As one of the most celebrated and appreciated pieces from the Iranian culture, Persian rugs have long been a staple in the households and interiors of the rich and the artistic.
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Purchasing a high-quality luxury Persian rug is a big decision that demands careful consideration. The immense size of the rug industry often makes shopping for the perfect rug confusing and overwhelming no matter how good your eye for interior design is. However, this experience can be enjoyable if you have a reliable source of relevant information for your home decor.
This article is an ultimate guide that contains essential information on Persian rugs, their history, styles, pricing, and much more. This piece will help you choose the best authentic rugs for your home.
Most people often mistake all Oriental rugs for Persian rugs. Before we dive into the history of these rugs, let’s draw a clear distinction between the two.
The most distinct feature that you can use to distinguish Persian rugs from any other Oriental rugs is the place of origin.
Oriental rugs come from diverse corners of the globe, including Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Tibet, Afghanistan, and Turkey. However, Persian rugs get produced in what is modern-day Iran. Therefore, we can safely conclude that area rugs are a unique subset of Oriental rugs.
Carpet weaving in Iran is over 2500 years old. Originally, Persian area rugs and carpets served nomads as protection against dampness and cold. They also used them to cover their floors.
The art progressed gradually from generation to generation as more carpets and rugs went into production. As a result of this, the skill and craft of carpet making perfected over extensive periods. The rapid development of international trade also played a significant role in increasing the variety of designs and patterns produced.
Persia was ruled by various rulers that influenced the area rug progress. Many historians credit Cyprus the Great with introducing Persia to the art carpet making. They believe he did this after conquering Babylon in 539 BC.
However, it is more likely that Persian nomads wove simple carpets for their homes even before Cyprus the Great’s rule. These nomads probably used durable, high-quality wool from their herds of goats and sheep for this purpose.
The oldest knotted carpet known was discovered in the Pazyryk valley by Russian archeologists in 1949. This carpet from the Altai Mountains of Siberia dates back to the 5th century BC. It is substantial proof that the art of carpet-making existed a long time ago and has gone through superb development and refinement over the centuries.
The Pazyryk carpet got preserved in the Scythian noble's frozen tombs for more than two millennia. It is now on display at the Hermitage Museum of Leningrad in St. Petersburg. The intricate design of this carpet suggests that the art of carpet weaving was well-developed even in that early era.
Persia’s domination by a Turkish tribe known as Seljuk in 1038-1194 AD also influenced the history of rug-making in Persia to a great extent. Seljuk womenfolk skillfully used Turkish knots to make carpets. The Turkish knot is still in use in the Hamadan and Azerbaijan provinces, where the Seljuk influence had a long-lasting impact.
Mongols, the infamous conquerors, controlled Persia in 1220-1449 AD. Mahmud Ghazan, an Il-khan leader, covered the paved floors of his Tabriz palace with precious carpets. These carpets had simple motif decorations.
Carpet weaving in Persia peaked in the 16th century AD, during the Safavid Dynasty’s reign. Around 1500 samples from this period are preserved in private collections and museums worldwide.
In 1587-1629, during Shah Abbas's reign, crafts and commerce intensified in Persia. Abbas turned Isfahan, his new capital, into a glorious city where carpets were produced in workshops manned by skilled craftsmen and designers. It was in this period that Persia turned its rug industry into a formidable revenue generator.
Today, modern-day Iran benefits immensely from the widespread handicraft of carpet weaving. Rugs and carpets enjoy worldwide popularity for their rich colors, spectacular patterns, and top-notch designs.
Traditionally, priceless rugs were hand woven by skilled carpet weavers, using dyes and top-quality silk. However, these rugs can now be mass-produced by machines in this modern era, using cheaper materials like wool or cotton.
If you want a unique area rug, you can’t go wrong with a handmade Persian. These, alongside high-quality antique and vintage rugs, are coveted ornaments that fetch high prices in most auctions.
Most pile rugs require a tedious and complicated weaving process. The process may take a couple of months or several years to complete depending on the rug’s size and quality. The first ingredient required in rug weaving is a foundation of warps.
Warps are strong cotton, silk, or woolen threads that run along the rug's length. Wefts of this thread also get included over and under the warps from side to side. The warps on either of the rug’s sides usually get combined into a few cables with different thicknesses. These cables, when overcast, are known as the selvedge.
The weaving process starts with a base formed by passing a couple of wefts through the bottom. Then, the rug’s intricate patterns are created by tying loosely piled knots of silk or dyed wool around successive adjacent warp sets.
The tied knots become the rug pile as the foundation acquires more rows. The rows are secured and packed down tightly with shots of weft passed between each row of knots. A handmade rug's knot count varies depending on the weave's fineness, weaver's expertise, and quality of the material.
One of the simplest ways of carpet weaving is flat weaving. Flatweave rugs are durable but thinner than most knotted carpets or rugs. On the other hand, rugs can also be made to fit areas that are longer than they are wide. These are called runner rugs.
