Looking for everything you need to know about Persian and Oriental rugs?
You’re in the right place.
This guide has been designed to take you by the hand as you find the Perfect Persian Rug.
By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll know exactly what to look out for when purchasing a Persian or Oriental rug.
Now before we get into the specifics of each category, let’s recap why you’ve decided to make the smart choice and choose a hand-knotted rug for your home or office.
Hand-Knotted rugs are one-off genuine works of art created by a skilled professional, made with…
Wool and/or Silk fibers, that make each rug hard wearing and feel amazing underfoot, using…
Natural vegetable dyes — to create rich and warm colors with a depth and nuance that cannot be recreated with artificial dyes, which gives every rug…
A unique and genuine claim to sit atop the throne as the carpet of Kings, Queens and Presidents.
Now, you probably know… that almost every person who ever sets eyes on a 100% hand-knotted piece of genuine floor art can appreciate their beauty & charm but… not everyone knows what to look for when shopping for one.
So let’s dive in and give you a crash course in rug buying wisdom.
Persian Rugs Vs Oriental Rugs
What Is The Difference Between Persian And Oriental Rugs?
One of the questions we often get asked is about the difference between Persian and Oriental rugs.
The main point of difference between the two is that all Persian rugs are Oriental rugs, but not all Oriental rugs are Persian rugs.
Persia, which is now known as Iran, lies is one of many Oriental countries. So all rugs produced in this country are in fact Oriental rugs.
Rugs produced in the rest of the Oriental countries other than Iran are grouped under the umbrella term of ‘Oriental rugs’.
These rugs may originate from several different countries, mainly Afghanistan, China, India, and Pakistan.
What Is So Special About Persian Rugs?
Highly skilled Persian rug-makers spent months and even years painstakingly making one knot at a time on their splendid creations. Rug making skills are passed down from one generation to the next so the basic technique remains the same through the generations in that particular region.
Persian rug-weavers tend to use a wide palette of colors in their rug designs. The dyes are extracted from natural materials found around the area.
When you compare Persian and Oriental rugs, it’s plain to see that all Persian rugs are created using a combination of bright and vivid colors. On the other hand, Oriental rugs tend to feature fewer colors.
Unique Aspect Of Persian Rugs
Another unique aspect of Persian rugs is that every region has their own style in terms of the knots used as well as the patterns, motifs and colors used in the overall design of the rug.
This is one of the reasons you find such a huge variety of Persian rugs – each type is created in a different region of the country.
Regardless of colors, designs, and style differences between regions, all Persian rugs are created using high quality materials derived strictly from natural sources. The only materials used are wool, cotton and silk.
Each material may be used by itself or in combination with each other. You’ll never see a Persian rug made of viscose, nylon acrylic, polypropylene or any other synthetic material.
Does The Knot Count Impact The Price Of A Persian Rug?
Of course, you cannot talk about Persian rugs without mentioning the knot count aspect. The knot count has the biggest impact on the price of a Persian rug. What’s really important to note is that they do not determine the quality.
In general, all Persian rugs are high quality. The knot count only affects the price of the rug. Rugs with a higher knot count are more expensive. This is because it takes much longer for the weaver to make more knots in a square inch.
Persian rugs may be more expensive but with regular maintenance you can rest assured that they are an investment that will increase in value as they get older. At Catalina Rugs, we keep only authentic Persian rugs from various regions around the country.
What Is Persian Rug?
Persian rugs are distinctively superior in terms of workmanship, execution of designs, style of knots and materials and dyes used. The higher quality is what sets them apart from all other types of Oriental rugs.
Persian rug designs are named after the village, tribe or city where they were made. A rug cannot be called Persian unless it was actually made in the country of Iran.
What Is An Oriental Rug?
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.
When people think of Persian Rugs, they might think of the story Aladdin and his Magic Carpet.
You might picture a bustling outdoor street bazaar full of color and incense as street merchants compete for your attention, offering you trinkets, teas, and rare rugs.c
And, because the ancient art of carpet-weaving began in Central Asia, it used to be the only location you could acquire one.c
But that was 2500 years ago.
Now you can get hand-woven rugs from all over the world, including: Iran, Turkey, North Africa, the Caucasus, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China and Nepal.
Each location has a unique way of creating each rug. The texture of the wool will vary, the natural colors, the attention to detail, the design etc.
For anyone not a collector, knowing that your rug is from Iran, or Pakistan or Turkey is still important because origin influences price (because of course, you always want to know precisely what you’re paying for).
Next up… We’ll look at:
What Are The Best Persian Rugs?
Types of Persian rugs in style?
