Want to bring life, art, history, luxury and design into your living space…? Want to walk into a room and pause, being stopped by the beauty, noticing what amazing energy the room has? Buy an oriental rug. There is something truly extraordinary about an Oriental rug that speaks to us and brings us joy. Not unlike a wonderful meal that has been created for you by a dear friend, infused with passion and pride and lovingly plated for your enjoyment, oriental rugs come with similar energy.
Beautiful rugs are fairly easy to come by, mass market rugs have done an amazing job replicating the idea of ancient rugs. However, mass market rugs are machine made, typically with nylon, some blended with wool. These wear out easily and don’t maintain their color because they are effectively made out of plastic and synthetic dyes, thus they have no inherent value.
Then there are Oriental rugs. These are original works of art, made by artisians that will only increase in value. They are also the only element of interior design, that has never, in the history of the world, gone out of style. Oriental rugs are a declaration of good taste, a sign of respect for this ancient craft and a status symbol of fine quality.
Oriental rugs are unique, they are all handmade in the “oriental” countries of the “rug belt.” These countries include Morocco across North Africa, into the most prolific production regions of the Middle East, such as Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Maghreb and east across Asia to India, Tibet and China. The skill is so honored and respected that in In 2010, the “traditional skills of carpet weaving” in the Iranian province of Fārs, the Iranian town of Kashan,and the “traditional art of Azerbaijani carpet weaving” in the Republic of Azerbaijan“were inscribed to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.
Oriental rugs are an investment, an investment that will be adored and cherished while lasting through several generations of your family.
The oldest known hand knotted rug, which is nearly completely preserved, is the Pazyryk carpet,dated to the 5th century BC. It is probably the oldest surviving pile carpet in the world. It measures 183×200 cm and has a knot density of approximately 360,000 knots per square meter, which is higher than most modern carpets. The middle of the carpet consists of a ribbon motif, while in the border there is a procession with fallow deer, and in another border warriors on horses. The Pazyryk carpet was probably created in Armenia or Persia around 400 BC. When it was found it had been deeply frozen in a block of ice, which is why it is so well-preserved. The carpet can be seen at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
The history of Oriental rugs is nearly as old as the written word. The oldest existing known texts referring to carpets are preserved in cuneiform writing on clay tablets from the royal archives of the kingdom of Mari, in Syria, from the 2nd millennium BC, from a personal assistant to his Lord regarding the effort of his servant “I’ve requested a rug for my lord…” They are at the top of the list in Palace inventories for as long as inventories have been kept and they were nearly as much of a staple of fine living as having furniture. Even among the lower classes of families in the rug belt, the family rug, were generations of families sat for every family experience including dining, as there was no furniture, remains the family’s most prized possession.
The Greeks have also referenced carpets in literature. Homer, who was probably born around 725BC on the Coast of Asia Minor, was the first Greek writer whose work survives.Homer writes in theIliadXVII, 350 that the body of Patroklos is covered with a “splendid carpet”. In the Odyssey BookVII and X “carpets” are also mentioned.
For many cultures in the rug belt, carpets have been the among the most treasured personal items of families, often second only to jewelry, for most of history.
We met with rug expert Ali Khorasantchi of Ali’s Oriental Rugsin Naples, FL to learn more what makes an Oriental rug. An expert in his field, Ali began working with rugs and textiles in Dusseldorf, Germany almost 60 years ago. As time has passed, his respect and appreciation for the art continued to grow. His passion for the rug business has been centered around the joy people find when they have a connection with a piece. Not unlike an oil painting, music or a fine wine, people have very individualized taste and they know exactly what they like when they see it, it’s palpable “You can see it immediately.”
Several clients passed through the gallery while we were there. One to do a pick-up of his precious piece from its annual cleaning “I wouldn’t let anyone else touch these rugs, he (Ali) was the prior owner of these rugs, he sold them to me and no one else would care for them like he does because of that.” I asked him why he came in to pick them up as the gallery delivers (and rugs typically aren’t exactly small or light) and he noted it was just an excuse to come in and look around and that they actually would end up delivering them, they just didn’t know it yet.
Ali discussed with us the different types of rugs he carried among his 4,000+ that are in stock. Just a few of the types among the 20 types he carries include Tabriz, Nain, Peshawar and Hereka.