There are numerous different styles of a traditional rug from persia. They include:
These rugs come from Azerbaijan's capital city, Tabriz. They contain high-quality wool or wool and silk piles and a warp made of silk or cotton.
Tabriz rugs have diverse patterns, ranging from hunting scenes and trees to teardrop medallions. Antique Tabriz rugs are priceless possessions that you can only find in museums and private collections.
You can easily identify Heriz rugs by their intrinsic bold patterns and vibrant colors. They always contain a large medallion in the center, with two or three outlines and sizeable corner pieces. Heriz rugs are renowned for their durability.
Kashan rugs always come with a trademark patterned floral field with a medallion and unique corner patterns. They are commonly designed from a combination of ivory, rich red, and deep blue colors. Occasional patches of green, yellow, or burnt orange may also get included in the design.
Gabbeh rugs get woven in the Zagros Mountains by Luri and Qashqai weavers. That is why they feature a heavy tribal influence. Handspun wool gets used to make these thick and course rugs. They have simple designs that get woven on a lush and plain color field.
These rugs are typically yellow, red, orange, or rust. These colors are solely obtained from natural dyes.
These are high-quality pieces that get woven using wool on a silk or cotton foundation. They are dense, and their knot count is higher compared to other high quality rugs.
Isfahan rugs come with an intricate design that makes them symmetrical and balanced. They usually contain one rose, blue, or indigo medallion woven on a background of ivory, surrounded by vines.
Nain rugs get made from high-quality wool. They have the finest texture and usually have an average knot count of 300-700 KPSI. These rugs are intricately patterned and commonly contain green or blue branches intertwined with small flowers woven on light ivory or white background.
Most weavers use cotton to make the wefts and warps in tabriz rugs. However, wool sometimes gets used to make the foundation of tribal rugs, and silk serves as a pile and foundation.
Pile is a term used in rug weaving to refer to the fiber or material. Persian-made rugs use wool, cotton, or silk materials.
Most handmade rugs are made from wool. Wool is the most preferred material due to its durability and soft texture. Plus, it is one of the most available materials in Iran.
Sometimes weavers use goat or camel hair in limited quantities. Excess goat or camel hair can be undesirable in Kashan rugs. And, although rugs may acquire an extra sheen from these materials, dyeing them is very difficult, and the rugs are more likely to fade faster than sheep wool carpets.
Iran has mountainous topography that supports the production of high-quality wool. They also import wool from New Zealand and Australia to augment their reserves. The best kind of wool used is called Kork or Kurk. It is durable and has a very soft texture.
The best wool is from a lamb's under-belly and shoulders on its first shaving. The virgin wool is at its finest and often gets used together with silk.
Weavers mostly use cotton to make the foundation of luxury area rugs. However, this material also gets used to introduce a white detailing that diversifies texture and color. Some weavers even use mercerized cotton to produce an “art-silk” appearance.
Cotton plant fibers absorb dyes efficiently, and this material is more affordable than silk or wool. That is why some weavers prefer cotton. However, rugs made from this material are less durable as compared to wool and silk.
Silk is the least used material in antique rugs because it is expensive. However, this material is more durable and has a finer texture than most other natural fibers. The pricier nature, intricate detailing, and skill required to produce silk a runner rug makes them perfect for low-traffic areas. Or you can use them as wall hangings.
Some weavers also incorporate a small quantity of silk in a wool pile to add depth to a rug's character and highlight its details.
If you have a silk luxury Persian rug, always ensure it gets cleaned by a recommended professional. Never try to clean it yourself.
Silk or wool gets treated and dyed before the knotting process begins. Most traditional rug weavers use vegetable dyes as opposed to chemical ones.
Persia got introduced to aniline dyes in the late 19th century. These dyes faded fast and created a crude color. They were therefore considered unsuitable for the yarns used to make rugs. The Persian government banned their import in the 20th century and authorized the burning of any dye houses found using them.
There are numerous varieties of durable chrome dyes available in the world today.
Natural dyes are more durable and have a greater appeal than chrome dyes. Madder is the most popular dye derived from plants. It produces a red color. A good chunk of traditional rugs has this dye in their fabric.
Mixing diverse natural dyes results in various colors. For instance, you can get green from mixing indigo and saffron; if you want black, all you have to do is submerge wool previously dyed brown in indigo, and all shades of blue come from indigo.
The most common vegetable dye used in rug weaving is indigo. Indigo gets extracted from the fermented leaves of the indigo plant. The larkspur plant's flowers, stems, and leaves can also get boiled to produce larkspur. You can also get rare yellow shades from Saffron flowers.
No one fancies the idea of having a grubby Persian rug in their living room. A Persian rug can only bring beauty and comfort to any area of your house if it is clean.
