Updated: Jun 20
I've been working with oriental rugs for over 33 years.. retail, wholesale, production, cleaning, and restoration. I've worked most angles of this amazing world of Handwoven rugs.
Oriental rugs are subjective and have different values and meanings for our clients. For some, a woven rug is a practical, utilitarian decorative item and nothing more. Yet, for others, an inherited antique oriental carpet holds fond childhood memories and may span generations in a single-family.
Some collect rugs, particularly Antique rugs, as fiber art and a window into the ethnographic makeup of the people that weave them. There is, no single reason why people own Oriental carpets.
Are oriental rugs worth the money?
To answer this question, we need to understand how rugs come to be. The time labor, and energy it takes to not only weave a rug the aggregate processes that make a rug.
A lot of labor goes into making a rug outside of the actual rug weaving raw materials, mostly wool. These materials must be processed sheep sheared, wool washed, carding, spinning of wool as in this pic of Afshar women spinning wool in Sirjan, Iran. While wool is machine spun in many places, hand spinning wool is still common in some rug weaving countries like Iran and Afghanistan. I won't tell you hand-spun wool is better it does provide a difference in how a rug looks and feels.
Afshar woman spinning wool Sirjan, Iran
Spun wool needs color, and skilled dyers work over dye vats to dye wool of various colors for weavers to use, and you can see all these workers and materials cost money. Typically there is an interplay between design and dyer to determine yarn color.
Wool dyeing at Zollanvari Rugs Shiraz, Iran
Skilled workers plan color and design; these designs and colors are plotted into graphs for weavers to follow. Traditionally this was done by hand as in the picture; Today, skilled rug designer draws the design in a CAD program designed for the rug industry. CAD drawings are easy to adapt to different sizes, weave qualities, and design alterations Making for quicker production turnaround.
Real oriental rugs are handwoven one knot at a time and can take months to years to complete depending on how fine the knots are, how many weavers work on a rug at one time and how much time in a day a weaver devotes to weaving. Below pic are several Qashqai weavers traditionally weaving a Gabbeh rug that rug weaving has been done for more than a millennia. Rugs such as this can be completed in several months, depending on how much time a weaver spends daily. For these weavers, rug weaving is a part-time occupation, perhaps 4 hours a day.
Weavers tying knots in the Zagros mountains, Iran
The idea that children's hands are needed to weave such a fine rug is not actually true. All of the weavers working on this rug were well seasoned, experienced, skilled weavers over 40. It's hard for most to grasp what it means until you sit at such a loom, weave (and I have), and try to tie knots.
While child labor exists in rug weaving, particularly in India and Pakistan, it's not found in high knot count rug weaving small fingers of children to tie small; fine knots is non-sense.
It's not just the physical act of tying knots; it's the ability of the weaver to interpret the design and tie rug knots in the proper place. In many places such as Iran, Turkey, and Afghanistan, weaving is part of their cultural heritage, not just a job. These weavers, like many, are paid weekly based on the progress of weaving per week.
Weavers at F. Haghighi Esfahan, Iran
Rugs fresh off a loom look ugly. The pic below is a just-completed rug it’s face down but you see from the upturned corner how fuzzy the face looks and frankly, not very appealing.
Here is a picture of the same rug in final finishing, a great deal of time and energy is expended after the oriental rug has been taken off the loom to make the rug more appealing and sellable washing, shearing, and hand detail work to the ends and sides.
In some rug weaving more labor is expended in the materials and finishing than in the actual weaving of a hand-woven rug.
How to Shop for rugs
FAQ- Frequently asked questions.
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 machine-made area rugs.
Are oriental rugs worth money? If you are planning to throw away your rugs every few years, no. Good handwoven rugs last a lifetime, I've cleaned a lot of rugs in the last 33 years, and I lean lots of rugs that are a hundred or more years old. Nothing wears on the floor or performs like a good handwoven wool rug. Are they worth the money oh, yes?
Why are they called Oriental rugs? It's from the word Orient a term for everything east of Europe; the Orient and oriental rugs came from the Orient; the name stuck. Oriental rugs vs. Persian rugs. Persian rugs are rugs made in modern-day Iran, Persian rugs are oriental rugs, but not all Oriental rugs are Persian such as rugs made in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Tibet, and China.
Do oriental rugs hold their value? Some do, and others don't. I'm a little pensive with the concept of value and collectability of rugs or, worse oriental rugs as an investment.
I shy people away from rugs and values yes, some rugs will increase in value, but some will lose value too, kind of like stocks. The real value of oriental rugs is their longevity, performance, color, design, and durability on the floor.
So, are Oriental rugs worth the money?
-Yes, buying a quality rug for long-term use is an intelligent money rug move. IF, you plan on purchasing and using that rug for a long time. Another thing to consider, We often clean antique rugs a hundred or more years old there is nothing more environmentally sound than a rug that can last for a century or more.
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