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Oriental Rugs: Are They Worth the Money? Decoding Value and Quality

Updated: Feb 22

Oriental rugs command attention and respect in the world of home décor, but are they worth the money? As tangible expressions of history and craftsmanship, they are prized for their longevity and potential to appreciate in value. This article will guide you through understanding the economic and aesthetic value of these rugs, helping you decide if they are the right investment for your home.


Key Takeaways

  • Oriental rugs can be a good investment, appreciating in value over time, especially if they’re handmade and well-preserved, but not all rugs appreciate equally.

  • They offer durability, potentially lasting for generations with proper care, and each rug’s unique design and knot-work reflect cultural heritage and artistry.

  • Authenticity, material quality, and expert craftsmanship determine an Oriental rug’s value, with professional appraisals being important for insurance and resale.



Money Rug

Wove money rug a 5 dollar bill rug from Tabriz, Iran wool and silk
5 dollar bill rug

Money rugs are available in various currency denominations, 5 to 100-dollar bill rugs.






The Investment Value of Oriental Rugs

When you purchase an Oriental rug, you are not just buying a piece of décor for your home, you are investing in a piece of art that holds potential for appreciation. Just like a well-aged wine, a well-preserved Oriental rug can increase in value over time. Factors such as the condition of the rug, the demand for its design, and its age play a significant role in this appreciation. For instance, rugs made before World War I, such as Persian and Caucasian rugs, are considered highly collectable, commanding prices of $150-$200 per square foot or more.

However, keep in mind that not all Oriental rugs appreciate at the same rate or to the same degree. While handmade, hand-woven rugs can hold their value far better than machine-made rugs, the latter may sell for less than half their original price. So, while an Oriental rug may potentially appreciate in value, buying one should be more about appreciating its beauty and craftsmanship. This ensures satisfaction even if the value does not significantly increase and creates potential benefits for future generations.


The Durability Factor: A Rug for Generations

Oriental rugs are renowned for their strength and durability. Hand-woven from materials like wool, silk, and cotton, with many knots per square inch, these rugs can last for generations, often exceeding a century with proper care. So, when you invest in an Oriental rug, you’re not just making a purchase for yourself. You’re potentially investing in a future family heirloom, a treasured piece that can be passed down through generations.

However, the longevity of an Oriental rug isn’t just down to the quality of its materials. The care and maintenance it receives are also integral to its longevity. For example, hand-knotted rugs, celebrated for their long-lasting quality, can last up to 80 years or more with appropriate care. In contrast, hand-tufted rugs, though sometimes mistaken for their hand-knotted counterparts, typically last up to 20 years.

So, to protect your investment and ensure your rug endures, regular and proper maintenance is essential. Some tips for maintaining your Oriental rug include:

  • Vacuuming regularly to remove dirt and debris

  • Rotating the rug every few months to prevent uneven wear

  • Avoiding direct sunlight to prevent fading

  • Cleaning up spills immediately to prevent staining

  • Using a professional rug cleaner for deep cleaning every few years

These maintenance tips, help extend the life of your Oriental rug and enjoy its beauty years and even generations.


hand wool spinning in Iran
Afshar women spinning wool In Iran

Afshar woman spinning wool Sirjan, Iran


The Artistry Behind Every Knot

Looking at an Oriental rug, one can’t help but marvel at the intricate designs and motifs it carries. But did you know that these designs can tell a story or reflect the creator’s beliefs and heritage? Each hand-knotted rug is a labor of love, a testament to a skilled tradition passed down through generations. This process requires months of work and a deep knowledge of complex patterns, which are often recalled through an oral tradition. Among these beautiful creations, tribal rugs stand out for their unique and captivating designs.

The more detailed the design, the higher the knot density, signifying a labor-intensive process that enhances both the rug’s value and longevity. However, despite the precision involved, each handmade rug carries unique characteristics, such as minor imperfections and variation in artistic style. Far from detracting from the rug’s value, these subtle differences add to their authenticity and artistic value, making each rug a unique piece of art.


