Important Considerations When Looking for Persian and Oriental Rugs – Part Two

This post is the second part of a two-part article, which explains what to consider and look for when buying a Persian or Oriental Rug – and how to care for and use a rug optimally. You can find part one of the article here.


Hand-knotted Persian and Oriental rugs are made with a small variety of natural materials. Wool, silk, and cotton are the main ingredients. The wool in most Iranian (Persian) rugs is better than most other countries and is of the right type to be perfect for rugs- hard and soft strands in the fibre to give the best of both worlds. Handspun wool is used most often for Village and Tribal rugs whilst the finer weave and designs of City/Workshop rugs need a tighter machine spun yarn. Hand spun wool gives a more open and necessarily longer cut finish which gives the rug more depth of colour, as well as comfort.

The base (warp and weft) of rugs can be wool, cotton or silk – in some cheap Indian rugs jute is also used, and these rugs should be avoided at all costs as they do not react well to damp or wet conditions, so are hard to clean. The most stable platform for a rug is cotton and most Persian and Oriental City/Workshop and Village rugs are made like this. Silk warps and wefts can be found in some finely woven rugs and these strands allow for a much higher knot density than other materials. Wool is used in many Tribal rugs but can alter length with damper atmospheric conditions, which will change the shape of the rug, which is why you see many older examples with curves.

Remember! The most stable and durable materials are rugs with a 100% wool pile woven on a cotton warp and weft.

Dyes & Colours

Unless vintage, and often not even then, a rug will have synthetic manmade dyes. Like most home furnishings they are made in a wide variety of qualities and do not have an impact on the durability of rugs. However, the better dyes give a new rug a more subtle and attractive start in life and they can be altered to present a pleasant washed out appearance. Cheaper “hard’ dyes do not age and fade very well. The more expensive rugs have dyes which reflect the quality of the other materials’ and generally improve and soften with use and the effects of light.

Remember! Ask your retailer about the dye quality as the rug may keep the same colours for a long time and not improve and mellow with age.

 Vegetable dyes – outside of the UK you may see them described as ‘vegetal’ which means they are vegetable and mineral based – are not often used anymore. The expense and time involved in collecting and crushing roots, leaves, barks, petals, roots, berries, skins, and minerals means that they are too expensive to be viable for large scale rug production. There are some beautiful, but limited, rug collections commissioned by rug purists which have natural dyes, but these are high-end examples and mostly are sold in North America and Europe. Perversely, vegetal dyes start life with intense bright tones which become even more beautiful with time- so if your new rug has washed out soft colours it will have synthetic dyes. As usual with the rug business this is not a hard fact. There are many intense colours which are synthetic and will not tone down. Many Persian Village and Tribal rugs have a vibrant pink, orange and pink which may look acceptable in the intense glare of Central Asia but are really bright in cold Northern light.

Remember! Most rug retailers will tell you that the rug has vegetal dyes to justify a higher price. This is simply not true, so ensure they commit to the proper description in the invoice.

 Your rug should connect with the other room furnishings – or not! If your room has walls and fabrics which are muted and monotone then you can use a vibrant rug as the centrepiece and focus. Doing this has the great attraction of being much more practical than a pale rug, hiding dirt and stains, as well as giving the room a warm and inviting glow.

Remember! If your room has a lot of direct suns then install clear UV film to your windows as all rugs fade, no matter what you are told. This is an easy and inexpensive process.

A dye compound in India


Persian and Oriental rugs are woven in a huge variety of patterns, ranging from completely plain Persian Gabbeh to wildly ornate, intricate floral City/Workshop examples like Persian Qom, Tabriz, Nain and Isfahan. Ancient cottages, Georgian and Edwardian homes and Victorian townhouse generally require a traditional rug to suit the age of the house. However, there are no hard and fast rules so select a rug you love above all else.

The classic Persian and Oriental rug has a central medallion, four corner ‘spandrels’ which brought together will perfectly reproduce the central motif and a border made up of the ‘main’ and from one to five ‘guard’ borders. These narrow extra borders have the effect of bleeding the main border into the main ‘ground’ of the rug which reduces the abruptness of the rugs’ ‘frame’ Medallion sizes range from the small to the enormous and are the focal point and the area of the rug which should line up with your fireplace, chandelier or seating arrangement. Again, if you have off-centre features then it does not really matter, but like the rug design, balance and symmetry in a room is important.

An Indian hand-knotted wool rug with a small central medallion, spandrels, and one main border.

Remember! A classic hand-knotted Persian or Oriental rug with a central medallion can complete the balanced feel of a room and should ideally line up with the central fireplace and light fitting.

 An ‘all-over’ repeating pattern without a medallion, whether floral, animal or tribal ‘guls (shields) makes the rug placement very easy. It can be placed off centre and not look in the wrong position and has the advantage in that covered motifs are repeated elsewhere so you do not miss part of the look. For lovers of straight-line symmetry, these are the perfect floor decoration.