Persian rugs come in a wide variety of designs and pattern, each one different from the other but all equally gorgeous. Homeowners often have a difficult time choosing one of the many beautiful rugs for their own. Shortlisting the top types of Persian rugs that are in style is not easy.
The five rugs we’ve listed below have remained popular through the years.
If you are looking to buy a Persian rug that is sure to be always in style, you may want to consider one of these types.
With their exquisite design, high knot count, intricate patterns and exceptionally high quality, Tabriz rugs are among the most popular of all Persian rug types.
These fabulous rugs are created by highly skilled and experienced weavers who spend years working on each rug, the elaborate design of the rug coming to life one knot at a time.
Tabriz rugs feature a wide variety of patterns made up of floral motifs, trees, teardrop medallions and traditional hunting scenes. Antique Tabriz rugs are very rare today.
Kashan rugs are easily recognizable by their distinctive medallion and corner pattern on an intricately patterned floral field.
Weavers use deep, rich colors in their creations. Vibrant blues, reds and ivory dominate the color scheme with burnt orange, green and yellow used as accent colors.
Kashan rugs look deceptively delicate. These rugs are in fact very durable. Most Kashan rugs have a high knot count of about 100 to over 800 kpsi.
An oversized central medallion with double or triple outlining and large corner pieces, all in bright, bold colors are some of the characteristic features of Heriz rugs.
These rugs usually have a dense, heavy woolen pile constructed on a cotton foundation. They are known for their superior durability.
Sarouk rugs have very versatile designs and color schemes, which have contributed to their immense popularity, which has not diminished over the years.
Farahan Sarouks are the most well-known type of Sarouk rugs. These rugs typically feature an elaborate network of curvilinear floral motifs surrounding an oversized medallion in the center of the field.
A large, ornate Shah Abbasi medallion lying majestically on a highly decorative background of curvilinear floral motifs is characteristic of Mashad rugs.
The overall effect of the design elements gives these rugs a timeless appearance. The high quality wool pile constructed on top of a cotton foundation gives these rugs a soft, lustrous look and feel without compromising on durability.
Within each rug weaving country there are of course different cities & villages where the rug creation takes place.
Years ago, in many villages, rug weavers would make rugs just for themselves.
Then, as they became known for their captivating beauty and charm, they began to rise in demand.
This meant larger workshops opened up in cities and rug-weavers would work from there, trading their skills for income.
As a result, you can now enjoy a variety of different rugs from many different geographical locations within one country.
This was (and still is) good news for any rug lover…
… because each location’s design and creation process influences each finished product.
This means some rugs are more desirable due to historical reasons…
they could have sentimental value…
or because the rug comes from a place like Tabriz which has its own loom named after it, (the tabriz loom)…
or some other factors including motifs, designs and pile thickness etc.
Success, Achievement and Wealth
… And continue to represent these qualities to this day. So much so that…
In 2010, the traditional skills of carpet weaving in the Iranian town of Kashan…
… was inscribed to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
Which as you can imagine, has increased the demand (and value) of this type of rug.
Now let’s take a look at how the age of a rug can influence price (and why most new rugs aren’t as expensive as older, vintage versions).
The Age of Persian Rugs and Does It Matter?
How Old Does A Persian Rug Have To Be To Be An Antique?
Only Persian rugs that are 100 years or older are considered antiques. Rugs that are anything less than 100 years of age does not qualify as antique.
Persian rugs that are anywhere from 20 to 99 years old are called Vintage rugs. Some rug dealers may also call them ‘semi-antique’ rugs.
How Long Does A Persian Rug Last?
Persian rugs are amazingly durable. They can last over several generations provided that they are cleaned and maintained regularly.
Not only do these rugs look even more beautiful as they age, they also increase in value as they age especially if they are in immaculate condition. This is one of the reasons rug collectors are always on a lookout for well-maintained antique and vintage Persian rugs.
Most of the Persian rugs you see today older than 10 years
How To Tell The Age Of Persian Rugs?
Pinning down the exact age may call for an expert in this field but there are a couple of things you can do to estimate the age range of any Persian rug.
The first is to turn the rug over and feel the underside of the rug. Does the underside look and feel smooth or fuzzy? A newer rug will feel soft and slightly fuzzy. This is because of it still has the original fuzz of the wool.
An older rug will look and feel hard and smooth because the fuzz would have gotten abraded with general wear over the years.
Another test is to part the pile to get a closer look at the colors along the strand of the pile. If the color is even throughout the rug is relatively new.
In older rugs, exposure to light and the atmosphere over the years will fade the tips of the pile so it looks more faded as compared to the bottom of the pile.