Handmade vs. Machine Made: A Price Comparison

So, we’ve established that Oriental rugs are stunning pieces of art that can appreciate in value over time. But why are they often more expensive than their machine-made counterparts? The answer lies in the craftsmanship. Handmade rugs, reflecting the skill and artistry of craftsmen and the time-intensive techniques used, such as different knot types, traditionally come with a higher price tag.

On the other hand, machine-made rugs, with their automated production process, offer a more budget-friendly option due to quicker production times and higher output volume. However, remember that the price difference does not necessarily signify a compromise in aesthetic appeal. Instead, it’s a reflection of the labor and time involved in creating each piece.

So, your choice between a handmade or machine-made rug will be influenced by your budget, preference for craftsmanship, and the significance you place on the rug’s potential appreciation.


Material Matters: Wool, Silk, and Cotton

The value of an Oriental rug is not just about its design or craftsmanship. The materials used in its construction also play a significant role. Wool, silk, and cotton are the most common natural fibers used in handmade oriental rugs, with wool often coming from the weaver’s own sheep. High-quality wool rugs, such as those made from New Zealand or Iranian wool, and silk, which allows for intricate details due to its fineness, significantly influence the value of these rugs.

These natural fibers, including hand spun wool, are used to construct the pile and foundation of the rug. The pile, typically made of wool or silk, is sheared to create an even surface, while the foundation is usually made of cotton. Real silk can be verified through the warmth generated from rubbing the palm of the hand over the surface or by observing a natural shine and silk-made fringes. Thus, the materials used contribute to the rug’s aesthetic appeal, durability, and value.



The Eco-Friendly Choice: Natural Dyes Vs. Synthetic dyes

In a time when sustainability and eco-friendly practices are increasingly important, 

  • Natural dyes used in these rugs do not release toxins or highly flammable materials, offering a safer and more sustainable choice.

  • These dyes create a more harmonious color palette.

However, 

  • Due to the pre-mordanting or wool fibers, for example, some natural dyes use more water than synthetic dyes.

  • The metal salts for mordanting chrome and tin are toxic and harmful, and care must be taken in their use and disposal.


While not free from environmental concerns, natural dyes derived from renewable sources offer several benefits. They are typically carbon-neutral and renewable. 

  • Lower carbon footprint, even carbon neutral, due to the usage of grown plant and renewable materials and reduced water needs

  • Benefits for local communities by preventing exposure to harsh chemicals and offering ethical employment opportunities

  • Plants used for these dyes often fulfill multiple roles within the community, supporting a zero-waste process and local market growth.

Synthetic dyes are efficient and use less water due to not needing a second water vat for mordanting. When dyed properly, the preferred dye exhausts well, releasing less toxins into the environment.


Environment, sustainability, and rugs should really focus on quality and durability. Many antique rugs still grace the floors of homes around America. The environmental question is upended when rugs can last a hundred years or more. 


Zollanvari wool dying in Iran
Wool dyeing in Shiraz, Iran

Wool dyeing at Zollanvari Rugs Shiraz, Iran

Style and Versatility in Home Décor



Beyond their value and eco-friendly qualities, Oriental rugs bring a unique style and versatility to home décor. They can significantly alter the appearance of a room, influencing perceived ceiling height, anchoring furniture, and even serving as the foundation of a room’s design ethos. Whether you’re looking to set a casual tone with geometric patterns or add a touch of formality with curvilinear lines, these rugs have got you covered.

The design and placement of a rug affect room dynamics in the following ways:


  • Larger rugs anchor furniture

  • Smaller, layered rugs create design impacts on budgets

  • Oriental rugs can seamlessly fit into a spectrum of design themes, from timeless, elaborate traditional settings to sleek, contemporary spaces

  • Selecting an Oriental rug is a personalized experience, ensuring the rug’s style aligns with the homeowner’s unique aesthetic and the intended functionality of the room.

Beyond beauty, Oriental rugs enhance home environments by adding warmth, texture, and color, which enrich the overall aesthetic and foster a welcoming atmosphere; they can also be utilized innovatively, such as wall hangings, to elevate spaces both indoors and outside.

Woman designing a rug with a cad program in Iran
Modern rug designing Isfahan, Iran
oriental carpet design, Iran
rug design drawn freehand in Isfahan


Status Symbol or Practical Purchase?


