Persian rugs are becoming a popular choice in homes again due to their unique and exquisite designs used as a talking point as well as their practicalities in covering wooden flooring.
Their history back in Iran, formerly known as Persia, was to be intricately handwoven rugs fit for the aristocracy and wealthier end of society. The amount of time taken to weave a single rug made them incredibly valuable, and that value still carries through to today.
Before purchasing an amazing Persian rug for your home, there are a few things that you’ll need to consider regarding authenticity, value, and care to ensure you’re making a sound investment.
Persian rugs are identified by their unique nature due to being completely hand woven. In the 16th century, rug weaving became an art form, and owning a handwoven rug became a status symbol.
Each rug is categorized by the build-up of fibers in a specific pattern to create rosettes, borders, floral images, or to depict scenes. For example, the Tabriz style rug can be identified by its thin border, allowing the pattern at the center to be larger and more clearly defined.
Shah Abbas created a plan to build up the Persian economy in the 16th century, which included the Persian rug phenomenon, seeking treaties with Spain and England for higher quality silk.
Traditional Persian Rug Processes
Originally, all Persian rugs were hand woven with naturally dyed, high-quality silks. These were more valuable due to the time and effort that went into each weave and the extra knowledge that was needed to create long-term dyes from natural substances.
If you find an antique Persian rug today, they are likely to be a little faded for this reason but can be restored naturally and will typically be worth a lot more than more modern rugs, meaning you can purchase them as an investment.
Modern Persian Rug Processes
More recently, rugs have begun to be weaved using machine processing. They can create the same textures and patterns but much faster, making the rug less valuable. The more modern rugs are also normally made from cotton or fine wool, making them more hardwearing but less unique.
The Traditional Weaving Process
Weaving was traditionally completed on a loom where the warp (vertical strands of silk) and weft (horizontal strands) interlink. A small knot is created around each strand to keep the weave together and generate a pattern.
The value of a Persian rug is determined by many factors. One of the main things to consider is the knot count. The more knots a rug has per square inch, the finer the rug, and therefore the more valuable it is due to the intricate detail that’s gone into making it.
Typically, rugs can have anywhere between 30 and 300 knots per square inch, while the most traditional handwoven rugs could have anything up to 1000.
How to See Knot Count
To determine the knot count, you’d need to check the back of the rug. Each knot has two squares, known as nodes, of the same color, set in different directions based on whether they wrap around the warp or weft.
Types of Knots
There are also two common types of knots.
- Persian Knots: These types of knots wrap around each warp or weft strand once, then move over to the next one, creating a fluid look.
- Turkish Knots: With this type, the knots wrap around consecutive warps and meet in the middle, pulling the structure together for a tighter weave.
Persian rugs can be made from a variety of materials and typically change over time depending on what’s most readily available.
This is now the most used material for Persian rugs simply because it’s hardwearing, easy to get hold of, and typically holds the dye for longer. Wool can also be used in other countries where the rugs are used to keep the floor in homes warmer.
Initially, all Persian rugs were made of silk as it was expensive, had to be imported, and were only available for the wealthier members of society.
However, these rugs were fine and delicate and used as more of a piece of art than a practical rug.
Silk rugs are less common today but are still more valuable than other rug materials. This is purely due to how fine the material is to work with, making the weaving more difficult and time-consuming.
Goat or Camel Hair
Initially, when silk or wool wasn’t available, goat or camel hair was used to make Persian rugs, as these animals were available and farmed in the area. However, they were cheaper, the hair was thicker and therefore didn’t hold on to dye for very long. It’s unusual to find a Persian rug still in existence made from goat or camel hair simply because it deteriorated very quickly.
Complexity of Pattern
The craft of Persian rug making dates back almost 3,500 years and has developed over time to become more commonplace, meaning technology has made them faster to create.
However, this has had a knock-on effect on the quality of the rugs. In the earlier days, the antiques were much more complex to create in terms of patterns than the modern-day ones.
This is because newer rugs that aren’t completely handwoven contain geometric patterns – those with straight lines and corners, which are much easier to create using a machine. Traditional rugs focus on curved weaves, which are incredibly complex to create and develop a softer and more welcoming pattern.
The natural dyes used in Persian rugs contribute to the pattern but also have meanings behind them. For example, yellow symbolizes the sun, blue symbolizes power, and red symbolizes luck, courage, and happiness.
This makes the look of your rug more symbolic of an event or mood.
Persian rugs are an excellent addition to any home and can be a sound investment. But there’s a lot more to them than just a floor covering. Their material, weave, and coloring all contribute to the value and meaning of the rug.
It’s advisable to take a deeper look into the rug and its properties before going ahead to make a purchase to ensure you get the right fit for you.