Common Questions About Oriental Rugs

It surprises some to learn I didn’t grow up with oriental rugs; I found my way to the rugs world by accident, a chance job opportunity with Atiyeh brothers over 33 years ago. Rugs are an unusual thing, functional art, culture, heritage and utilitarian items that get used on the floor. It’s not uncommon for people to bring us rugs to cleaning that are 3rd & 4th generation It amazes me rugs aren’t like paintings on a wall they are subjected to physical abuse on a floor yet it’s not hard to find rugs 100 years old or old still in good usable condition.

Over the years, I’ve worked most sides of the rug business production, retail, wholesale, production, cleaning and I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time in Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan in pursuit of all things rug related. I thought it might be good to give my thoughts t some common questions I’m asked about rugs the perspective of a 33+ year veteran of the rug world.

Randy Hyde with Diljam Qassimy in Kabul 2020

Where does the term Oriental (rug) come from?

The history of the term can be traced to the Roman emperor Diocletian (284-305) who was referred to as “Comes Orientis” (Count of the east) being from the easter most part of the Roman empire. Orient is from the Latin word for east. I wonder, how far east one has to travel until they are in the west? This made more sense when people thought the world was flat, maybe it still does keep heading east and we are all Orientis.

Luri weavers in the Zagros mountains Southern, Iran

Where are oriental rugs made?

The orient 🙂 Sorry I couldn’t help myself. The top producing countries for rugs are India, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal & China. Handwoven rugs are made all over the world outside the “orient” in Africa, Ethiopia, Morocco, Egypt are west of the furthest reach of the roman empire. Rugs are all o made in the Americas. In Mexico, for example, there is a production in Temoaya North and east of Mexico city that weaves handwoven pile rugs similar to Oriental rugs woven in Pakistan. Rug weaving really is an international art form and the term “oriental” is often used to refer to handwoven rugs Vs. a specific geographic location.

What is the difference between Persian and oriental rugs?

Handwoven rugs from Persia since 1935 known as Iran are oriental rugs we have simply given a clear and accurate geographic location of manufacturing, in this case, Iran or Persia. In some cases, Persian rugs are designed by cities such as Kashan, Tabriz, Shiraz or ethnic or tribal groups such as Luri or Bakhtiari. In the case of Kurdish weaving, the area spans parts of western Iran, Iraq, easter Turkey

Are oriental rugs worth money?

When I started with the Atiyeh brothers in 1988 one of the early customers I visited had a blue and white 8×10 Chinese rug. As luck would have it and the twist and turns of life this customer has found me and for the last 20 years I’ve cleaned this same Chinese rug. The rug has been on the floor survived 3 kids, pets, a marriage and still going strong after nearly 40 years. In fact, we just cleaned it just a few months ago. How many things in your home last as long, a good rug is worth the money and because they last so long. How many things in your home that actually subjected to physical use last as long?

How much do oriental rugs cost?

Many factors determine cost country of origin /labour rates, materials such wool, silk, plant fibres and with-in these fibers of different qualities, processing and dyeing. Weave quality such knots per square inch and dyes such as natural dyes can double the price of a rug. New had woven rugs can start around 20.00 sq ft and head up in price from there.

Do oriental rugs hold their value?

I never suggest oriental rugs as an investment in the 1970’s some antique Persian silk rugs 4×6 ft were making auction records for 20-30K and some of these have hit the market in recent years selling for 6-9k adjusted for inflation 30k in 1975 is now 146K. On the flip side, there was the 17th Century Antique Persian Carpet which sold in a Sotheby’s auction several years ago for $33 Million. Both are extreme examples my suggestion is but what you like and regardless of the value you still have an enjoyable rug for your home.

Commercial rug weaving facility o the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan in 2020

Are Oriental Rugs cultural appropriations ?

No, they are not but, let’s dig a little deeper. Imagine a nomadic or village weavers hundreds of years ago or more. No banks, few job opportunities wealth measured in the size of their sheep flocks, they used sheep in ways that didn’t kill them for their milk, cheese, Yoghurt and their fleece for textiles. These were currency in past cultures and weaving a way to bank land add value to labour for future exchange for trade when needed.

How do i shop for a rug ?

It’s the internet age but trust me when I say rug shopping is best done in person. The two rugs below are a similar Bidjar rug design same basic size 9×12 one rug is 2,850 the other rug is 6,500.00 the cheaper one is a better deal right? The higher priced rugs is really a much better rug with better wools and a much higher knot count comparing the two the more expensive rug a much better rug. You can’t get the subtleties of a rug online and sometimes people get taken advantage of.

Portland is home to some fantastic rug dealers I’ll put some links at the bottom of the page. Good rug dealers want to educate and build a relationship with rug buyers like you. I suggest visiting every rug store you can tell them up front I’m not buying today I’m in the learning phase I would like to see what you have. Rug buying is a process of discovery and rug dealers help educate and answer your questions and navigate the complex rug world.

If you encounter a dealer that is trying to push you into a sale or offers up huge illogical discounts 80, 90% discounts, or will sell you a 25K rug for 10K or anything that doesn’t feel right or legitimate leave and never go back.

Here are some very good local rug retailers we work and we think these are the top local rug dealers.

Christiane Millinger Handmade Rugs.

Kush Rugs.

Tufenkian Carpets

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