Oriental rugs are not just about aesthetics or investment value. They are often considered a status symbol for those with good taste and decorative flair, reflecting a dedication to quality design in the home environment. Owning an Oriental rug can be seen as a testament to your appreciation for art, craftsmanship, and history.

However, while they indeed make a statement, these rugs also provide practical benefits. They provide warmth, improve acoustics, and even protect your floor. And while they may require an initial investment, their durability and potential to appreciate in value make them a purchase that can offer returns in the long run.

So, whether you view them as a status symbol or a practical purchase, one thing is for sure - Oriental rugs can be a valuable addition to your home.


Qashqai weavers weaving gabbeh rugs Iran
Rug weaving in the Zagros mountains, Iran

Maintenance and Care: Protecting Your Investment

Just like any valuable asset, oriental rugs require regular maintenance and care to preserve their beauty and value. This involves:

  • Gentle vacuuming

  • Spot-cleaning as needed

  • Taking special care of the fringes

  • Having them professionally cleaned every 12-18 months

  • Avoiding exposing them to direct sunlight to sustain their condition.

When it comes to cleaning, professional in-plant cleaning services are recommended for handmade rugs, especially antique or sentimentally valuable ones, as they offer thorough cleaning without the risk of damage. For day-to-day care, natural cleaners like a vinegar and baking soda mixture can be used to spot-clean rugs, and for materials like cotton, mild dishwashing solutions can effectively clean dirtier-looking fringes.

If you need to store your rug, make sure to follow these steps:

  1. Clean the rug thoroughly before storing it.

  2. Roll the rug tightly to prevent creases and damage.

  3. Cover the rug with breathable materials, such as cotton sheets or muslin fabric.

  4. Store the rug in a climate-controlled, dry, and well-ventilated space.

  5. Periodically expose the rug to sunlight to prevent mold and protect against pests and fiber distortion.

These five key points, you can ensure that your rug stays in good condition while in storage.



The Market for Oriental Rugs: Buying and Selling Insights

The market for Oriental rugs is vast and varied. Some key points to consider when choosing a rug include:

  • Persian rugs are often the most expensive due to their exceptional craftsmanship and historical value.

  • Specialized retailers provide a wide selection of Persian and Oriental rugs, with filtering options and account-based discounts.

  • Consider the room’s purpose, size, and existing decor to find the appropriate fit.

For those intending to sell, online marketplaces such as eBay and Facebook Marketplace serve as popular platforms for selling used Oriental rugs. Successful rug listings should include:

  • The rug’s condition

  • Specifications

  • Ownership history

  • Original purchase details

  • High-quality images

  • Story context

Therefore, whether you’re a first-time buyer, a seasoned collector, or looking to sell at an estate sale, understanding the market dynamics can help you make informed decisions and get the best value for your money.


Identifying Authenticity and Quality

For any high-value purchase, verifying the authenticity and quality of the item is vital. The same applies when investing in an Oriental rug. Factors such as knot density, materials, and origin can provide insight into an Oriental rug’s authenticity and artistic heritage. A higher knot density often results in a finer weave, shorter pile, and clearer design, contributing significantly to an Oriental rug’s aesthetic and functional quality.

Certificates of authenticity and detailed information about an Oriental rug’s materials and craftsmanship from trustworthy sellers are crucial for validating its authenticity. Expertise in rug identification, such as recognizing handmade characteristics and consulting specialized Persian rug stores, is crucial in determining an Oriental rug’s value.

So, while the beauty of an antique rug, particularly an Oriental rug, may captivate you, its authenticity, quality, and status as a valuable rug make it a worthwhile investment in the same rug.


Appraising the Worth: Seeking Expert Advice

Once you have verified the authenticity and quality of an Oriental rug, assessing its monetary value is a crucial next step. For this purpose, seeking professional appraisal services is key. These evaluations are essential not only for protecting your investment with appropriate insurance, but also to provide clarity when it comes time to sell the piece. The appraisal process involves:

  • Meticulous research into the rug’s provenance.

  • Thorough examinations of its condition and materials used in construction.

  • Taking photographs for records.

  • Studying current trends within the market.

  • Benchmarking against recent sales figures and crafting a detailed written assessment.

