For those who are looking to purchase either Persian rugs or Oriental rugs, it can be a little confusing at first until you understand the differences. The first thing you should know is that all Persian rugs are Oriental rugs, but not all Oriental rugs are Persian rugs. That is become Oriental rugs are the larger family that Persian rugs belong.
Oriental rugs are hand-knotted and produced in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, India, Pakistan, and China. Iran was once known as Persia and that is the only place where Persian rugs are made. The first distinction between a Persian and an Oriental rug is where it originates. Only if it came from the modern country of Iran is it a Persian rug.
A Persian rug is considered the best sub-group in Oriental rugs in terms of its high-quality materials and intricate designs. Over the centuries, Persian rugs have been highly prized for their quality, beauty, and durability. If you are shopping for a Persian rug, you will need to have a basic understanding of Persian and Oriental rugs, their composition, value, and differences.
Although part of the same family as Oriental rugs, the Persian versions have some significant differences in terms of their design, pattern, and material. There are four major types of Persian rugs, named after the villages or towns where they were created or popularized;
The townspeople put their own unique vision into the rugs, creating vibrant colors that highlighted the work of four or five craftsmen who took over a year to make each one. This is a subtle difference compared to other Oriental rugs which tend to reflect the region and customs of where they were made as opposed to the town in which they were crafted.
One of the ways you can distinguish a Persian rug from an Oriental rug is by the use of hand-knots. If the dealer is honest and knowledgeable, they should be able to tell you if the rug is hand knotted. However, there are some obvious signs.
- You can count the knots per square inch fairly easily
- The bottom is the same material as the top pile
- The bottom is a mirror-image of the top pile
In addition, fringes are either glued or sewn onto the rug itself. You may also see a piece of canvas or cotton along the bottom of the rug. A synthetically produced rug will have a hard-plastic backing which means it was not hand knotted.
Also, beware of terms that sound similar to hand knotted, such as “hand crafted”, “hand-made” or “hand-loomed”. All these terms do not mean that the rug was hand knotted. In fact, the terms may be quite deceptive as rugs constructed by machines with human operators can have any of these terms.
Persian rugs are only crafted from wool or silk. A rug that has any other components is not a true Persian rug. Also, it is recommended that bamboo silk be used as opposed to natural silk which requires the killing of many thousands of caterpillars. It should be noted that most Oriental rugs are made from the same materials. Just keep in mind that the major difference is the location where the rug was made and the knots that are commonly used.
There are numerous differences between Oriental rugs and Persian rugs. Understanding the differences will help you identify and get to know them.
Persian Knot: This unique knot which was created in Persia many centuries ago was an advancement that helped separate Persian rugs from other Oriental rugs. Today, there are Oriental rugs that use this knot, but it is not a true Persian rug if the Persian knot is not used.
The Persian knot is asymmetrical in nature and open on one side. This means that there are no gaps while the knot itself takes up less room. The overall effect is a smoother appearance that helps separate this type of rug from the rest. It also allows for more intricate designs.
Hand-Washed: Another difference is that Persian rugs are hand-washed which means that they are softer and more comfortable to rest on compared to many Oriental rugs that are not hand-washed. The hand washing is important because it helps maintain the strength of the fibers while still removing the dust, dirt, and other debris from the rug itself.
Prices: Persian rugs tend to be more expensive compared to most other Oriental rugs that are in the same condition. This is not so much because of the materials, but the time and effort that was put into the creation of each rug. Plus, Persian rugs tend to be higher, but it also depends on the material used in other Oriental rugs.
Keep in mind that price does not stand alone as other factors are involved. They include age, condition, and history. A rug that has seen plenty of interesting places will be of more value compared to one that sat in the market for most of its existence. So, take each
Availability: In 1987, the US placed sanctions on Iran which included a ban on the sale of items from that country, including Persian rugs. Therefore, if you are in the US and a dealer claims that the item is a new Persian rug, then it’s either a deception, mistake, or it is illegal for them to sell the rug to you. Only Persian rugs which were brought to the US before 1987 are legal to sell.
Understanding the differences is important because you can make the best-informed decision about what to purchase. The warning signs for fake or worse, illegal Persian rugs means that you can avoid making a bad purchase.
It does help to know that all Persian rugs are Oriental rugs, which explains many of the similarities. However, not all Oriental rugs are Persian rugs, so knowing the differences will help you make the right purchase.