achieved by a method of weft wrapping known as soumak. The coloured wefts always cover two warps and are then looped behind one of these warps before covering the next two. The pattern is created by weaving small areas with different colours and the loose weft threads from these small areas are left hanging at the back of the rug.
Cicim: Cicim is a Turkish word and is used to described the Extra Weft Brocade technique of weaving where the design is created by using Extra Wefts of different colours on a plainweave base. This technique is known a Zile when found in Caucasian Kilims.
Detail Cicim Weave, Balikesir, West Turkey, Last Quarter 19th Century. Photo from our book, "Antique Turkish Rugs"
DO NOT BELIEVE THESE THINGS ON EBAY
If a Rug is worth $2500 NO ONE can afford to sell it for $250 that alone $1 so the Seller will use their employees or friends accounts to bid on it and falsely inflate the price or he will sell it for $250 BECAUSE IT IS WORTH $250 NOT $2500.
NEW TRIBAL RUG There is NO SUCH THING as a NEW TRIBAL RUG
ALL VEGETABLE DYES. Unless a Rug was Made in 1910 or before it is Highly Unlikely to Have Vegetable Dyes. There are Very Few New or Modern Rugs with Genuine Vegetable Dyes. NO VEGETABLE DYE can create a bright pink, bright green or bright orange and it is easy to recognise vegetable dyes once you have visited a Specialist Dealer who sells Credible Antique Rugs – Not a “Persian Rug Dealer” with a “90% Off Sale”.
ANTIQUE RUG 30 YEARS OLD. An Antique Rug Must be OLDER than 30 years Old. It is accepted that 100 years is the age of an Antique but with rugs, it is agreed by most dealers that due to rarity of some examples which were made up to the 1930s in some cases the 1940s, they are eligible to be called Antiques.
RARE WORKSHOP PRODUCED OR CITY NAMED RUG
No Workshop Produced Rug Made After 1960 Can be Rare as they are Mass Produced in Human Factories so to Call Something a New Rare Nain, Tabriz, Heriz etc is a Contradiction in Terms. Be Aware Also that Virtually ALL NEW HAND MADE RUGS, no matter how the dealer describes them, are MADE IN A WORKSHOP.
How can an Illiterate, Subsistence Level Worker Sign a Rug ?
If a Modern Rug has an Inscription it is knotted into the rug as part of the design. Usually the Script is indecipherable and Even if it is in the form of actual Farsi Letters it will be a brand or factory name like Hills Hoist or Myers. It is not a signature and it is definitely not the signature of the maker.
ADVICE TO POTENTIAL BUYERS
READ SOME BOOKS
If you want to buy a Hand Made Rug make sure you read a few books on the subject before you visit a shop or start searching on ebay. There are many books in libraries and book shops on the subject.
Some Good Basic Guides are:
Ian Bennett – Rugs and Carpets of the World.
Nicolas Fokker - Persian and Other Oriental Carpets for Today.
Jon Thomson - Carpets from the Tents, Cottages and Workshops of Asia
Peter Winch – A Guide to Oriental Rugs, copyright 1991. Now available in CD versian.
Peter and Wivine Winch - Antique Turkish Rugs, copyright 2013. Available on Ebay
SEARCH THE INTERNET
Turkotek is a great non commercial site for research. Tons of archived information and a question and answer section.
Spongo Bongo is a large and useful site on the net to learn about specific rug types.
STARTING A COLLECTION
If you decide you want to have GENUINE Rugs and Begin a Collection then focus your research on a particular field say Turkoman, Caucasian, Baluch or Turkish Village Rugs, realise that many will be worn and that they will be hard to find as ALL will need to be OLD. Begin your search in credible outlets where the sellers know what they are selling and do not have a shop full of reduced price new rugs, and finally learn how to recognise the types of rugs you want to collect.
A collection can be focused on Tribal Accoutrements like Saddle and Storage Bags, Tent and Baggage Straps, even Horse Trappings. Some people collect only Prayer Rugs, others only Cicim and there are those who focus on only Kilims from a certain Region or Era. It is up to you what you decide to collect and the more you learn and study the more examples you will want and recognise.
Genuine Antique Rugs are fascinating and once you begin collecting you will find it hard to stop.
As in every field there are unscrupulous dealers so the onus is on you to know what you are looking for and how to recognise it. Just realise that IF IT LOOKS TOO CHEAP there will be SOMETHING WRONG WITH IT. And DO NOT BELIEVE SELLERS who make FALSE claims about Origins, Age and Replacement Value. If a seller does not describe how they have dated a rug at a certain age giving structural details, descriptions of materials used, design and tribal background and their qualifications for making these claims DO NOT BUY FROM THEM unless you are convinced you know what the rug is through your own knowledge and expertise.
A NOTE ON LANGUAGE
All Hand Made Rugs and the Tribes who Created Them are Described in English in the Phonetic Form of their Local Names so THERE IS NO CORRECT ENGLISH SPELLING as the words do not exist in the English language. You will find that different specialist spell things in different ways and this has come about by how they have pronounced the words from their original language. An example is Kilim, the word for a Flat Woven Rug. You will see it spelled Kelim, Kellem, Gilum, Kelem as well as Kilim and none are wrong, it is purely a matter of choice.