An ‘open field’ medallion design has only the central motif and then a plain surround, with corner spandrels to provide visual balance. These are more unusual rugs and the large areas with no design can be a practical problem for spills and footfall patterns. However, they are highly elegant and allow the medallion to ‘pop’.

Plain rugs are popular at the moment and allow the other furnishings to be more patterned and coloured. The only hand-knotted Persian rug that provides this look is a Tribal Gabbeh, which are made by the central and southern Iranian settled tribal weavers. Gabbeh are extremely heavy, thick piled robust rugs which give superb sound and warmth insulation whilst being relatively inexpensive. The wool is dense and highly comfortable and they are the best option for a family room for children to play on, as well as being the best value luxury rug in a bedroom. Unlike most plain rugs Gabbeh hardly show the feet impressions. The disadvantages are that spills are highly visible, but the quality of the wool means they are easily cleaned and restored.

Remember! There is a rug design out there for you, but you must weigh up the balance between the design, colours and practicality.


Persian and Oriental rugs are hand-knotted in many sizes but not many shapes. The proportions are generally scaled so the sizes are 3’x2’/0.91×0.61, 5’x3’ /1.52×0.91,6’x4’ / 1.83×1.22,7’x5’/ 2.13×1.52,8’x5’6” / 2.44×1.68 ,9×6’ /2.74×1.83,10’x8’ / 3.05×2.44,12’x9’ / 3.66×2.74 and upwards to 30’x22’. Larger sizes are also made!

Looking at the space you need to decorate take measurements to include the maximum and minimum size you can use. Obviously, there is an ideal size you should try to stick to, but it is very useful to have this information when shopping. Place newspaper or dustsheets in this area to give yourself a better idea of how the rug will fill it.

If you need a hearth rug it always looks best when it matches the width of the fire surround but there are no hard and fast rules.

Going slightly larger, to fill the whole floor in front of the sofas and chairs, will pull in and hold together the arrangement. You can either have the rug free standing with no furniture feet on it or anchor it by just having about 2-4 inches 0.05 0.10m under the furniture. This size of rug looks equally good when it reaches the back of the furniture, so all the feet are on the rug.

The last arrangement is to go up in incremental sizes until the room is almost all rug- with a narrow border of carpet, wood or stone to give it a frame.

Some people, who like to collect vintage rugs, or who simply like to display a variety of colours, design and sizes scatter them and even overlap them to make a beautiful tapestry of Eastern colour and patterns.

A high-grade Afghan wool hand-knotted rug with a Persian Sultanabad design. It’s imperative a dining room rug is big enough, so the chairs do not come off the pile when pushed out.

Remember! The only advice you should take is to try not to accommodate a half on-half off approach to your rug. This rarely, if ever, looks satisfying.

The larger the rug you buy the less obvious it will look. The eye is naturally drawn to smaller rugs, as they become artistic focal points on the floor. Of course, the smaller the rug you use the higher quality you get for your money.

If you are still confused, please contact Nicolas Larsen on 0203 958 4146.

Important Considerations When Looking for Persian and Oriental Rugs – Part One

This post is the first part of a two-part article, which explains what to consider and look for when buying a Persian or Oriental Rug – and how to care for and use a rug optimally. You’ll find a link to the second part of the article at the end of this post.

A very fine Persian Isfahan rug showing the classic central medallion, corner spandrels and three borders- one main and two guard.

What do you consider when buying a house, car, sound system or garden furniture? The considerations are mainly practicality and the best performance for your budget, how long the purchase is meant to last you, but also, they are a reflection of how you see yourself and the image you like to project. Of course, a rug has to speak to you as well as complement the other room furnishings.

There are 1,000’s of permutations of rugs covering design, materials, colours, quality of weave and colours, so whilst it is a daunting prospect to navigate through the market, it also means that you can find your perfect rug. However, it does take a bit of an effort on your part to do some research online – there are specialist rug books available, but they are written more for the collector and purist and from these alone, it is difficult to gain a full picture.

Find a Trusted Dealer

The best way of moving forward is to find a rug dealer who you can trust – harder than it sounds – and always try to ask friends or family for a recommended retailer. Give him or her a clear idea of the age and style of your home, the maximum and minimum sizes, the type of use the rug will have; busy family room, formal sitting room, snug, dining room, playroom or bedroom – and give them images, colour swatches, and fabric samples. Lastly, it is useful to avoid wasting time, to offer a ballpark budget but never give your actual top end amount, as unfortunately you may be taken up to that amount for a lesser quality rug so as to maximise the sale.

A superb new Persian Sultanabad village rug. The extra wide border makes it ideal for a dining room to frame the table properly.



The most common rug requirement is for a normal family living room, with the options in size being of most importance. Always try to spend a bit more than you envisaged – it enlarges the options available and pays dividends in the long run -and remember that the better the rug the longer it will look good. They are one of the most practical and sustainable products and are both restorable and cleanable. The rug is usually the last item to be placed in a room – rug retailers inwardly groan when they hear you have overspent so the budget is tight. Actually, the best way to furnish a room, if you have the luxury of starting with a blank canvas, is to source a rug that you love, rather than leaving it until later when the rug must fit into the paint and fabric colours as well as the fabric motifs. This mostly leads to a rug that simply suits the room rather than an art form that you love and cherish.

