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A guide to buying antique Oriental rugs and care

A Persian rug is never out of style, be it adorning the palatial homes of Henry VIII or draped on one of the most iconic pieces of furniture in the world, Freud’s couch. A Persian rug or runner readily blends into contemporary spaces bringing character to modern city living, while a grand large Persian rug sits easily in a room strewn with priceless antiques. 

Freud’s Couch


Hampton Court

 A beautifully crafted Persian rug –that may take as long as a year to weave — is the antithesis of disposable consumerism and throwaway culture. Those who have inherited an antique Persian rug from previous generations will vouch for its durability.  While Persian rug antique collectors will tell you, a well-chosen piece is unlikely to depreciate in value. Even a handmade vintage piece can be sold after many years use at its original price or a profit and is very unlikely to end up in a landfill site.

Antique Bakhshaysh

Each carpet has its own history hidden within it, be it a very fine workshop piece or a small nomadic one. Many prized pieces with influential designs were woven in the Royal workshops of the 16th and 17thCentury. 

Tribal carpets are often unique as they are typically woven freestyle for domestic use; with distinctive designs, colours and weaves that are identifiable to a tribe or subtribe. 

Antqiue Qashqai

Those in search of quirky idiosyncratic rug designs can also find them in sturdy Village artisanal rugs that are woven in homes, as part of the chores of the farming households for their own use.

In the middle of the 19th Century, workshops were established in cities like Kerman, Kashan, Tabriz and Arak specifically to meet the demands of the emerging Western markets. 

The most famous of these workshops was established by the UK based rug merchants Ziegler Company in 1883 in the Sultanabad (Arak) district. The clarity of the designs along with its spatial depth and sense of movement are all elements that add to the desirability of these pieces.  

Antique Ziegler Carpet

Chemical dyes started creeping into rug production from the 1920s. However, for rich colours with depth, there is nothing like natural dyes used in most antique rugs. 

The quality of wool has a great impact on the look and durability of a carpet. Hand-spun wool gives the carpet a lustrous almost three-dimensional effect.  While the natural lanolin in hand-spun wool increases protection against spills and stains of your Persian rug. 

Natural dyes by their nature would produce different intensities and colour saturation, which would come to fore over years of use and washing. These are changes of colour that you would see in some antique rugs. They are called Abrash in the trade.

These antique pieces are considered works of art that you can put on the floor, walk on and enjoy. Naturally, there will be some wear and restoration in these pieces. A collector puts more importance on rarity and artistic merit than the condition. Having said that if the wear is not compatible with the age of the carpet it can affect its value greatly. Other aspects that can affect value are the quality and extent of repair, sun fading, staining or chemical washing.

Brittle carpet is another peril to be avoided. This occurs due to the carpet getting wet and not dried correctly. 

You might be surprised to know that a well-cared antique rug can last longer than a mass-produced commercial modern rug. Which is why you should regularly seek the help of a professional rug cleaner that has knowledge of expert cleaning, repair and restoration antique rugs

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