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Oriental Rug Buyers Guide

Oriental & Persian Rugs — Rug Buyer Guide

How Do You Know Its a Genuine Oriental Rug?

A quality Oriental Rug will meet the following criteria:

  • It must be made entirely from natural fibers (wool, silk).
  • It must be knotted completely by hand.
  • It must be of Persian and/or Oriental origin.


Oriental Rug Categories

There are two major categories of Oriental Rugs – traditional and contemporary.

Traditional rugs, whether of tribal or city origin, preserve a carpet-making heritage that dates back hundreds of years.

Tribal rugs are usually created in a nomadic or village setting. The rug makers often include specific design details of their own inspiration, resulting in rugs that contain unique features and hidden mysteries. City and town rugs emerge from a professional workshop setting, are designed from carefully crafted blueprints, and are typified by their complexity and tightness of weave.

Contemporary rugs are made in nontraditional weaving regions. However, the quality may be comparable to traditional rugs, and the designs are often more compatible with modern decorating styles.

What Determines the Value of an Oriental Rug?

The value of an Oriental Rug is determined by the following eight characteristics:

  • Rug Materials
  • Rug Dyes
  • Rug Colors
  • Rug Designers
  • Rug Weavers
  • Rug Labor Rate
  • Rug Man Years
  • Rug Recognized Artists


Materials Used in Oriental and Persian Rugs

Oriental Rugs are created primarily from quality wool or silk, which is knotted into a cotton foundation. Wool is a critical factor in the quality of an Oriental Rug. The wearing characteristics of the wool are dependent on several factors, such as climate and pasturage.

Intensive use of a good wool Oriental Rug over the course of time gradually polishes the wool, and create a wonderful sheen as the natural oils come to the surface. In fact, an older rug sometimes looks as though it is made of silk instead of wool.

The Persian lamb is widely known for its excellent wool. However, Turkey, the Caucasus, Turkestan, India, Pakistan and China all produce wool fully equal to that from Persia. The hill regions in these countries, where the climate is often cooler, produce sheep that provide stronger and more pliable wool.

Oriental Rug Wool is classified into three categories:

  • Live Wool
  • Dead Wool
  • Used Wool


Live wool is wool sheared from living sheep. Dead wool is removed from a sheep’s hide chemically. Used wool is redyed wool that is recycled from cloth and used in low-grade rugs.

Durable and soft, live Oriental Rug wool retains its lanolin and essential oils, which adds resilience to a rug. The best live wool captures the light and diffuses it among its fibers.

The chemicals used to remove dead wool can be dryer, and more abrasive. When used in rugs, the colors may seem cloudy when compared to live wool, as light is reflected off the surface. Oriental Rugs made from dead wool do not wear as well and lack resilience.

Dyes of Persian and Oriental Rugs

The dyer is highly respected for his skill and deserves credit for the beauty, clarity and depth of color in an Oriental Rug. In the Orient nearly every rug-making family has their own special formula for the dyeing of yarn, which has been handed down through several generations.

Three basic categories of dye are used for Persian and Oriental Rugs:

  • Natural Dyes
  • Aniline Dyes
  • Chrome Dyes


Natural dyes, the preferred choice among many top rug designers, give the yarn a natural sheen. They are made from flowers, roots, berries, bark and insects, as well as from minerals or metals such as iron.

Aniline dyes are acid-based synthetics. They are most typically used with poorer grades of wool and lower quality rugs. The harshness of these dyes result in wool that is stiff, hard and brittle.

Chromium dyes have been developed over the last 40 years. In quality they are now almost equal to vegetable dyes. They are colorfast in washing and will not harm wool. These dyes offer the rug designer a much wider variety of shades and colors than natural dyes.

Colors of Persian and Oriental Rugs

Oriental tradition attributes a specific meaning to each color in an Oriental Rug. Tonality, shading, placement and arrangement of color are also important factors. The meanings expressed in these designs are an integral part of the Easterner’s beliefs about life and order in the universe.

Design of Persian and Oriental Rugs

Distinct types of patterns in Oriental Rugs have developed in various districts. By identifying the pattern of the field one can distinguish among four basic types:

  • Medallion Design
  • All-over or repeat
  • Representational
  • Niche and tree


Medallion:  This design features a field in a solid color, or with small designs surrounding a central medallion.

Repeat:  A repeat design consists of a dense, repeating geometric pattern that is cut off at the borders of the rug.

Representational:  The third major group, representational, depicts people and animals, often in story situations.

Niche and tree:  Uniform from a style aspect, the patterns in Niche and tree may vary considerably.

A main border and narrower secondary border or guard surrounds typical field designs in Oriental Rugs. Chinese Oriental Rugs, however, include a number of special types outside this classification. Rugs produced by nomadic tribes may differ from those made by the settled population in that they are woven more intuitively without reference to any pattern or drawing. These are generally smaller, with geometric and stylized design. Settled weavers usually work from a pre-designed pattern or cartoon and are thus able to produce carpets with richer, more varied designs.

Labor Rate of Persian and Oriental Rugs

The labor rate for weavers can vary widely from country to country where Oriental Rugs are produced. The labor for an Oriental Rug with the same knot density and man-years crafted in Iran will cost ten times as much as the cost of a comparable Oriental Rug woven in Pakistan.

The Art of the Persian and Oriental Rug

The creation of an Oriental Rug contains the artist’s statement to all mankind—a testimony that he lived, loved and triumphed over his harsh environment. The colors are the emotional feelings the artist has within himself—these artists dwell in regions where bright flowers and plants are practically nonexistent, so they must use their imaginations to communicate the beauty that is born in their soul.

Oriental and Persian Rugs for Investments

As with paintings and other fine art objects, a quality Oriental Rug will increase in value. However, as these rugs will become prominent features in the homes of their owners, they should be purchased first for their beauty, and the satisfaction they provide.

From an investment perspective, Oriental Rugs provide two main source of return:

  • Utility:  Money that would otherwise be spent for wall-to-wall carpeting, which has no resale value, can be invested in a beautiful Oriental Rug.
  • Value appreciation:  as time passes and Rugs are classified as antiques, their value may increase considerably.


Over the last decade, Oriental Rugs have averaged a steady 10% appreciation per year, a rate that surpasses most other types of investments.

Liquidity of Persian and Oriental Rugs

Oriental Rugs are the exception to the rule that the greater the degree of liquidity of an asset, the lower the return. Quality Oriental Rugs enjoy a great degree of liquidity while offering one of the highest returns on investment due to the increasing demand caused by public awareness of their value. Since the supply of these rugs has decreased, while interest in them has expanded around the world, Oriental Rugs continue to keep their promise as investments.