Remember!  You can bring unlimited fabrics and paint charts to place by a rug, but the opposite is impossible.

Try not to make the mistake of going for the cheapest rug that ‘will do’. Chances are that it will not reflect the quality of your other furnishings and this will disappoint or annoy you over time. Cheaper rugs do not clean well and seem to look grubbier more quickly and, of course, they are never as durable. However, if you like to change your room often and do not mind replacing your rug after 5 to 10 years, then cheaper is more sensible.

Remember! Do your research thoroughly online to find what is on the market and make a note of the guide prices. This is highly important but unfortunately, you cannot ascertain the quality of the rugs you see images of, and almost all rug provenances have multiple grades. The Persian Meshed from one retailer may be half the quality of weave and materials as another that has exactly the same design, size, and colours as from another. You might even be looking at a machine-made copy compared with the genuine article. Find a retailer you feel you trust and pin them down on the questions outlined in this article. If he or she is genuine they will guarantee to find you the very best rug within your budget and show you multiple options across the price points.

 To the layperson, rugs can seem expensive but a large hand-knotted Persian or Oriental rug may have taken from 6 to 12 months to weave and has passed from the weaver to the middleman to the wholesaler to the retailer. At each level, a profit margin has been added which still makes the final price remarkably cheap for a handmade artisan practical art-form. Rug weaving is generally a sustainable industry and provides an income for millions of farmers, spinners, washing plants, weavers, dyers, merchants, and transport companies across Central Asia and the Far East. Buying a rug is often a better way of helping other less fortunate countries than donating to a charity! If you have concerns over the treatment of the weavers, then look for a Fair Trade label- the Good Weave organisation is a reliable one, but unfortunately, there are a million looms across the weaving countries and only a small percentage are under constant checking routines.

Remember! Prices offered online are generally cheaper than from your local rug retailer or department store. However, you cannot feel the rug or try it at home first and you are paying for the expertise and furnishing advice, as well as the physical premises which are convenient for you to browse at. PLEASE DO NOT USE YOUR LOCAL RETAILER TO GAIN KNOWLEDGE AND TO TRY RUGS BEFORE BUYING A SIMILAR RUG THROUGH AN E-COMMERCE CHANNEL. It’s really bad karma and very cynical – and will result in us losing the specialty shops from our High Streets.


Rugs are made for every requirement- from ultra-fine silk examples down to flimsy dhurries and kilims. Your room may have to accommodate a family with small children and pets and be used all day long, or it may be a ‘grown up’ room that is more formal and used on high days and holidays. Get advice from a specialist dealer or interior designer as to the type of rug that will suit you. A genuine hand-knotted Persian or Oriental rug should ideally have a 100% wool pile and this will be either hand or machine-spun yarn. The former is generally used in Village and Tribal rugs, which generally have a lower knot count (knots per square inch or square metre) than the finer, more formal and intricate City/Workshop rugs. However, fineness of weave is not necessarily an indication of quality, as many rugs, especially those woven in Turkey, India, Pakistan, Romania, Egypt and China have over processed dry wool which is brittle and shears easily under footfall.

Remember! Do not buy simply on the number of knots per square inch or metre. The quality and durability of a rug is mostly gained from the wool type and the dyes. Most fine Persian rugs have excellent wool also, but this does not apply to fine reproductions from other weaving countries. A fine wool piled Persian rug, such as Isfahan, Qom, Tabriz, Nain or Kashan will have both excellent wool, dyes and weaving, which is why they are sold at a premium.  Village rugs, which often have a heavy construction, longer pile and lustrous colours are generally the best rugs for a highly trafficked room as they are a middle price point whilst giving wonderful designs, colours and durability.

The best wool should have a natural lustre and be soft to the touch- the wool used in many Iranian (Persian) rugs is first rate and is taken from flocks that carry a mixed fleece of satiny, but weather resistant wool, which makes for a comfortable, hard wearing rug. The pure Merino wool used elsewhere is perfect for clothes but is generally too weak to be durable for the floor. Some finer Persian rugs have cotton or silk highlights which make the designs ‘pop’ but these additions, whilst highly attractive, make the cleaning process more complicated.  If the rug needs cleaning more often – 3 rather than every 5 years – then this should be a consideration.

 Remember! Wine, tea, coffee, children’s’ drinks and pet stains are often well-hidden within a highly decorated rug with rich reds and blues. The current trend for washed out colours and minimal design does not work well from a practical point of view.

If your taste and room dictate a pale, washed out rug then keep a specialist stain remover close by, as the quicker you nullify the effects of accidents the more chance you have of completely remedying the situation. Keep your specialist rug cleaner’s number for more serious, larger stains and have it promptly seen to. Watch out for the aftermaths of parties when you discover the morning after that a glass of red wine has been kicked over and the stain is under your sofa.