All things being equal, when a rug is in good condition, the older it is, the more valuable it is.
Rug collectors know this. As do the large auction houses.
That’s why a genuine masterpiece created thousands of years ago, can sell for multiple millions of dollars.
And because a wool or silk rug can take a trip to a professional rug cleaners and come back looking good as new…
Choosing an older rug won’t detract from the quality of your purchase, if anything, it will enhance it.
Of course, the older a rug is the more detailed the inspection should be to ensure tip top… Rug Condition!
Which you can now read about next…
The Condition of Persian Rugs
How Do Persian Rugs Last?
Persian rugs are known to last over several generations but they do require regular maintenance to stay looking good for years.
These few tips will keep your Persian rug looking beautiful even if it is over 100 years old.
- As much as possible, keep the rug away from direct sunlight. Closing the drapes or blinds when the room isn’t being used can help prevent or reduce fading effect of the sunlight.
- If only one side of your rug gets exposed to direct sunlight or heavy traffic, you must rotate the positioning of the rug regularly at least about every 6 months. This will protect the rug from uneven fading.
- If one side of the rug gets heavier traffic, the pile will get excessively worn out on that side giving the rug a ragged look. It’s important to rotate the rug every 3 – 4 months to prevent this from happening.
- Regular dusting or brushing is important to prevent a buildup of dirt and debris in the pile. Debris that settles in the pile can be abrasive and fray the pile when you walk over it, giving the rug a shabby look. Make sure you brush along the pile not against it.
- Never attempt washing your rugs at home. The natural dyes may run into one another ruining your rug forever. Persian rugs must be professionally washed to maintain their good looks.
- Keep your rug away from excessive dampness or intense heat. Both of these can ruin the fabric and colors of your rug.
Is It Ok To Vacuum Persian Rugs?
Yes, it’s okay to vacuum Persian rugs but only with a very light vacuum. In fact, regular vacuuming is recommended to preventing damage due to grit and debris buildup.
Always vacuum side by side along the width, never along the length.
With a little care, your Persian rug is sure to become a good-looking treasured family heirloom passed down for several generations through the years.
The materials used to make 100% hand-knotted rugs are natural plant and animal fibers, like silk, wool, cotton, jute and sisal.
In using these materials, a Persian Rug can last for thousands of years.
Not only that but the quality of a wool / silk rug is actually good for your health.
As man-made materials like nylon, acrylic, and viscose can irritate and increase allergies.
But getting back to the finer details…
A fine weave is more important than knot count in the quality of the design.
The weave should be fine enough to clearly express the motifs of the design.
For example: a bold geometric design may have less than 100 knots per square inch while a detailed floral pattern may require 300 or more.
While tightness and regularity of weave are important, the quality of the wool determines the resilience and lasting patina of a rug.
Plus, the quality and fastness of the dyes are also important.
These are all factors a rug collector must get right.
After all, it’s their job to know a good rug from a great one.
As far as you’re concerned, essentially you just want to know with 100% certainty that what you are buying is actually ‘real wool’ or ‘real silk’ and not an imitation.
One last thing: just know that two rugs might look similar…
…yet they may be vastly different in real quality and therefore in value.
The easy way to solve the ‘quality issue’ is to rely on a rug store owner or rug dealer who has a lot of experience.
And a lot of glowing testimonials also helps put your mind at ease.
Persian Rug Colors
Why Are So Many Persian Rugs Red?
Red is the most commonly used color in Persian rugs for several reasons. The color itself is associated with feelings of excitement, passion, joy and luck, which are emotions that the weavers wanted to convey through their designs.
What’s striking is that you will find an endless variety of red shades, each creating a different visual effect. The variations in the hue are mainly due to the different plant parts and minerals that are used to create the dye.
Tabriz rugs have three different shades of red – apple red, fire red, and dark red that is almost black. The red shade found in Sarouk rugs leads more towards orange.
Heriz rugs use a unique rust color that is only found in these rugs. This is because the wool used to make the rugs is first washed in water that contains a certain combination of minerals that give it that distinctive rust color.
Other Colors Used In Persian Rugs And What They Mean
Blue is a calm and peaceful color. It stands for tranquility and inner peace. It also stands for trust and loyalty.
Yellow is associated with energy, happiness, and radiance, much like the sunlight.
Orange is highly revered by several Eastern cultures, especially in Hinduism and Buddhism. When used in Persian rugs, it stands for reverence.
Green symbolizes spring, hope and new life much like new shoots sprouting during the Spring season. Orthodox Mohammedans consider it a holy color associated with Prophet Mohammed.
Brown is the color of the soil. In Persian rugs it is associated with fertility and Mother Earth.
