What is a Persian Rug?
Crafted by artisans in current-day Iran, Persian rugs have a long and layered history. Amidst invasions and counter invasions, this resilient tradition of weaving has carried on. Produced by nomads and shepherds, made to the same standards dating back to ages BC, native Persians continue making rugs simply for the sheer delight of expressing themselves.
Many Persian rugs are named after the cities or regions in which they are created. Each region contains a specific style, color palette, and motif. Although the rug makers themselves may hardly venture outside their rural settings, the artistic products speak the language known by beauty lovers all around the world.
Persian rugs are known for their beauty, intricate designs, quality, and durability. In this article, we’ll discuss the many different types of Persian rugs, what makes them unique, and how to buy one.
How Are Persian Rugs Made?
Techniques used to make Persian rugs have been passed down and perfected over thousands of years, through hundreds of generations.
The process takes a great deal of time, planning, and skill. The materials and designs used to make Persian rugs are what make them unique.
Wool is the most common type of material used when weaving Persian rugs, due to its soft texture and durability. The highest quality wool comes from high-altitude, mountainous regions of Iran.
Like wool, cotton is durable and easily accessible to the people of Iran, making cotton the preferred base for Persian rugs.
Silk is a luxury material and not produced in large quantities, making this fiber the least likely to be used in weaving Persian rugs. However, weavers will merge silk with other materials to bring out more detail in the rug’s design.
Renowned for their rich colors, Persian rugs are made with all-natural wools, silk, and vegetable dyes.
Natural ingredients such as pomegranate, turmeric, acorn shells, and green leaves are boiled into large pots. The yarn is then hand-dipped, creating a unique hue with each batch. A benefit of using vegetable dyes is their longevity and natural appearance.
- The most common dye made from plants is Madder, which can be used to create all shades of the color red.
- Many colors in the purple range result from the combination of red and indigo.
- Black is obtained by submerging previously dyed brown wool into indigo.
- Indigo is the source for all shades of blue and a helpful base to create different colors.
- To achieve green, the wool is first dyed blue and then dyed again with yellow.
- Saffron, pear leaves, almonds, and buckthorn berries produce different shades of yellow.
To this day certain families enjoy prestige as dyers of special colors that no one else can replicate. The family skills are passed down from generation to generation.
Often, a weaver dyes several lots of wool during the process of a rug, measuring dyes by the handful, then cooking them at varying lengths of time. Naturally, this method causes shading. The variation of shades is considered Abrash, a tell-tale sign of authentic weaving. These color variations only add charm to the finished product.
Symbolism is also passed down through the generations, considered trademarks. They include dense, all-over patterns with rich striking colors and medallion motifs.
Symbols in Persian rugs may represent historical monuments, scenes from daily life, or trees from religious imagery. Popular trees include the weeping willow, cypress, and pomegranate are then translated into depictions of the Tree of Life or the Garden of Paradise.
When you 'read' the symbols and patterns in Persian rugs, you can connect with the weaver's story. Some rug experts can determine a rug's city and country, along with historical insights by properly identifying its symbols and patterns.
Types of Persian Rugs
Persian rugs come in a variety of styles, which are unique to the city, village, or tribal region in which they were made. Here are some of the most popular:
Gabbeh rugs are known for their geometric stylings and storytelling elements. The Farsi translation of the word ‘Gabbeh’ means something raw, natural, or uncut. Made by the nomadic Qashqai tribes of southern Iran, usually crafted by women. The designs often contain rectangular patterns that enclose an image of an animal or surrounding landscapes.
Bakhtiari rugs, named after a nomadic tribe from the Zagros mountains, are known for their robustness and thick wool. Traditionally, they produced geometric designs, later expanding into floral patterns influenced by larger Persian cities such as Isfahan. They often feature traditional garden motifs with square-shaped compartments, animals, and latticework.
Bijar rugs hail from a market center in Northwestern Iran, about 150 miles south of Tabriz. Like most Kurdish carpets, Bijar rugs are characterized by their heavy pile, due to the use of a traditional Turkish knot. This contributes to their long lifespan and extreme durability. The pile is compressed so strongly that it stands vertically upwards. Classic designs typically feature diamond-shaped medallions, allover flower, and vinery motifs.