A first-rate Moroccan Berber wool rug which is extremely comfortable and contemporary, but difficult to keep clean in a busy room.

Most rugs have a markedly different colour and sheen when you look ‘down’ the pile i.e. when the pile is lying in the smooth to the touch direction. An animal’s fur lies in one direction so it like stroking your pet- the fur is smooth when you stroke away from the head. From this end, the light is reflected from the tips of the pile material and there are few dark gaps that don’t bounce back light. From the ‘up’ direction, which is where the rug was started, you will see darker colours and less sheen. It is rarely done, as the rug is chosen to suit the room from one direction, but if you can, turn the rug by 180 degrees every year. This will help avoid foot traffic wear along the usual routes in and out of the room, as well as balance out the fading from the sun.

Remember! Turn your rug every year to help keep the wear and dye intensity as even as possible. The part of the rug under furniture will be given an airing, be cleaned more often and, if you have any moth or carpet beetles, will bring them into the light, which they do not like.

Silk rugs are beautiful creations, which change 360 times as you walk around them, but are not recommended for busy rooms. They attract household dirt, external oils and tar from shoes plus the colours can quickly be dulled. The pile of a silk rug will be crushed by heavy footfall so use in a quiet area of the home, such as a bedroom, study or window area. The best way to use a silk rug as an art form is to hang it on the wall and softly lit with a flood light.

A glorious ultra-fine Persian silk Qom rug, hand-knotted in Iran.

Remember! The best rugs for all-round practicality and look have a 100% wool pile and are hand-knotted. Hand-tufted rugs and those with man-made fibres, such as viscose, are generally cheaper but the difference in appearance will soon become apparent.

 A lighter, thinner rug should have a suitable underlay to help prevent movement and rucking as well give a deeper, more comfortable feel underfoot. This should be a high-grade non-slip ‘candy floss’ type like ‘Foxi’ (other cheaper options are available). Alternatively, use a regular rubber or thin mesh pad to give more comfort on hard floors. An underlay will protect the knots from being crushed by footfall and allow dirt to fall through the rug, which reduces the sandpaper friction effect of dirt granules at the base of the knot, which leads to increased wear.

Remember! Always use an underlay underneath lighter, finer rugs with a short pile but if you want a heavy, sturdy rug that will not move – much! – then try Persian Gabbeh, Heriz, Bijar or Tabriz. An underlay is not generally needed in these cases. There are some very heavy Indian copies of Persian rugs and many Chinese reproductions have a longer pile combined with a good regular stiff weave also. 

A classic Persian Tribal Qashqai rug made entirely from wool with a funky checkerboard border. Beautiful, soft rugs but not suitable for very busy footfall.


Persian and Oriental rugs have gained a reputation for being remarkably practical, long-lasting home furnishings. When used with love and respect, and regularly immersion washed, a good hand knotted rug will provide decades of use and will grow old gracefully. Lovers of rugs use leather soled slippers, socks or bare feet in the home and this polishes the wool whilst allowing the soles to slide over the tips of the fibres. Modern synthetic rubber soles take the pile with them when the foot is turned, and this action gradually reduces the fibre tips until you are left with a flat piled rug. Natural oils and grease from humans and animals are a form of protection and act as a natural polish. However, do not let areas of high residue build up, particularly where a dog might lie. This is why in the Middle East and further west rugs last a very long time- people remove their shoes when entering a home.

Remember! Try to get into the habit of using leather soled slippers, socks or bare feet on your rug. Removing shoes at your front door also reduces the amount of external oils and tar that is tracked in. This practice makes for a much more hygienic house too.

The most durable rugs are those made with both a tight, regular weave as well as the best wools and dyes. However, for durability, you can also buy a very heavy Village rug, which has large chunky and well tied knots as well as a longer pile. It stands to reason that the longer the pile to start with the more tip shearing can be accommodated over time. A rug with a loose large knot and a long pile will wear quickly and there are many quickly woven poorer quality rugs on the market. You don’t always get what you pay for, so ‘caveat emptor’.

The durability of a rug is affected by how it is cared for on a daily and weekly basis. Vacuums are the enemy of longevity so do not overuse yours. A once a week vacuum is fine but do not use the revolving brush head as this tears at the pile and shortens it. It is very satisfying to see your machine filling up with dirt and dust but much of that is your rug gradually disappearing! Always use a medium power and remember to get under the furniture to disturb moths and carpet beetles. Do not vacuum the fringes – these are integral to the rug and protect the ends – so go width wise across the rug at each end.

Remember! Just as you service your car and boiler so you must have your rug professionally cleaned every 5 years. When done properly it is not a cheap process, as the rug will be immersion soaked in a tank before being surface cleaned and slowly dried.

Flatwoven handmade woollen Kilims and cotton Dhurries, which no pile as the design is the widthwise weft thread, are not durable floor coverings and should be used in low traffic areas. They are highly versatile though and can be used as loose coverings on sofas, chairs, and beds – hung on a wall they can have a huge impact as an alternative to prints or paintings. To look their best, install a soft floodlight to make them glow.