Tabriz: The name “Tabriz,” when referring to oriental carpets, covers a wide variety of Oriental rugs. To the untrained eye two rugs from Tabriz may appear to be from completely different parts of the world, when in fact, they are from the same city. Tabriz is one of the largest cities in Iran and is renowned world-wide for its masterfully crafted rugs. It’s not uncommon to see a rug from Tabriz with quotations and names from a great Persian poet such as, Saudi, Hafez, Firdausi or Omar Khayyam. Tabriz rugs are hand-woven using a symmetrical knot; also known as the “Tabriz knot.” One may see rugs from India with typical Tabriz motifs. These rugs are known as “Indo-Tabriz.” The trained eye can immediately tell the quality of an Indo-Tabriz isn’t nearly as fine as the Tabriz from Iran. Rugs from Tabriz, Iran are amongst the most sought-after Persian rugs in the world.
Nain: Rugs from Nain are known around the world as some of the finest rugs that can be obtained. The City of Nain sits approximately 240 Miles East of Isfahan close to the Western part of the desert Dasht-e-Kavir. Compared to some of the older rug manufacturing centers of the world Nain is fairly new to the game. The city has only been developing rugs since the 1930’s, but they quickly found a style of their own which quickly became popular amongst seekers of fine rugs. The quality of true Nain rugs is measured in the Farsi term LAA; which refers to the tightness of the weave within the rug. For instance, a rug with 9 LAA is of good quality, but is the least in quality of all Nain rugs. A 4 LAA Nain is amongst the finest rugs made. Most of these rugs have both wool and silk. Wool usually makes up the majority of the rug while silk typically borders the rug’s motif.
Peshawar: Peshawar’s origins date 400 years back to the 16th century in Pakistan. The culture rich city of Peshawar is one of the main rug weaving centers in Pakistan. Initially grafted as a form of expressed luxury and royalty, the Peshawar became an immensely desired possession. Along with floral patterns, the rug features bold medallions that range from a traditional to a diamond structure that occupy with open space in order to define these features. The colors in a Peshawar normally have ivory or white hues and can likewise sport a primarily dark red tone paired with blues, orange, brown, and green that can be either light or dark. The Peshawar’s wide range of aesthetics are a hallmark for their continued popularity as the ages have passed.
Hereka: Many rugs from Hereka, Turkey hold a breathtaking 1,000 knots per square inch. These rugs are specifically manufactured to be of the up-most quality and knot density in the world. Sultan Abdulmecid of the Ottoman Empire commissioned the production of rugs, curtains and upholstery specifically for the Ottoman court in the 1800’s. As time stretched to the 19th century Turkish artisans used the same techniques to produce fine rugs to sell to merchants. A finely woven Hereka is almost unrivaled in aesthetic beauty and overall quality.
Oriental rugs are no different than fine art in some respects as the provenance is known to be respected, though not necessarily kept or tracked. These fine art rug pieces are also not kept out of touch as fine art often is, they centerpieces of our homes, interactive members of our lives.
They are the gathering place for friends and family, they are the center of celebrations, they are there to relax with on quiet evenings, they are witness the joy, tears, heartbreak and elation. They are the foreground of our lives and then they are passed on through families with all that history travelling with it while having it’s own stories woven within.
Ready to start looking into a new rug? Christie’ssuggests a few pointers before you start. From getting to know your knots, wraps and wefts, understanding the place of production such as town, village or tribal. Look for harmony in the design and understand how rugs achieve their color richness. If you want to learn more about the history, production and journey of oriental rugs, here are a few reading options. Oriental Rugs: A Buyer’s Guide, Oriental Carpets: A Complete Guide – The Classic Reference, The Root of Wild Madder: Chasing the History, Mystery and Lore of the Persian Carpet, Rugs to Riches: An Insider’s Guide to Buying Oriental Rugs, Revised & Updated Edition.
Want to jump right in and peruse the stacks? Ali’s Oriental Rugs, on Shirly Street, just off of J&C, is the place to start. The level of knowledge and passion for the stories these rugs tell is extraordinary. If you are going to spend money on a rug, why not consider budgeting a little more for the purchase and turning into an investment. Even if you’re not ready to buy, the experience of the gallery is worth it.
Have ideas you’d like to add? Need more suggestions? Or want to share your experience? Let me know!
Julie Koester is CEO of Life with Moxie, a Lifestyle Revolution Company www.lifewithmoxie.com,CEO of Moxie Creed www.moxiecreed.com, skincare beyond chemistry. You can reach her at Julie@lifewithmoxie.com
Passionate Living by Design, That’s Life with Moxie
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