Silk Persian rugs look magnificent. They are lustrous, smooth and luxurious to the touch.
The sheen and texture of the rug give it a look of opulence that you’ll never see in rugs made from any other fabric. Yet, many people hesitate about buying these rugs because they believe that a wool rug or a wool-cotton blend may be a better choice in terms of stain resistance and care.
The Comprehensive Guide: Buying a Genuine Silk Persian Rug
If you’ve seen a silk Persian rug you love but are having a few doubts, here are a few aspects that may help you make the right choice.
Persian rugs are renowned for their beauty and durability, and silk rugs are no exception. In fact, many experts believe that silk Persian rugs are the finest of all. Before you buy, however, there are a few things you should know. This article will teach you everything you need to know about buying a silk Persian rug.
Table of Contents
Why Choose Silk Rug?
Silk is one of the most luxurious fabrics in the world. While some synthetic fabrics try to replicate it, nothing can compete with its sheen, softness, and color durability. It is a natural material produced by certain insects such as the mulberry silkworm, that is woven into high-quality products such as Persian rugs.
Silk is one of the strongest natural fibers, making it a great option for bringing into your home. It will not fray or split the way some other fibers might. Making it a great option for an investment piece for your collection that will last for years to come.
Due to the way silk is produced at a microscopic level it has a triangular prism-like structure in its fibers. This allows it to refract light at different angles and creates its unique and natural sheen. This natural sheen is one of the things that give silk its luxurious feeling that is sleek and smooth. Nothing else feels like silk. Some synthetics come close, but they will never match authentic silk fiber for color durability, softness, warmth or sheen.
Some disreputable dealers may try to pass off artificial silk such as viscose as something called “art-silk.” This is not 100% silk and it should be avoided.
Which Silk Rug is the Best?
The silk made for the Persian rug industry – especially for hand-knotted rugs – must meet very high quality standards. Some of the most beautiful silk is found in China and India, and it is then sent to other parts of the world where it is hand-knotted into a beautiful rug.
Qum – Rugs made in the city of Qum, located 100km outside of Tehran. It is known for its high quality, pure silk rugs. While rug weaving in this city is relatively new they stand out for their great quality and craftsmanship.
Tabriz – Tabriz rugs are known for having diverse designs, showcasing everything from medallions, to figural and even 3 dimensional rugs. This shows the exceptional artistic abilities of the artists in this region.
Nain – Nain rugs are knotted by hand using asymmetrical Persian knots and wool and silk pile on cotton warp. The rugs are clipped closely to help the design standout. Nain is known for producing some of the finest hand made rugs in the world, often with a high percentage of silk.
Kashan – Kashan rugs have a strong history dating back to the 17th century. Weavers use high quality materials, dyes, patterns and knotting styles that have been developed over the centuries.
Isfahan – Most Isfahan rugs are woven with a wool pile on cotton or silk foundation. With some woven with silk accents to create stunning design. The rugs also boast a higher than normal knot count that displays the high quality of the work.
Full Silk, Silk Highlight or Silk Foundation
Full Silk Rug
Full silk rugs are the highest priced rugs because of the high cost of raw materials and the lengthy time that it takes to produce one. The rugs are a luxurious choice and offer rich and vibrant colors and patterns with a delicate and soft touch.
Wool With Silk Highlight
Wool rugs have a thick, strong, and dense pile and can be combined with silk to create beautiful high-quality rugs. Because of the high price of silk rugs, mixing them with wool creates a hybrid between the two that is more affordable and helps to produce larger sizes within lower price ranges.
In some rugs such as Tabriz rugs, the weavers will often use silk to accent and highlight certain designs in the rug. This helps to add touches of sheen to draw attention to different areas of the rug. Creating the luxurious look of silk in a rug that is not 100% silk.
Most rug foundations consist of wool or cotton but certain types of Persian rugs use silk as the foundation. Using a silk foundation allows for finer details to be weaved into more intricate designs. This also helps to maintain its shape over a long period of time – which explains why so many antique rugs are silk foundations.