Flatweave kilim rug in a bedroom

Vintage or new Aubusson rugs, which have no pile, are the most European looking of rugs but are not as durable or practical as hand knotted piled wool Persian or Oriental rugs. They are highly elegant, and when used with a good underlay, are fine for a more formal living room or bedroom.


An example of a classic French Aubusson tapestry weave rug which has no pile so suitable for more formal quiet rooms and bedrooms.

Please click here to read part two of this article.

Close up of the reverse of a black beige and red Persian Sultanabad rug with a geometric and floral design

How To Price Persian and Oriental Rugs

The good news is that you can gain a fair idea of the correct price of hand-knotted Persian or Oriental rugs by doing research on the internet.  The bad news is that it takes many years of experience within the rug business to gain this vital knowledge. There are 1000’s of rug types made in countries ranging from Morocco to China and the subject is vast, bewildering and ultimately impenetrable to the layperson. The only foolproof way of correctly pricing a hand-knotted Persian or Oriental rug is to find a retailer you trust. Ask a friend or family member who they would recommend or if you have an interior designer, they will have their own rug supplier. However, remember that an interior designer’s supplier will almost always factor in the commission due, which will make the rug more expensive. Very rarely will the dealer not upcharge and accept a lower margin through an interior designer project.

Look at as many online retailers a possible and make a note of the exact type of rug you like. However, you must always remember that, say a Persian Kashan, from one source may be twice the quality of weave and materials as that from another! Broadly speaking start with the categories of City/Workshop, Village or Tribal rugs. Unless vintage – rugs over 30-40 years old in good condition – these categories will set the amount you must spend.

City/workshop rugs are made using a set design and colours, are almost always a more intricate design and therefore need more knots per square metre to render the pattern correctly. The designs are almost always of a floral nature, with or without a central medallion. The dyes used will be uniform as the materials for the entire rug are bought and dyed at the same time, in the same batches. The wool is machine spun which enables a tighter weave and therefore the pile can be cut lower which ensures the design is very clear. In layman terms, they have more ‘pixels’. There are some famous Persian rug designers and master weavers with famous atelier names, and this smaller production of the very best on the market can be enormously expensive, even when new. There are indications this art form will eventually die out, as the finest rugs will become too costly to make, which will create a rarefied pre-owned market for them in the future.

*Prices for most of this type are the highest when new but some lower end mass produced rugs are made, particularly outside of Iran in India and Pakistan with Persian designs. Retail prices in the UK, outside of London, ranging from £350m2 to £5,000m2 with rugs larger than 12’x9’/3.66×2.74 sold at a higher rate. Prices in London are generally higher to account for the increased cost of doing business in the capital.

A beautiful fine Persian Isfahan rug, hand knotted in wool on a City/Workshop loom


Village rugs are a cottage industry and the designs are generally less intricate and busy, whilst the larger knots only allow larger less refined motifs. The rugs are commissioned by a middleman who will supply the materials as when they are needed. Therefore, you will often find changes in the colourations which become more noticeable with time. This is called ‘abrash’ and often lends a charm to the rugs that the City/Workshop rugs lack. They are a lovely halfway house between the formal workshop and the more esoteric tribal weavings. Unlike the City/Workshop rugs, the designs and colours are dictated to the weaver by a ‘caller’ or hangs in front of them on a ‘cartoon’ paper- they will often be woven from memory, which does make for some mistakes. The village rugs are generally a lower knot count but often are the equal of the ‘better’ rugs by way of the excellent hand-spun wool and the sturdy, heavy weave. The designs can be varied- from an all-over repeating motif to make a ‘geometric ‘rug through to floral medallion options which are similar to the more expensive finer City/Workshop examples.

*Prices for this type of rug are more attainable but on the whole higher than Tribal rugs. However, there are some rugs – such as the better Persian Heriz and most of the Persian Bijar – which can be as much as a finely woven City/Workshop rug and are just as expensive. Retail prices in the UK, outside of London, range from £270m2 to £1,000m2. Larger rugs, over 12’x9’/3.66×2.74 are sold at a higher rate. Prices in London are generally higher to account for the increased cost of doing business.

A superb Persian Sultanabad Village rug, hand knotted in hand-spun wool

Tribal rugs were historically hand-knotted by Iranian tribeswomen as part of wandering tribes practicing transhumance – the movement of animals from higher summer pastures to lower winter pastures within a set area. The looms used were horizontal, or ground looms, which could be rolled up and carried from place to place. Therefore, Tribal rugs were made in smaller sizes and even today, now the tribes have been forcibly settled, their rugs are below 11’x9/3.35×2.74. Tribal rugs have a set outline – either one to five medallions, with a main border and smaller ‘guard’ borders. They differ in that the infilling motifs of stylised plants, flowers, human figures and esoteric symbols is largely up to the weaver to create. This makes for much more charm and individualism than other rug types, but a Tribal rug has a lower knot count and is generally less robust. However, the wool is hand-spun and often of a beautiful lustrous softness which allows them to be used as bedspreads, table, sofa and chair throws. They generally move and ruck more than other rugs -unless you buy a stiffer Persian Abadeh – and need a suitable non-slip underlay, such as ‘Foxi’ (other brands are available).

