How to Select or Purchase An Oriental Rug or Carpet
There are six factors to consider in the selection of an antique or new Oriental carpet. Although there are many detailed books on the subject, the six factors may be summed up as follows:
- ➤ The quality of the materials
- ➤ The weave and knots per square inch (KPSI)
- ➤ The use of vegetable dyes or synthetic dyes
- ➤ The design and creativity of the piece
- ➤ The age of the piece
- ➤ Its overall condition.
The materials used in most antique carpets are the wool pile in a cotton base. One may find camel hair, silk, goat hair, and even a mixture of the above, but these are less commonly used.
Some of the best wool comes from Persia (Iran), where baby lamb’s wool (quork, kirk) is used. The soft feel and durability is fairly easy to distinguish. Ask an Oriental rug dealer whom you trust to verify the materials in each piece you select.
The weave & knots per square inch (KPSI)
There are two types of knots used in oriental rugs. The Turkish knot is the most commonly used. The Turkish and Caucasian pieces use this type of knot. The Persian, or Senna, knot comes from Tabriz (Iran), and is rarely used in Turkish pieces. The most common is 150 to 250 KPSI. The more knots used, the longer it takes to make the rug, and this may increase the price of the rug.
The Use of Vegetable & Synthetic Dyes
The type of dyes used in an Oriental carpet are most important. The typical dyes used in antique and semi-antique carpets were the natural vegetable dyes, frequently produced from vegetable leaves, berries, roots, nuts, flowers, and even some marine life, giving the older rugs a soft rich color that makes each rug unique. The use of vegetable dyes today is minimal. The other dyes used in semi-antique and today’s rugs are synthetic chrome dyes. These dyes were proven to withstand sunlight, heat, air, and moisture better than most vegetable dyes. Over time, though, the vegetable dyes had more of their original appearance than the synthetic dyes in the wear and tear factor.
The Design & Creativity
Even an expert would have a hard time distinguishing the individual tribes and families where a particular rug was made. An appraiser should be able to determine the approximate vicinity or region from observing the design and weave. The two main designs used in Oriental rugs are floral and geometric. Other conventional designs use a combination of both floral and geometric design. The Chinese are easily distinguishable by symbols like the dragon, birds, animals, and cloud bands. For example, Persian Tabriz hunting carpets reflect animals, birds, and fruit, etc. Each symbol has its own meaning in the area where the rug was created. The camel signifies health and happiness. The lion and elephant are symbols of strength and power.
The age of an Oriental rug may be deceiving. Even the most knowledgeable rug appraisers may have a difficult time determining the age of a certain piece. Some rugs may have been stored away for many years due to market demands or political circumstances, or future market demand. An old rug may have a brand new look, but may be 15 years or older. A quality hand-made rug will show very little wear over a very long time. To determine age in an Oriental rug, one must have many years of experience. Knowing about dye batches, types of wool used, pattern and design, and weave will aid the appraiser in deducing a rug’s age. Most dealers estimate a rug within a 5 to 10 year period; no one but the weaver could tell you it’s exact age. If one finds a rug dealer whom one can trust, then follow that dealer’s conclusions as to a rug’s age.
The condition of an Oriental rug plays a major told in its value. An antique rug in perfect condition is valued at the top of the market. Wear in places (low pile), stains, foundation showing, or moth damage will decrease the value of the rug significantly. Restoration may bring the value up if done properly. Oriental rugs are a very personal item and many rug lovers may like the worn look. Look for torn areas, cracking foundation, major stains, moth damage, low pile (down to the foundation), pile leaving the rug at the fringe area, and mold or mildew smell before your final purchase.
Caring for Your Oriental Rug or Carpet
The natural wear of the carpet can cause serious damage if not properly maintained. The dirt and miscellaneous particles must be removed regularly as not to cause any additional abrasions to the rug. Vacuuming often is recommended, preferably with any electric sweeper, on both front and back. Beating a rug is not recommended, it could cause tears and may not remove much of the foreign matter. Never brush the carpet against the pile; this could allow the debris to sink deeper into the pile. With proper maintenance of your Oriental carpets, such as a periodic professional cleaning, they could be admired and enjoyed for generations to come.
To select the right Oriental carpet for you, whether it be from a dealer or an auction, consider age, condition, place of origin, and quality of the weave. Study the back of the carpet as well as the pile. Bend the carpet and listen for cracks, which indicate brittleness and possible deterioration over time. A fine Oriental rug should last through decades of wear and tear with very little visible change.