An Oriental rug can be most easily defined as any rug or carpet manufactured within the Asian continent. Oriental rugs, in general, may be machine woven or hand-knotted. These rugs are best known for their distinctive designs, or “motifs.” Each motif has a different meaning and most originate from the specific area the rug was made. Motifs may be included as a singular pattern or combined depending on rug size and intended representation. Many Oriental rugs are used as area rugs, although some may also be intended as prayer mats. These rugs can further be broken down by country of origin.
The most well-known rugs are Persian rugs, which come from Iran (formerly known as Persia). Persian rugs are handmade and prized throughout the world. Rug making is a critical part of Iranian culture- dating back thousands of years. Iran is the world’s leading exporter of Oriental rugs, accounting for nearly 75% of all handmade carpets. In 2003 some sanctions against Iran were eased, allowing the release of thousands of nearly antique rugs that had been stored in warehouses and never used. Market savvy buyers may locate these cherished pieces by educating themselves on what to look for, then searching online rugs sales.
Kashmir is also a world renowned producer of rugs. Rug making most likely spread to the area from Persia. Kashmir rugs are often noted to have a jewel-like appearance within their patterns due to the heavy use of gemstone colored materials. These rugs are highly prized and considered “investments for life”. The motifs within Kashmir rugs are significant representations of life within the Indian province and it is said no home there is complete without a rug.
Tibetan rugs are crafted for many purposes, usually from the wool of Tibet’s highland sheep. The rugs may be intended for horse saddles, sleeping mats or sitting rugs (most common). Tibetan rugs can by identified by their unique knotting method, which is distinct from any other Oriental tradition. These carpets are typically more restrained in patterns than other Asian interior rugs as well.
Buyers of Oriental rugs should familiarize themselves with the many different kinds of rugs, motifs and knotting methods. This education will serve them well in differentiating the origins of rugs, as well as ensuring they are getting what they are paying for. Such knowledge will also help identify a competent salesperson.