*Prices for new Persian Tribal rugs range from £200m, which are the lowest quality and mass produced for multipole chain outlets such as IKEA, up to £600m2 for the tightest weave, best wool and subtle dyes. Prices in London can be higher due to the increased cost of doing business.


A lovely Persian Tribal Qashqa’i rug, hand-knotted in hand-spun wool

To summarise you should:

  • Research online, and visit retailers if possible, to find the rug type you love and which will suit your room requirements.
  • Avoid any retailers who advertise huge reductions of up to 80%. These original prices are grossly inflated to ensure the sale price still has a healthy profit margin for the retailer.
  • If you are someone who likes to take safety in high prices, assuming it will guarantee the best rug, then please at least bargain the price downwards. There is generally a very healthy profit margin in rug ticket prices and the seller may adjust his or her pricing depending on their assumptions of your wealth. The most expensive rugs are not always the best for your needs. Always trust a dealer who offers you a range of rugs in various price points and who recommends either the cheapest, or at least not the most expensive.
  • DO NOT dress up or take your Ferrari when going rug shopping.
  • DO NOT give your home address before getting close ball park figures for the rugs you see on a website. Unscrupulous dealers will Google your address and see the home you have and adjust their prices accordingly.
  • Always try to see the rug or choice of rugs in your room before buying. Your light levels and decoration will alter the appearance markedly.
  • Set yourself a realistic budget but try to reach for the better rugs, as over the years the extra money will forgotten as you enjoy looking at and using your acquisition.
  • Make sure the rug is one that can be immersion washed and restored- this is always the case with a Persian or Oriental rug.
  • Silk comes in many qualities so any rug from Kashmir or China should be less money than a Persian or Turkish example.
  • If you are told the rug is silk, or has silk highlights, be very careful it is not an ‘art silk’ (mercerised cotton) example. There is a burn test an expert should know about so ask to see a fibre held to a flame. If silk, the fibre will burn slowly and curl away from the flame leaving a dark bead which is easily crushed to leave a fine powder that is dark and gritty. There should be little or smell. It gives out little or no smoke and the fume has no hazard. The fake silk will flash and almost disappear leaving a fine powder and smell of chemicals.
  • Ensure the invoice description is accurate and clear and that the seller will be available to you if you have any problems or questions. Therefore, hotel and village hall, along with ‘closing down’ sales, offer zero comeback and may give an initial bargain but prove expensive down the line. The invoice is a legal document and you have recourse if it is not accurate.
  • Try and get a second opinion of your rug before buying but be aware that other dealers will often rubbish someone else’s stock and low ball the price.
  • BELIEVE NOTHING YOU ARE TOLD as so-called experts often have very little knowledge of the product and are simply in the business to make money; rather than being rug lovers and wanting you to have the very best rug within your budget. However charming a retailer might be, remember you are his way of making a profit and he is NOT on your side! Good Luck.


Persian handmade wool Heriz rug in a living room under a wooden coffee table

Persian Rugs as an Investment

There are a few ways of judging the attractiveness of investing in rugs. They are of course, in the older and rarer examples, a commodity like any other art form. There are rabid collectors of rugs and textiles who will compete for a fragment of 17thcentury Turkish ‘Oushak’ rug or 19thcentury Persian Q’ashqa’I salt bag. These buyers are not motivated by money but the thrill of the chase, a genuine love and admiration for the beauty and craftmanship and a fair amount of one upmanship in what is a fairly small world of arcane knowledge. A jewel toned wool or silk fragment, tribal bag or prayer rug, mounted properly and well-lit on a wall, becomes a terrifically unusual three-dimensional work of art which is very often a fraction of the price of any other option. So, in that sense they are a wise investment in taking the time and effort to source and display and, if bought from a reputable and honest dealer give some return, but not generally profit, when re-sold.

Buying a new rug from a dealer or online seller is exactly like buying a brand-new car. As soon as you take it home and use it the trade in value is at least half of what you have paid. It always struck me as odd and very frustrating that the public do not understand the levels of profit needed to run a shop or website, and the aggrieved reaction when given the re-sale value of a rug sold within 30 years of purchasing. What I call ‘furnishing rugs’, the vast majority of the rugs sold to the public to simply use as an attractive and complementary floor covering, are of a mediocre or poor quality and will be swimming around the market for decades, sold on ebay and other public auction sites for pennies in the pound. It is important to buy a rug that really strikes a chord rather than one that simply works with a current colour scheme as changing a good quality Persian or Oriental rug every five years or so does not make financial sense. To those who want to constantly re-decorate it is preferable to buy a mass-produced hand tufted or machine-made rug which can be either thrown or given away.

