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.