Gold is held in high esteem as a symbol of prestige and wealth. It is rarely used in everyday rugs but used liberally in rugs created for prominent families and for royalty.
White and Beige represent purity and innocence.
It’s almost impossible to recreate the natural colors used in a Persian or Oriental Rug.
Which is why they are so popular with interior designers, proud homeowners and anyone with a keen eye for detail and love for the finer things in life.
Bold or Subtle? That is the question.
To start, let’s look at interior design through the lens of a designer and see if they can shed any light on the subject.
You see, when a professional interior designer is looking at a blank canvas, they’ll often start the design process with the rug. As step one.
After all, the right rug is the heart & soul of a room.
Which is why all the other elements (color, texture, materials etc) are usually chosen by a designer after the rug is selected.
But that is a scenario that is often only available to new homeowners, or if you are willing to redecorate your room to accommodate your new rug purchase.
So where do you start?
Well, as you might expect, when choosing your rug, you’ll treat it similarly to picking a wall color.
If you have dark walls and furniture, then a light color rug would be the ideal color contrast, otherwise your room will feel smaller.
If you have light walls and light furniture, then a darker, richer color rug would suit much better.
Essentially, if you’re not starting from scratch then a rug should probably complement the furniture you already have.
Begin with the color of your largest piece of furniture and picture a few different colors that would work well with it.
For inspiration, look at the color of your cushions, which will help show you:
1) what colors you already like and 2) what color rug would complement your existing design.
You could write down all the colors in the room you have in mind for your rug including the walls, cushions, throws, plants, light fittings etc. Because this is your color scheme.
Work with what you have or redecorate the whole room to celebrate your perfect Persian or Oriental Rug.
Shop by Color
After selecting your ideal color combinations, the next choice is fairly easy…
See more below…
Persian Rug Shapes
OK. So this category is self-explanatory but let’s take a brief look.
You know that you either want a rectangle or circle.
Pretty simple, right?
You want a long rectangle (or runner) for a hallway or a large rectangle for a living room.
Or you want a half circle to place in front of a dressing table or by a single bed.
Or perhaps you like the idea of a large circle/oval in an entranceway that leads towards different doorways.
There’s not much else to consider, but it’s still a question that once answered…
… tightens up your criteria, narrows down your search, and gets you one step closer to finding your perfect rug.
So now you have an idea of color and shape, next up is… RUG SIZE.
Different Persian Rug Sizes
Interior designers will tell you that rug size depends on your design objective.
They’ll ask you if your rug will be a focal point or an accent?
Is it to unite or separate a room?
Are they valid questions?
But let me just say this: pretty much ANY size rug can work, but…
… some rugs are just too small.
Short version: Bigger is Better.
Small and medium rugs have their place of course, but if you’re ever stuck between choosing Medium & Large…
… almost everyone we know — is so much happier when they go BIG.
But how will you decide?
Rug Size Guide Cheat Sheet
Well, every rug needs what we call the ‘border’ or ‘show floor’.
In most instances you want to aim for 6-14 inches off the baseboard/skirting.
In a smaller room, it’s better to have less ’show floor/border’ around the edges of your rug unless of course it’s parquet, oak or some other kind of decorative floor.
So that’s a guiding principle.
You measure your room, allowing for the size border you desire.
The trick is to see your rug at home before you buy.
Masking tape/painter’s tape.
Buy a roll or 3 from any hardware store and experiment with different sizes.
It’s an old trick and it works like gangbusters.
Shop by Rug Size
What Are Persian Rugs Made Of?
Persian rugs are made from all natural materials. Many of these rugs are woven by nomadic weavers who moved around in remote mountains in search of better pastures for their sheep. They did not have access to synthetic materials and chemicals and used only natural materials to weave and dye rugs.
Most Persian rugs are made from wool and cotton. Silk is also used but they are more commonly seen in the city rugs, not in tribal or village rugs.
Are Persian Rugs Made Of Wool?
Yes, wool is the most common material used to make Persian rugs. This is because nomadic weavers originally started making these rugs to stay warm in the snow-clad regions where they roamed.
The best material to use for these creations was wool that they obtained from shearing their sheep. This is one of the reasons why we see so many Persian rugs made of wool.
Wool Persian Rugs
The quality of wool Persian rugs can vary considerably depending on the region where they are made. This is because the quality depends on the weather in the region and the type of food that the sheep grazed on.
The best wool has an oily texture, which gives it a much desired flexibility. This wool is obtained from sheep that graze in high mountains because of the weather conditions and types of plants found at these heights.