The lucky or hard-working buyer who can afford to buy the highest quality or oldest rugs to use will have a different experience. The ‘best’ rugs, the ones with the finest yarns, dyes and most knots per square inch are becoming more and more expensive as younger generations decide there is more excitement and interest in pursuing other forms of work. This is especially true in Turkey and Iran but even in India and Pakistan the financial crash of 2008 led to a worldwide drop in rug orders and many experienced weavers were laid off and subsequently lost to the industry. The galleries of London, New York and Milan and the rug departments of the high end department stores are places to find the diminishing quantities of finest new rugs but the prices are consequently eye watering to the average buyer. However, simply by the law of supply and demand purchasing such a rug will always result in a higher return on the purchase price when sold- but still it would take decades before the buyer  saw a profit.

One sure fire way of circumventing the problem of initial dealer profit is to attend auctions. By this I do not mean fake auctions that travel the land and turn up in the local hotel ballroom or village hall! These are a marvelously simple and clever way of appealing to peoples’ greed and offer a false sense of bypassing the established channels of commerce. The rugs sold are often of an inferior quality,  seconds with tensioning ( see How Persian and Oriental Rugs are Made ) or colour run problems. The better regional, every county has one, and all the national auction houses include rugs in their catalogue auctions. The major houses – Christies, Sothebys and Bonhams – have dedicated rug sales and in-house experts who catalogue, mostly accurately, the rugs on view. The buyer should take great care when taking this course and set aside plenty of time on the pre-sale viewing days to inspect the rugs they take a liking to. (See How to Buy a Persian Rug for an in-depth explanation of what to look for and what to look out for). If possible, you should ask for guidance from the resident expert who should explain the merits of the rugs and point out any glaring faults or general skullduggery. If you have a local rug dealer you trust then it is an option to ask them to accompany you to the viewing day to offer the same advice. It is up to you to negotiate a sensible and fair percentage of the hammer price with your advisor as this way of buying is of course taking business from their own shop or gallery. Even taking into account this fee and the auction house buyers percentage you will always save money over buying retail and therefore you can view buying these rugs an investment. Properly cared for and used sensibly these rugs will generally return the same buying price after ten to twenty years- with the advantage of giving service and adding beauty to the home. However it is important to remember that rug types come in and out of fashion like anything else, so if you have purchased a washed out Persian Lavar Kerman it may be out of vogue when the selling time arrives.Apart from the pitfalls of rugs having faults such as being re-sized (cut and shut, like two identical cars being re-joined after bad crashes), badly tensioned and with colour run problems the major disadvantage of buying at auction is that you cannot try them first at home to judge their suitability. This is not a problem however if the rug is the first item in the room – in this case the buyer can simply buy what they love and work upwards and outwards from there.

The internet has muddied the waters somewhat and thrown up opportunities to the general buyer to travel through the ether online direct to the manufacturers in the all the weaving countries. It is vitally important that there is a strong online social media presence backed up by a proper website giving the address and phone number. Ignore any online reviews of delighted customers in Los Angeles or West Sussex as these are almost always self-written. The first option here is to commission a bespoke rug – one existing in their catalogue online or give them a design of your own to design – and then to pay a deposit and wait for the finished article. The other is to simply purchase from their stock but always demand highly detailed as well as overall shots of the front and back before making a decision. Factor in shipping, duty and VAT to decide on whether it is worth it as all manufacturers from Istanbul to Beijing now know the Western retail prices and will try and achieve that sum. Ideally the rug bought direct should be at least 35-60% cheaper than the comparable UK retailer price. Bought like this rugs can be a sensible investment by merit of saving money, using for however long needed and then re-selling.

In short rugs are not a sure-fire way to riches – unless you happen to unearth a rare or unusual one at a car boot sale or buy one in Inverness to re-sell in London. Rugs should always be seen primarily as a beautiful and practical art form and any return on money- and rarely profit- should be viewed as a bonus.

