The History of Persian Rugs

Woven into the fabric of Iranians society, religion, history and culture for over 2,500 years, Persian rugs are integrated into Iran. The hand-woven rugs are intricately tied with Iran’s economy and are well-known for their artistic beauty and quality. Safavieh rugs, in particular, are synonymous with the Safavid Dynasty (1499-1722).

Today, Persian rugs maintain their prestige.

A  Brief History of Persian Rugs

  • Carpet weaving was introduced by Cyrus the Great when he reigned the Persian Empire in 529 B.C.
  • Rugs were made in villages with weavings identifiable of the village or tribe.
  • The artistic quality and design of Persian rugs reached its pinnacle during the Safavid Dynasty as the reigns of Shah Abbas and Shah Tahmasp created a weaving industry focused on large-scale commercial and artistic enterprise.
  • Towards the end of the 19th century, the carpet weaving trade flourished.
509-15002 by Karastan
509-15002 by Karastan

Why Are Persian Rugs Unique?

  • In 1892 the Victoria and Albert Museum in London purchased a Persian rug for 2,500 Pounds, which was deemed extravagant and today that Ardebil Carpet is one of the most well-known.
  • In 1999, Christie’s London, a well-known auction house, sold a Persian rug for over $2 million.

While these two examples are of antique rugs, Persian rugs are still held in the highest esteem. One of the unique aspects of the Persian rugs is the curvilinear designs. These curved-design weavings are a lot harder to execute than the regular geometric ones.

VTG-5234 by Surya
VTG-5234 by Surya

A Persian Rug’s Identity

One quality unique to Persian rugs is their historical link. These rugs are famed for their ties with their regional historical collection. The rugs are particularly named according to their locations, tribes and designs. For example, a rug made in Herat is called Herati.

Rug weaving tends to be so strongly linked to Iran that there seems to be a rug name for every city, tribe or village in the country.

Just looking at a rug can give you an idea of the weavers. For instance, a tribal rug that is woven with trees depicts that the tribe was on the move at the time of weaving, since the tree represents life, joined to the underworld to this world and also to the heavens.

Vintage Delores by NuLoom
Vintage Delores by NuLoom

Materials and Dyes Used for Persian Rugs

What also sets a Persian rug apart from others is the material and dye used, grade, knot count and design. The rugs are made of high quality wool or silk, which makes them more expensive, but they look better and last longer. The vegetable dyes used won’t run and ruin the rugs when exposed to sunlight or washed.

95N by Oriental Weavers Sphinx
95N by Oriental Weavers Sphinx

About Knot Count

As far as knot count is concerned, the higher the count per square inch in the wrap, the higher the rug’s quality. A Persian rug can have over 1,000 knots per square inch. Knot count, however, does not matter when it comes to judging antique or tribal rugs as those are not as uniformed as the modern-made rugs. The Persian-knot or Turkish-knot is usually used to weave Persian rugs.

2200-00208 by Karastan
2200-00208 by Karastan

Design and Run Grade

As for design of the rugs, the more complex the design – for example, using curvilinear as opposed to geometric lines – the higher the price of the rug.

When it comes to rug grade, the higher the rug is evaluated, the more expensive the rug is going to be. Even if the rug is handmade, antique (especially from the Safavid period) and very well looked after, it is guaranteed to be of a higher quality and therefore more valuable.

Shiva by Jaipur
Shiva by Jaipur

Changes and Implications for Persian Rugs

Rug weaving is certainly an ancient art form that has been created by hands for centuries. It can take a few years just to weave one rug. This simply adds to the rug’s value since it is perceived that if it is handmade, it is of better design and quality.

ATN324H by Safavieh
ATN324H by Safavieh

Points to Consider for Future Rugs

With the introduction of machines into the making of this exquisite ancient craft, how will prices be impacted? Another point to consider is that the vegetable and earth-based dyes that used to be used ensured that one color in a rug would not stain the colors surrounding it. Man-made dyes do tend to run into one another after cleaning. How could this affect the rug’s value?

At Plush Rugs we only stock the highest quality Persian rugs. Take a look at our online store today to find the perfect area rugs for any part of your home.

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