Persian-made rugs are affected by dirt accumulation due to their textural designs. If you don’t clean these rugs frequently enough, they will become an unwelcome sight. However, you avoid cleaning them too many times; otherwise, the fiber will wear out.
We recommend you get your Persian rug cleaned by a specialist. They may be pricey, but the merits are worth it. If you can’t afford frequent professional cleaning, ensure your Persian rug gets checked by a professional once or twice a year.
We have listed a few ways for cleaning your Persian rug below:
You can get rid of dirt and dust from your rug by simply vacuuming it at least once every other week. Ensure you don't vacuum-clean the rug's corners or against the direction of the rug fibers.
Sweeping is effective for wiping off dirt and debris. It is more effective than beating the rug and increases its lifespan by preventing unnecessary wear and tear.
Make sure you sweep your rug from one end to another because moving the broom back and forth may damage it.
Shaking is the easiest method for cleaning Persian-made rugs. This method may only be effective for dirt, not stains. If your Persian rug is oversize, find someone to help you shake it.
Deep cleaning is a DIY alternative to professional cleaning. Before cleaning your rug, go through the instructions or run tests to determine if it is color-fest.
If your Persian rug is safe for cleaning, spray both its sides with clean and cold water. You can use a garden hose for this task. Then, when you're through spraying, fill a large container with cold water and add some mild liquid soap or rug shampoo.
Use a long-haired soap brush and the cleaning solution you prepared before to rinse the Persian rug lightly. Remove detergent and dirt when you are done cleaning by spraying. Then leave it out to dry.
Persian rugs may smell fishy from stains or inadequate cleaning. If yours happens to give off an unwanted odor, use water, vinegar, and detergent to clean it. That ought to get rid of the pungent smell and add a refreshed feel to your Persian rug.
The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certificate (IICRC) recommends you get a professional to clean your Persian rug at least once a year. Professional cleaners restore your rug’s pristine condition using deep, steam, or dry cleaning.
Take care of a spill as soon as it has happened. Otherwise, the spill may turn into a stubborn stain. As soon as a spill has occurred, plot up as much as you can from the Persian rug. You may use tissue, paper towels, or a clean sponge.
Sometimes, a portion of your Persian rug may receive more traffic than the rest. If this applies to your case, even out traits by rotating the rug.
Cleaning, especially washing, can harm your rug if you do it too frequently. Clean your Persian rug whenever a spill has occurred or if it appears grubby.
Your rug's shades may dampen if it is color-fest, and you leave it in direct sunlight for too long. In turn, that will harm the rug's longevity and appearance.
Before buying a Persian rug, you need to consider the following:
The most common material used to make high quality Persian rugs is wool. And, the best wool gets sourced from New Zealand. Rugs made with this wool are plush and extremely soft in texture.
In addition to wool, modern high quality Persian rugs also include silk fibers. Rugs with a wool/silk blend have a richer luster and super-soft texture.
A rug’s knot count is one of the most important determiners of its quality. KPSI is the unit used to denote a Persian rug’s knot count. An area rug with a high knot count has a more intricate design and plusher feel than one with less.
Note that a higher knot count doesn’t necessarily mean higher quality. On the contrary, rugs with lower knot count require less production time, feel less dense, and have simpler designs.
High-quality Persian rugs get entirely made by hand. That is why you must ensure your runner rug is hand-knotted. Do not be misled into purchasing overpriced mass-produced rugs made by machines.
You can identify a hand-knotted Persian rug from its rich color and dense feel. Or, check its backside. You should be able to see knots on a rug’s backside if it is hand-knotted.
An intricate design in a Persian rug doesn’t necessarily determine its quality, but it is a good indicator of the expertise and skill level invested in its weaving. Persian rugs from reputable production studios usually contain intricate designs, among other features.
Persian rugs often come with classic motifs and traditional designs because they get produced in one of the oldest countries on earth. Furthermore, Iran has had limited amiable interactions with the Western world. Therefore, their style has not been affected by foreign consumer demands.
Check which dyes got used to color a Persian rug before making a purchase. Persian rugs are mostly colored using either natural or chemical dyes. All-natural dyes are higher in quality and more traditional compared to chemical dyes.
The dyes used to make your rug also determine the type of cleaning products you can use, especially during a deep cleaning.
Choose a rug that falls within your budget limit. Plus, check all the other determiners we have listed above to ensure you are not buying an overpriced Persian rug.
Different hand-knotted Persian rugs have different prices depending on the material, knots count, and time invested. The higher the knot count or time invested in production, the pricier you can expect the rug to be.
Persian rugs are famous for their floral detailing and geometrical patterns. Professional artisans sometimes spend over ten years making one high-end Persian rug. That is why they are so expensive and coveted by homeowners and collectors. View our Persian collection today to find your own perfect one of a kind piece for your home. We have new arrivals coming in regularly and would love to help you find your dream rug design.