When choosing an appraiser for such precious items as oriental rugs or antique carpets. Consider those certified by reputable bodies like the Oriental Rug Retailers of America who adhere to high standards ensuring their valuations are both accurate and trustworthy. Written appraisals come into play under numerous legal or financial situations - they might be necessary for IRS documentation if donating over $5,000 worth of charitable contributions, splitting assets during estate planning, or determining equitable distribution values among parties in divorce proceedings, especially where long-held family possessions or antiques are involved.

If you’re contemplating purchasing an oriental rug, intent on selling one from your collection, or simply interested in understanding more about what yours could be worth - it’s always prudent to seek out specialized advice before making any decisions.


800 knots to the inch rug weaving Isfahan, Iran
Weavers at F. Haghighi Esfahan, Iran

Raw rug transformed into finished rug, Tehran, Iran
Same rug as above post wash detail work



Summary

As we’ve traveled through the world of Oriental rugs, it’s evident that these pieces are more than just floor coverings. They are pieces of art, crafted with immense skill and attention to detail. These rugs are a testament to tradition and craftsmanship, reflecting centuries of artistry and cultural heritage. But beyond their aesthetic appeal, oriental rugs are an investment. With their potential for appreciation, their durability, and their eco-friendly attributes, these rugs offer value in more ways than one.

Whether you’re a collector, a decorator, or simply an appreciator of art and history, an Oriental rug is a worthwhile addition to your home. It’s a piece that tells a story, adds character to your space, and serves as a testament to your taste and appreciation for quality. So, are Oriental rugs worth the money? We’ll let you be the judge. But one thing is for sure - investing in an Oriental rug is investing in a piece of timeless beauty, rich history, and exceptional craftsmanship.



Frequently Asked Questions


Are Oriental rugs worth it?

Yes, Oriental rugs can go up in value over time, making them a worthwhile investment.


How can you tell if an Oriental rug is valuable?

You can tell if an Oriental rug is valuable by evaluating its level of artistry, beauty, age, condition relative to age, quality of color, uniqueness, rarity, and fineness of weave. These factors help determine the rug’s worth.


How can I maintain the value of my Oriental rug?

To preserve the value of your oriental rug, it’s important to vacuum it softly, clean spots when necessary, seek professional cleaning services every 12 to 18 months and protect it from prolonged exposure to direct sunlight.

Adhering to these care guidelines will help ensure that the value of your rug remains intact for many years ahead.


Are Oriental rugs eco-friendly?

Indeed, oriental rugs crafted using natural dyes and adhering to sustainable methods offer an eco-friendly choice. Their production does not emit toxins, making the process less detrimental to our environment while preserving the appeal of these traditional furnishings.


Are oriental rugs expensive?

Considering the time, materials, and labor to make a finished rug, no, I think they are reasonably priced. Used oriental rugs are very affordable, some below the price of new machine-made area rugs.


Shopping for a handmade rug in Portland

Tip number one, buy wool, nothing has the performance of good quality wool, not even silk.


Tip number two, stay away from plant fibers, cotton, linen, and Viscose ( rayon, bamboo silk, modal, lyocell); unlike wool, I rarely clean plant fiber rugs over 20 years old, and plant fiber stains and wear easily. Most plant finer living room rugs last 2-5 years, did I mention buy wool?


Rug Shopping

The rug market and sales have changed over the last two decades, there used to be a high-pressure-gimmicky sales environment that existed, but that's largely gone. Today retailers work collaboratively; no one expects you to walk in and buy a rug; they expect you to look at rugs and samples and ask lots of questions.


The more organized you are walking into a rug shop, the better off you are.

Measure your space; make two measurements the largest possible size rug for the space and the smallest possible size rug for the space.


Gather together photos, fabric samples, and paint samples, and write down any ideas with color and design. Maybe you have seen a picture of a rug in a magazine, paint samples, wallpaper, or whatever it is that intrigues you; put it in a folder and bring it along to the rug shop and sale with the rug salesperson.


Entering a rug store, You will be faced with three basic options buying a rug on the showroom floor, ordering a rug, not in stock from a rug producer, or custom-making your very own rug; let's explore each of these.











Portland local rug retailers






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