Tabriz rugs originated from one of the oldest rug weaving centers. Characterized by their short pile and high knot-density. Tabriz rugs feature an endless array of elaborate patterns. Medallions of all shapes and sizes, gardens with wide varieties of floral motifs, hunting scenes, and an assortment of curvilinear patterns.
Senneh rugs feature geometric patterns. They are produced in the mountains of northwestern Iran, in the Kurdistan province, and are known for their rich red, navy, and brown color palettes. Fine wool yarn is used for the pile, while warp and weft are made of simpler cotton. Mostly coarse rugs that are ideal for everyday use due to their durability.
Kashan rugs can be recognized by their central medallion ornamentation and their red, blue, and beige tones. Dense, Persian knots and the use of high-quality wool make Kashan rugs extremely valuable. Kashan carpets are the direct legacy of the Golden Age of Persian Weaving, during the reign of Shah Abbas.
Heriz rugs are generally known for their durability and high-quality wool. Heriz rugs are easily identifiable due to the large, geometric medallion design in their center. Almost all products of the Heriz area are in larger sizes, with scatter rugs relatively rare. The typical Heriz has a strictly rectilinear medallion design that has changed little over many decades. Repeating patterns are less common, the pile is heavy, and the edges have a thick double selvage.
Kerman rugs often feature vivid red hues, generally complemented by neutral tones of beige, blue, or brown. Like many Persian rugs, they’re often adorned with an elongated medallion surrounded by floral motifs. Kerman is in south-central Iran. Typically, an asymmetrical knot on a cotton foundation. Modern Kerman rugs, made for western markets are often woven in gentle and light colors such as amber, pink, and blue-gray. Patterns can range from stripes, repetitive motifs, traditional vases, garden themes, animal shapes, and pictorial designs.
How to Identify a Persian Rug
Every Persian rug can be grouped into three distinct classifications according to its basic patterns:
By placing the rug in one of these categories, we begin to understand the type of weaver who made it and their station in life.
The weavers of geometrically designed rugs are practical and natural people. They are, for the most part, members of wandering nomadic tribes. Each group is isolated from others and self-sufficient. Nomadic rugs tend to have simple patterns. Geometrical, sharp, angular, and composed of a series of medallions. These patterns are rarely planned out or mapped.
The opposite of a Geometric pattern would be Floral. Representing generations of culture these rugs will carry intricate, interlaced, flowing patterns. Floral patterns are the leaders in Oriental art and handwork. The pattern, size, and color range are carefully planned before the rug is started. When the weaver ties the first row of knots, they envisions the last row that will complete their work.
Thirdly, there are Conventionalized patterns. Intermediate between the nomads and the city people. Typically, these weavers are farmers by trade, using the long winter months to weave rugs as means to endure the frigid season. Each weaver's rug will bear the stamp of their individuality.
How to Buy a Persian Rug
When considering buying a Persian rug, the key is understanding these woven pieces are not elusive, rather simple testaments of practical people.
When choosing a rug, one should first have in mind the purpose and the place for which the rug is intended. All Persian rugs are durable, but some can uphold rough usage better than others.
How Long Do Persian Rugs Last?
A high-quality Persian rug can last a lifetime and beyond due to the quality of its wool, all-natural dyes, and knot density. More than just a floor covering, they are investments, family heirlooms, and works of art.
How Can You Tell If a Persian Rug is Authentic?
To the untrained eye, a machine-made or hand-tufted rug can mimic the appearance of a Persian rug quite well. However, they will only last a few years before needing to be replaced. An authentic Persian rug is hand-knotted, and you should be able to see each individual knot when you examine the underside of the rug.
Shop Authentic Persian Rugs at Landry & Arcari
The experts at Landry & Arcari are committed to helping you find the perfect Persian rug. Browse our collections, stop by one of our New England area showrooms, or reach out to us online with any questions or inquiries.