When you hear the term Oriental rug, chances are it’s being used to refer to a hand woven Persian or Iranian rug. With thousands of years of history, Persian rugs tell the stories of powerful armies, religion, peace and prosperity and are the most collected rugs in the world.
Not only an art form, but an incredibly versatile flooring choice, antique and vintage oriental rugs can be the ultimate natural flooring choice – they are hand woven mainly of wool with the older examples using vegetable based dyes rather than chemical dyes.
The beauty of the Persian rug is its incredible versatility in interior décor – going from casual to traditional to formal. The array of designs and colors are lovely, and the older vegetable dyes age to a mellow, classic look. Persian and Oriental rugs are different from all others in that their pile (usually wool) is tied to their foundations. Older rugs were hand knotted on looms. They last for decades, as many were made to withstand desert and outdoor conditions.
Vegetable vs Synthetic Colors
Up until the 1940’s, Persian rugs were primarily colored by using natural substances. They tend to become a mellow, softer color as the years go by.
In the 1940’s, synthetic and chemical based dyes were used, but as the environmentally friendly trend continues, vegetable based dyes are becoming more popular. But like many organic products, expect pay a premium, rugs with vegetable dyes cost more than 30% than their synthetic counterparts.
While designers and homeowners tend to use both dyes, collectors much prefer the natural dyes, particularly since they were used in the older, most coveted rugs by collectors.
Tips for Purchasing
Other considerations besides the dye composition when purchasing Persian rugs:
- Wool quality - good wool seems to almost glow and feels softer than lower quality wool. The inferior wool is scratchy and dull looking.
- Dry rot – older rugs that have been exposed to too much moisture become brittle and hard in areas.
- Damage – Watch for moth holes, frayed edges and missing fringe. For more valuable rugs, these are issues that can be repaired, so don't count them out completely if it's the perfect rug at the perfect price.
- Shape – when rugs come off the loom, they can be wider on one end or distorted. Look for rugs that have a good shape to them.
- Flat – Make sure the rug lies perfectly flat on the floor, if it doesn’t, the area not laying flat will be prone to wear and damage.
Purchasing a Persian rug is an investment, and quality and workmanship will help the rug hold its value. There are plenty of vintage and newer Persian rugs available for those looking for a more budget friendly option. Realize that there is a difference between buying a work of art and buying just a floor covering, and decide which you would like to purchase.