Part 2: Characteristics of Oriental Rugs

Characteristics of Oriental Rugs

Oriental rugs add a touch of exotic eastern flair to any setting. With their deep rich colors, distinctive patterns and intricate handwork, a finished rug is impressive. It’s hard to resist wanting to buy one or more than one for your home. However, there are several misconceptions surrounding oriental rugs, which can be completely misleading. Learning a little bit about the characteristics of oriental rugs will help you navigate this mystic maze so that you can be sure that the rug you bring home is the real deal- a genuine work of art.

Oriental Rugs- What’s In A Name?

The very first thing you should know about oriental rugs is that they do not necessarily originate from oriental countries and they do not necessarily have oriental designs. They were thus named several centuries ago and the name has stuck but the term Oriental Rugs is in fact used to describe rugs from a number of countries lying along the Eastern corridor, including Iran (where Persian Rugs come from), Central Asia, Egypt, Turkey, India and China.

But.. not all rugs manufactured in these areas can be classified as Oriental Rugs. You can read the Oriental Rugs Overview article to learn which countries are classified in the Oriental rug category. Which brings us to the second characteristic.

Oriental Rugs Are Always Hand Woven

That’s right, oriental rugs are always woven completely by hand. Rugs that come out from these regions but are made by machine are not Oriental rugs even if they have the same colors and designs. Sure they look fabulous, with outstanding patterns and stunning colors but they cannot be called ‘oriental rugs’. By definition, only hand woven rugs can be called Oriental rugs.

Authentic oriental rugs have a distinctive feature that no machine can replicate- the weaver attaches the nap to the base threads with special types of knots that can only be made by hand. In the machine made versions, the nap is simply stuck between the weft threads and the base threads. It is not knotted down. This can make a tremendous difference to the appearance as well as the durability of the finished rug.

hand knotted rug fringes
Hand knottted Rug – The Fringe
is the foundation of the Rug
machine made rug fringes
Machine Made Rug – The Fringe is
attached to the main body of the rug

How to know if a rug is hand knotted or machine made

A quick way to see if a rug is indeed hand knotted is to check the fringes. If the fringes are the foundation of the rug, meaning they are where the rest of the wool is woven on to, then the rug is hand knotted. However, if the fringes are simply attached to the main body of the rug, then you are looking at a machine made rug.

You can see the examples on the right to get a good idea of what to look for.

Examine The Material From Which The Rug Is Made

Another characteristic of oriental rugs is that they are always made from natural raw materials. A typical original oriental rug would be made from fine quality sheep’s wool. Fine silk rugs were sometimes woven for royalty and you will also find cotton rugs that were made for more economical purposes. Genuine oriental rugs are never woven using synthetic materials. You will likely come across several versions made from different types of synthetic materials, from polyolefin and polypropolene to some synthetic blends. They may look good but they are certainly not the authentic, hand-woven oriental rugs.

Getting Better with Age

Example of an antique Heriz Persian Rug
Antique Heriz Persian Rug – Over 120 Years Old

Oriental rugs have often been described as works of art and with good reason. These rugs are works of art to look at and like any fine artwork, these too appreciate with the passage of time. All through their history you will find that the value of each rug just keeps on increasing. The older the rug, the more expensive it is likely to be. This is because the colors mature and age with time, giving the whole rug a mellowed look that no new rug is likely to have. Oriental rug collectors prize these old pieces not just for their investment potential but also for their stunning beauty.