How to Tell the Age of Oriental rugs

Break Down Ages Of Oriental Rugs

Natural dye of different age oriental rugs
Colors can tell you a lot about the age of Oriental Rugs


If you own an Oriental rug, knowing the age of your prized possession can be of special interest for several different reasons. For one thing, it helps you determine the approximate value of the rug. Although there are exceptions to the rule, in general rugs that are older have a higher value. Secondly it makes for an interesting topic of conversation with your guests or other fellow rug owners.

Talking about an older rug can bring to mind pictures of nomadic weavers working hard at weaving their beautiful creations on rustic, homemade looms under harsh conditions whereas the weavers of newer rugs work under more favorable conditions. However, determining the ages of oriental rugs is not as easy as you would think. In fact, stating the exact year of creation can be particularly challenging as most rugs are acquired from nomadic tribals who did not and still do not keep track of days and dates. If you are looking for the exact age of an oriental rug, you may be disappointed.

Far better to settle for the age range of the rug. To stem the prevailing confusion, rug sellers have come up with an interesting solution that works to give potential buyers an approximate age range of any rug. Here’s how it works.

• Any rug that is made within the last 5 years is considered ‘New’.

• Any rug that is made within the last 10 years is usually termed ‘Used’.

• Rugs that are between 10 and 50 years old are considered ‘Semi-Old’.

• Rugs that are between 20 and 99 years of age are called ‘Old’.

• Any rug that falls within the 30 to 99 year range is considered ‘Semi-Antique’.

• All rugs that are older than 50 years are considered to be ‘Antiques’.

As you can see some of the age ranges overlap. To determine the exact category that a particular rug comes under, there are a few other factors that will need to take a look at. These include:

How to tell ages by the Type of Rug

Many people are under the misconception that all types of oriental rugs are old. This is not entirely true. While the majority of oriental rug types that are available are indeed very old, there are several types of rugs that originated in this century. Take for example Pakistani rugs. These are a type of oriental rug that only began being produced sometime in the post WWII era, which means they are definitely not antique. All Chinese and Indian rugs too are considered modern as they too have been in production only sometime after World War II.

Another interesting example of modern rugs is the Persian Qum rugs and White Kashan rugs. These rugs have been in production less than 100 years. The White Kashan rugs are a particularly significant example.

Persian weavers started manufacturing these rugs only after 1920 after demand surged in the western markets for rugs with more subdued colors to match the general western home décor. Because most of the big-money buyers were from western markets, Persian weavers acquiesced and began weaving rugs with pastel colors.


Example of an 80 years old kashan oriental rug
80 Years Old Kashan Rug

The Colors Used In the Rug

Using rug colors to determine the age of the rug is a special skill. For this it is important to know how rug making originated and where the original weavers got their dyes from.

The original weavers were nomads who moved from one place to another to find better grazing pastures for their sheep. Because of the freezing cold temperatures in the northern Persian region, these nomadic tribes people took to weaving thick warm rugs from the wool they sheared off their sheep.

The rugs were woven using crude homemade looms. To impart color and character to their creations, the weavers looked for whatever natural products which were available in the region and which they could use to dye the wool. They had no access to chemical dyes so all the dyes were made from roots, shoots and leaves that were native to that particular region.

Rug evaluators are very knowledgeable about the different types of dye sources available in different regions, which helps them in making a more accurate evaluation. One of the best ways for any lay person to learn more about this aspect is by taking a closer look at different oriental rugs in museums and making notes about the special features and dyes that can be seen.

Change of Weaving Style

The weaving style is another important feature that can help you determine the age of some types of oriental rugs. Some types of rugs such as Isfahan and Hamadan rugs have distinctly different weaving styles between the older and the modern variations.

For example older Isfahan rugs that were woven between the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries used mostly cotton as their foundation material and the knot count was not more than 400 knots per square inch.  However, modern Isfahan rugs typically have a silk weft and warp and have a considerably higher number of knots per square inch.

Older Hamadan rugs were made primarily using camel colored backgrounds whereas newer variations are more colorful and use a wider variety of colors. In the newer variations, you will very rarely see camel color being used.

Antique Hamadan
80 to 100 Years old Hamadan Persian rug