Although a silk rug can last for decades you will want to make sure your intricate masterpiece is not destroyed by being placed in a high traffic area. That is why we recommend using them as wall hangings or placing them in formal rooms that do not get heavy use. While Silk is a great option, wool is even more so for rooms with a lot of use. Wool is strong and robust and good for high traffic spaces, folding on itself 20,000 times before breaking. Whereas silk is reliable up to 8,000 folds. If you want a balance between functionality, durability, and aestheticswool with silk highlight may be the right choice for you.
What Things to Look out for When Buying a Silk Rug
Weave and Knot count
Silk Persian rugs are tightly woven and will always have a high knot count. Genuine silk persian rugs will typically have more than 500 KPSI. KPSI is how knot count per square inch is measured, and the higher the number generally indicates a higher quality rug. If a rug is less than 500 KPSI it is more likely to be artificial silk.
A real silk Persian rug will have a short pile. They are clipped tightly to form the short pile. This is done to protect the fibers and show off the details and patterns of the rug.
The fringe of a silk Persian rug will naturally extend from the body of the rug. If the fringe is not silk or it looks like it is attached separately from the body of the rug it is unlikely to be a real silk rug.
How to tell if a rug is silk
Because silk Persian rugs are such a highly sought-after product some sellers will attempt to pass off a synthetic rug for genuine silk. If you know what you are looking for you will be able to tell the difference and be able to ensure you are getting the product you are paying for.
At first glance, artificial silk may be able to replicate the lustrous quality of a silk rug but take a closer look. Natural silk has a softer touch, that you don’t get in an artificial rug. Artificial silk is made from synthetic rayon fibers composed of pure cellulose. Whereas the natural silk is harvested from silkworms then boiled and unwound into single fibers and spun to create silk yarn.
The quality of a natural silk rug far surpasses an artificial rug. While natural silk will be able to maintain its appearance for generations because of its durability artificial silk will not.
The artificial silk fibers have a lower tensile strength and are more brittle. Causing them to break off more easily. After a few years, artificial silk will begin to look shabby and worn but a real silk rug will maintain its look for generations and can be passed on as a family heirloom.
How to Test if it is Real Silk
Are you still unsure if your rug is genuine silk?
There are a few more ways to tell if your rug is really silk. We’ve listed three methods below regarding how to tell if the silk rug you are about to purchase is actual, 100% silk.
Rub the fabric
When you rub your hand on a real silk rug the fabric will quickly warm up and may take on a slight sheen. If it becomes warm it is real but if it feels harsh and is not soft, it is unlikely to be silk.
Do a Burn Test
To do this you would need to snip a piece of the rug’s fringe and hold it to a flame. Real silk will burn black and smell like burning hair. When the flame is taken away it will immediately stop burning. Artificial silk will smell like burning paper.
This test will also require you to snip a small piece of fringe from the rug. And place it in bleach. Genuine silk will completely dissolve (this is also true for wool), but artificial silk will not.
Merchants would welcome you to do the first method but not the latter two methods, as the latter does damage to the valuable art.
How to Care for Your Silk Persian Rug
- Cleaning a Silk Persian Rug
While silk is one of the strongest fibers, it may be weakened if left dirty and not properly cleaned. Making sure you are cleaning the rug properly is the best way to protect your investment and make sure your rug will maintain its looks for generations to come and appreciate in value.
To do this you will want to –
Lightly vacuum the rug at least once a week to prevent dust and debris from building up. Make sure not to use the brush roll setting because this can damage the fibers!
Regularly turn the rug over to shake it out as a way to remove any dirt or debris
Get your rug professionally cleaned regularly (once a year recommended)
Keep it in a low traffic area in your home, away from direct sunlight
What if I spill something on a silk rug?
If you accidentally spill something on your silk rug, quickly blot the spill and then lightly dab it with cool water. Once done allow the spot to air dry.
Determining the Price of a Silk Persian Rug
Because of their unique and hand-knotted nature, Silk Persian rug prices vary greatly, and there is no hard and fast way to evaluate the price. The high value of silk as a raw material and the high number of knots per square inch makes silk Persian rugs one of the most valuable types of rugs. Many factors can be in play to determine the price, such as size, pattern, and age of the rug.
Now that you know how to identify a real silk Persian rug, as well as how to clean it, you can be sure to keep your investment looking beautiful for years to come.
Have you ever owned a Persian rug before? Do you have any tips on spotting real silk? Let us know in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you!