Wool that is obtained from goats or from sheep that have died a natural death tends to be dry. Dry wool is rarely used in rug making because it is more brittle, resulting in the pile breaking more easily when walking over it or when it is vacuumed.
Silk Persian Rugs
Silk rugs are the most valuable of all Persian rugs. This is because of several reasons. For one thing, the raw material itself is more expensive. The thinner strands of silk make it possible for weavers to tie more knots per square inch.
Creating the extra knots takes so much more time, adding to the cost of the rug. In addition, the finer material and the higher knots per square inch result in more defined details being visible in the patterns. All of these factors contribute to the higher cost of silk rugs.
Silk And Wool Rugs
In silk and wool rugs, silk is used for the pile and wool for the foundation. This gives the rug the beneficial properties of both silk and wool.
The wool foundation gives the rug strength, durability and flexibility, while the silk pile gives the rug a lush softness with more intricate patterns.
Cotton is the most common material used for the foundation of Persian along with wool. The cotton foundation gives the rug a firm texture and adds to its durability.
For nomadic weavers, wool was the most easily available material to use in their rugs. They just had to shear their sheep. Wool is also easy to work with and easy to dye. This is one of the reasons why so many tribal Persian rugs contain a wool foundation as well as a wool pile.
How to Identify Persian Rug Designs and Patterns
When it comes to style, the industry uses easy to understand terms like traditional, tribal, modern, contemporary etc.
And, every style has its own design & pattern.
People can get confused as to the difference between style, design & pattern.
But there’s a simple solution.
Choose your rug according to your taste and don’t worry if a rug is a contemporary piece inspired by the ancient warriors of Greece with a floral design that repeats – in shades of red, burnt red, and orange 😉
The most common designs & patterns are:
- Open Field
- Birds & flowers
- Garden design
Want an even better way to visualize a rug at home before you buy?
Now you can ‘virtually’ see almost any rug we have in stock – inside your home, from the comfort of home.
What Price of Persian Rug Is Right For Me
On the most basic level, the cost or value of a rug is determined by what you (or the market) are willing to pay for it.
For example: The highest price ever paid for a rug was $33 Million, when a 17th Century Antique Persian Carpet was sold at Sotheby’s.
Of course, one doesn’t have to pay prices like that to enjoy the beauty of these ‘Magic Carpets’ at home.
Perhaps you have a price in mind or maybe you don’t.
Maybe you have a budget, or maybe you’ll pay what you think you can afford and a little bit more because you found the EXACT rug you want.
The best thing you can do is to find a reputable rug dealer who has done all the hard work for you.
Someone who has valued each rug, and gives you the price upfront.
So you know exactly what you’re getting.
That’s why buying a Persian or Oriental Rug online is advantageous.
Essentially, what you see is what you get, and oftentimes…
… you’ll get a nice surprise when you unroll your rug and see it at home for the very first time…
Because there’s nothing quite like a 100% hand-knotted, wool & silk, Persian & Oriental Rug.
What makes one rug so expensive compared to another that looks similar?
Well, it’s a combination of everything we’re looking at inside this guide.
And since some rugs can take 8+ years to make, and that a rug made 80 years ago has more prestige than one made last week…
Especially when it’s a signed rug, made by a famous rug artisan family…
That literally weaves their family signature into the rug to guarantee its authenticity…
… then you can see why the price range does vary.
This is the penultimate message, which means soon you’ll be ready to pick the perfect Persian Rug on your first try…
Now continue reading for the last piece of the rug purchasing puzzle…
The Rug WOW Factor
This is the last ‘checkpoint’ in our guide, although it could easily be the first.
Because sometimes the things we buy for our home are not only practical, luxurious and elegant…
… sometimes we just ‘have to have it’, the item just ‘speaks to us’.
It’s almost as if the thing has OUR name on it…
And it’s ‘something’… we can’t quite articulate, but… we FEEL IT.
It has what the french call: “Je ne sais quoi” – which basically means:
It’s hard to put into words how special I think this is… but, I like it, a LOT.
And this phenomenon applies to rugs too.
Other times: you’ll have a choice of your favorite 3 and the only way to decide…is to feel…intuitively into making the decision.
So this part of the checklist guide could be first or last.
Because gut feeling is a good barometer to use in a lot of areas in life, rug shopping included.
So next time you’re about to purchase something, ask yourself if it has practical utility and if it makes you feel something positive too.
If it does, chances are you’re picking the right product.
But remember your rug size and color checkpoints. Gut feeling has to have practical application too. 😉
Pick your perfect (first or next) Persian or Oriental Rug.
Now it’s over to you.
You have all the information you need to make your choice.
We wish you Good Luck and Happy Shopping! 🍀