How to look after your Persian or Oriental rug

  • A handmade Persian rug is very likely one of your major home furnishing purchases and just because it is on the floor does not mean it cannot be looked after very well. Your rug should both reflect your character, your spending power and perfectly suit your room colours and use. It is an artisan product crafted with care and love by weavers in Central Asia and should be cared for so that it mellows with age and becomes a cherished family heirloom.
  • Underlay ( Rug pad )The first thing you really need is a suitable underlay – rug pad in North America – and these take many forms. Ask your rug dealer for his or her advice as the type of rug and the flooring it will be laid on will dictate the type of underlay. The underlay will serve many uses- it will add some comfort to a rug laid on a hard floor, cushioning the weight of feet and thus protecting crushing of the pile; it will also protect the back of the knot from abrasion, lifting the rug off the hard surface and protecting it from heat ( ask for special underlay for underfloor heating )and damp ; it will allow dust and dirt to fall through the rug which will help avoid the build-up of particles which will otherwise act as a sandpaper abrasion mix at the base of the pile; lastly, it will, of course, reduce the movement of the rug, making it safe and perfectly positioned.
  • Furniture Cups. A larger rug will have furniture on it and if the feet of your sofa, chairs or table have sharp ends you should use furniture cups. These can be bought online and can be plastic, wood, brass or brushed metal. These will stop your rug pile from being crushed and avoid holes forming with many minuscule movements.
  • Moths! Now consider how the furniture is sitting. If you have a large heavy piece of furniture under which the rug is lying you must ensure that this dark and quiet space is thoroughly vacuumed along with the visible parts. Moths!!! They love dark undisturbed places with a plentiful supply of wool or silk to eat. Ideally, you should also have a pheromone moth trap in the room too – especially with any rug made in Afghanistan. For some reason they go crazy for this wool.
  • Sunshine. If you are lucky enough to live in a country with abundant strong sunshine you must consider the effects of UV light on your rug. Obviously,  a conservatory or a patio windowed room in particular needs clear UV filter screen on the glass. Whatever your vendor tells you, ALL rugs fade – at least all rugs made with natural materials.
  • Turning. Ideally you should also consider turning your rug every year or so so that any fading is evened out – however, this is rarely done as most rugs look best with the pile lying in a certain direction so they are left as is. Turning a rug will also even out feet tread wear patterns – but this only happens in areas of very heavy traffic or over the course of decades, by which time your rug has aged with you and you accept and love it.
  • Weekly Upkeep. Modern vacuum cleaners are FAR too efficient and all that satisfying fluff and dirt in your viewable bag is mostly bits of your rug being stripped. You do not need to vacuum on a high power with the revolving brush – please just use suction as this will suck out what needs to be removed. Avoid vacuuming the fringes as these are, in a handmade Persian or Oriental rug, integral warp threads and are protection against the knots being damaged or destroyed.
  • stitch in time– If you see any signs of the rug having been damaged then you should have it restored immediately. The same goes for discovering that your party guest spilled a glass of red under the sofa. Stains lock in over time and repairs become very pricey!
  • Cleaning your rug. You go to the dentist and doctor, you service your car, you clean your oven ….but most people think a rug will last forever without a proper service. Whilst they can be miraculously hard wearing items they do need a specialist soaking every 5 years to increase thie longevity and maintain the look for which you bought it. This will remove the build-up of oils ( outside tar and chemicals, human sweat and animal grease ) from the pile and restore it to its former softness and colours. Its also hygienic to remove all that gunk- dead skin from humans and dander from animals in particular.

What is the Difference Between a Persian and Oriental Rug?

There are thousands of rug types produced across the globe, from hand knotted to hand tufted, hand loomed to power loomed, piled and flat, and in a wide array of materials. However, the term ‘Persian rug’ has come to mean a hand-knotted (every single knot tied by hand around threads strung around a loom) rug, generally one with a readily identifiable traditional central medallion with a surrounding floral design and a border. The most commonly found colours are red, blue and cream but most colours are used in one type or another and the sizes range from small mats to massive rugs which can fill a ballroom.

Persia was the historical name given by outsiders to Iran, the name of which derives from one of the tribes, Pars. The name was formally changed to be inclusive in 1935. Persian rugs have been exported worldwide for at least 150 years and quickly gained a reputation for being luxurious and hard wearing floor decorations. There was a mania for all things oriental in the latter half of the 19th century and so rugs became a crucial element in the furnishing of the better off home. This was in the days before the fitted carpet so a highly coloured, deep pile rug provided many attributes – comfort, looks,  a social marker, insulation on cold wooden or stone floors and over time could be regarded as an investment.

Rugs from Turkey across to China became loosely and lazily called ‘Persian’ – much as in my youth we called all vacuum cleaners ‘Hoovers’ as they were the dominant brand. However, ANY rug not made in Iran should either be called Oriental or specifically by its country of origin – Turkish, Afghan, Caucasian, Pakistani, Indian, Nepalese, Tibetan and Chinese. However Persian rugs are now copied across the rug weaving world as very often they will be sold cheaper than the original. this cost factor is due to labour and materials costs and as with anything, you get what you pay for. In my opinion, the best Iranian wool is unbeatable and when coupled with superior craftsmanship and splendid natural dyes ( derived from roots, leaves, plants, trees and rocks ) offers the superlative rug. So now you have a large market flooded with Persian rug knockoffs – which are not all bad by any means – and so should be called Oriental. They are still hand knotted using the exact techniques of the Persian weavers, using the same designs and materials, and so you might say that there is no difference between a Persian and Oriental rug. However, a genuine high-quality rug from Iran is almost always a better product with a discernible flair and spirit lacking in the copies. In particular, and as a generalization,  the Indian rugs are often too chunky and the wool too dry, the fine Chinese are too meticulous and therefore look machine made and the Pakistan rugs are too dry and flat. The positive side is that the prices will be from 25-50% lower!

So – Persian is from Iran ONLY and Oriental from all other Near, Middle and the Far East countries.