Qum rugs are manufactured in the city of Qum, which is located in central Iran about 100 kilometers away from the country’s capital city, Tehran.
The Qum Province is often referred to as a holy city and is as famous for its rich religious history and religious monuments as it is for its high quality, pure silk rugs.
Some of the highest quality Persian rugs are produced in this religious city although the history of weaving in Qum is still fairly new as compared to some of the other rug weaving provinces.
Rug weaving in Qum started sometime in the 1930s when the rug merchants from the neighboring Kashan moved their looms along the historic trade route to the oasis of Qum.
Once they were settled, weaving flourished with the weavers incorporating a variety of styles into their creations.
Most of the styles that are used in these rugs have been gathered from several different parts of Persia and the Caucasus, which is why you will see that the rugs from this region feature a combination of a wide variety of styles, ranging from ornate and elaborate medallion and corner designs to bolder hunting rugs as well as pictorial designs that depict scenes from everyday life.
Qum Master Weavers
Qum master weavers used ultrafine silk fiber in their weaving.
The smaller diameter of the silk fiber made it possible for the weavers to create minute hairline details like wrinkles, drapes and fine lines into their designs.
This gave the designs an added layer of complexity that you don’t see in many other types of rugs. Whether the rugs depict one person, animal or motif or several of them in a small area, the fine detailing is never compromised and this is what distinguishes Qum rugs from other rugs in the region. It has also earned the city the reputation as one of the best producers of high quality silk rugs in Persia.
Despite the fact that most patterns are copied from other styles, Qum rugs still manage to retain their distinctly recognizable characteristics. This is because of the construction of the rugs.
Characteristics Of Qum Rugs
As the center of the Shia Theocracy, Qum is one of the holiest cities in Iran. This very old city has a rich religious history with many impressive architectural monuments dominating the landscape. Rugs produced in this area are also called Qom, Ghom, Ghum, Ghoun, or Kum rugs.
The production of Qum rugs began around the 1930s when rug weavers from Kashan began arriving in the city of Qum, attracted by the prospect of setting up their looms in this oasis.
With their arrival, weaving flourished. The skilled weavers incorporated multiple styles into their creations, while still retaining the distinctive features of the traditional Qum rugs. This resulted in rugs with an interesting fusion of styles tied together by a creative combination of colors and patterns.
Some weavers created pictorial rugs representing specific landscapes or even historical events.
Material Used in Qum Rugs
These are one of the few types of Persian rugs that are made entirely of silk. Both, the foundation and the pile are made of natural silk. It is thought that this all-silk weaving tradition started because of the unique composition of water in the region. When natural silk rug is washed in this water, it comes very shiny and the color becomes live and stable.
The major difference between authentic and fake Qum rugs is that the former is made from natural silk and the latter is made from synthetic, commercial silk.
If you are considering purchasing a Qum rug, there are three tests you can use to determine whether it is made from natural or synthetic silk:
1. Take a closer look at the sheen of the rug. Does it have a soft, natural luster or does it look too bright and shiny?
Natural silk rugs have a softer sheen that looks natural and is not overly shiny.
2. Feel the softness of the rug. A rug made of natural silk feels soft and fuzzy, while a fake rug won’t feel as soft.
3. Rub the palm of your hand over the surface of the pile for a few seconds. Does it feel cool or warm to the touch? When rubbed real silk gives out warmth and feels warmer to the touch, unlike synthetic rug which continues to stay cool.
Very few rugs in this region are made from wool. Kork is a famous type of rug from Qum that is made from wool that is sheared from young sheep. Korks have a soft and shiny appearance.
Typical Colors of Qum Rugs
Qum rugs generally have very light and soft colors.
Other colors commonly seen in these rugs are gold, ivory, and brown.
Black is usually used to highlight or outline certain design elements.
Foundation of Qum
Qum rugs have a unique foundation that is made up of depressed warps. This occurs when the wefts are stretched tightly across from both sides instead of being inserted with minimum tension as in most other rugs.
The stretched weft displaces the warps into two levels. This is known as a depressed warp. The warps may be made from silk or cotton and the wefts are made up of 2 shoots of cotton or silk.
Average Knot count range in Qum Rugs
Average knot count of Qum rugs ranges from about 200 KPSI (knots per square inch) to 500KPSI. This is a very high knot count, particularly considering that these rugs are completely hand-made. The high knot count is possible because of the fine silk used for these pieces but it also means that weavers took an inordinately long time to finish each rug.
Knots per square inch or KPSI is used to measure knot density. It is also one of the components used to determine the quality and value of a rug. The higher the knot count, the higher the quality of the rug and the more it costs. With their exceptionally high knot count, Qum rugs are appreciated for their very high quality.
The type of knot used is the Persian asymmetrical knot, also known as the Senneh knot. This is an asymmetrical style of knot in which the yarn goes in a loop around one of the warps and is left loose under the other warp.
The pile of Qum rugs is usually made from silk or high quality Kork wool. Different rugs contain various combinations of materials. In some rugs the pile may be made of silk on a silk and cotton foundation.
In other rugs, the pile may be made of wool with accents of silk generally used to outline the design of the rug. The highest quality pieces use only silk. They have a silk pile on a silk foundation.
Weaving Techniques Used
Weavers use employ a unique rug weaving technique to produce their gorgeous creations. In this technique, the top end looks similar to a kilim with a flat area woven at the end of the rug, just preceding the fringe. The ends finish off in a knotted fringe. The bottom of the rug has twisted loops that are uncut.
Very fine threads of silk are used to create the rug designs. The thin diameter of the threads made it possible to create every line in meticulous detail. Even the minutest detail can be plainly seen in the finished rug.
Typical Sizes Available of Qum Rugs
Although you can find larger sized Qum rugs, most rugs that originate from this region are smaller in size. This is because of the extensive time, labor and materials that were needed to create them.
However what they lack in size, they more than make up for in quality. The knot count for these rugs is about 500 kpsi and that can go up to 700 kpsi for some of the better quality pieces.
The fine wool and the dense knotting results in fabulous looking rugs that are extremely decorative and elegant.
Qum rugs are usually smaller in size, which is not surprising given the intricateness of the design and the elaborate detailing. It can take a weaver several months to complete even a small rug.
Most rugs are 4’x6’ or even smaller. Very few can be found in slightly larger sizes of up to 9’x12’. It is possible but very rare to find Qum rugs in sizes larger than that.