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How to Buy a Persian Rug, Making the Right Choice



If you are on a quest to purchase the perfect Persian rug for your home, then you are embarking on a glorious adventure! Just from your intention to purchase such a rug, I can see that you have sophisticated, excellent taste and intelligent instincts. There is absolutely nothing you can buy for your home that will be more rewarding or a better investment than an authentic, unique, hand knotted or woven Persian rug. It is literally "art" for your floor. I couldn't be happier if I can assist you in making just the right choice, and to share with you how to buy a Persian rug.


People who are familiar with my work, both as a textile designer and as a painter, know that I have a great love for Oriental rugs. They are my passion, my muse, an immutable influence in my work. That's why sharing what I know with you about how to buy a Persian rug, is so much fun for me, and I hope it'll help you to make just the right decision.


First, let's discuss what an Oriental rug is. The term Oriental rug refers to handmade rugs from the continent of Asia, which includes Turkey, Iran (Persia), Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China, Nepal, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, and Kirgizistan.


A Persian rug is an Oriental rug, but not all Oriental rugs are Persian. Throughout history, Persia has been considered the carpet weaving center of the world. It has been considered to be "the leader" for thousands of years. Until recently, most of the Oriental rugs sold in the United States were from Persia (Iran). People generally assumed that Persian rugs were the finest in the world. If one owned an Oriental rug woven in Iran, it was considered to be of superlative quality. The truth is that while there are Iranian rugs of superb quality, there are also others which range from mediocre to poor. So, in advising you as to how to buy a Persian rug, rule #1 is to deal only with a  reputable dealer. Stay far away from "going out of business" sales. Also avoid traveling auctions. They are usually outlets for rejected goods. It is advisable to deal with direct importers of handmade rugs.


My second tip on how to buy a Persian rug, is be sure the rug pleases you aesthetically. Do you like the overall "look" of the rug? Do you like the pattern and color? Is the color rich and luminous? Is the pile at an even height, and sheared properly? Is the size appropriate for the area in your home where you want to place the rug? Remember, you are looking at “one of a kind” rugs and some of the dimensions are a little off-beat. They will not be in standard sizes, like a programmed rug or a machine made rug. Also, bear in mind that authentic hand knotted or woven Oriental rugs are "perfectly imperfect". The slight inconsistencies are proof that the rug was made by hand by a human weaver, and not a machine. If the rug is slightly irregular in shape, slightly warped looking, that is also a mark of "made by hand". Many of the looms that tribal weavers use are wood. Wood reacts to heat and cold and dry or moist air. The loom can warp. Hence the reason for some of the irregularities. When you deal with art, irregularities just make the art more charming. In other words, if the rug is pleasing to you, these irregularites do not diminish the value of the rug.


How can you tell if the rug you are looking at is of high quality? Here are some points to consider:


1. An authentic Oriental/ Persian rug is made of natural materials, such as wool, cotton, silk, goat's hair, and camel hair, with wool being the most popular material for the pile of the rug.  Your Oriental rug that is made of a natural fiber, such as wool, will way outlast a synthetic broadloom and it's much healthier in that there are no chemical emissions.


2. Another consideration to make is the KPSI or knots per square inch. It is thought that the higher the number, the better the rug. That's both true and not true. Why? Because it is a limiting thought. Persian rugs are traditionally made and designed in cities as well as in the country. Each location has a style and characteristics of its own. City rugs are more formal in style and tend to have a higher knot count, as do silk rugs. Because there are more knots per square inch, the effect is finer, with more detailed images.  Country rugs have a lower KPSI. They are bolder in design and more rustic, more informal in appeal. A lower knot count does not mean that these rugs are not valuable. It just means that they have a coarser, bolder look. Not to worry! These rugs will serve you well for generations! They wear like iron. I personally LOVE the more tribal looks. These rugs do not require a higher knot count in order to achieve the bolder image. In the last analysis,  it's all a matter of taste. If the knot count is below 70, I would perhaps advise looking at another rug. Just remember, there are some extraordinarily fine Oriental rugs, which are traditionally executed with a lower knot count.


3. The classical centers of Persian carpet production include: Tabriz, Kashan, Herat, and Kerman. The style traditionally comes in 3 general categories: geometric, floral, or pictorial/curvilinear. Just choose what appeals to you. Take into consideration where you are placing the rug. If it is to be used in the dining room with a table covering a good portion of it, then choose a more all-over pattern with “border” interest. A center medallion will not be optimal in this case.


4. I advise people to examine the backside of the rug. The pattern should be very clear and you should be able to distinguish individual knots. If it is a handmade rug as opposed to a machine made rug, the knots are not as regular or grid-like. The tiny knots will not always line up in a straight row. Also, in a hand knotted or woven rug, the fringe is part of the construction of the rug, and not sewn on. The fringe is made up of the warp strings that come out of the end of the rug. Now, fold the rug in half. If it creases, then it's of poor quality. A quality hand knotted or woven rug can be folded and rolled. It will always lay flat when opened up.


5. Make sure the rug is properly finished. Also, make sure it lays flat.


6. Be sure the dealer is willing to guarantee that the rug is authentic.


I'm always happiest when the rug is the first object in a room. Oriental rugs are like paintings. They need to be showcased, or at least presented well. And it's easier to "start" with the rug. If you already have furniture, then consider your furniture when choosing your rug. If your furniture has a lot going on, in other words, on the "busy" side, then you might need a quieter design in your rug. Also, be sensitive to color. You basically should have 3 big color blocks in your room: the walls, the sofa, and the rug, and all of the other colors play to those three.


I sincerely hope I have given you some good, practical and useful information on how to buy a Persian Rug.


Happy hunting. Enjoy your purchase!


~ Joan Saloomey




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