Judging The Quality Of Oriental Rugs
Oriental carpets are works of art –unique and exquisite - worthy of collections. But when it comes to buying oriental rugs, most people shy away or hesitate. It’s difficult to judge its quality and they can never know whether they are being ripped off or their purchase is really worth it.
There simply is not one single factor determining the value and quality of oriental rug. People often talk about the knot density but it does not completely define the quality of oriental rug. It is not even one of the most important factors appraisers consider in determining the value of an oriental rug.
Below is a list of considerations for determining an oriental rug’s quality and value.
Are Finely Knotted Rugs Better than Others?
Finely woven or knotted rugs are preferred for its softness and smoothness. The curved lines in a rug can be created more smoothly and gracefully with many knots in a square inch. Higher knot count per square inch means rug took a longer time to weave and so the rug piece is finer and better quality. Hence it would be more expensive. Also, rugs that are finely knotted reflect light better because their surface is so dense. Usually oriental rugs have higher knot count and so does floral and curvilinear patterns.
However, keep in mind that higher knot count is only one measure of a rug’s quality. There are cases where finer knots are not used such as in tribal rugs and geometrical shapes with straight lines requiring less knots per square inch. A rug of different origin and different design may be more expensive, even though it has a lower knot count. Pattern type and desired design assigns the knot size.
The high quality materials involved in an oriental rug’s crafting is what defines its illustrious composition. Better the material, better the rug’s quality. These materials include neat wool and silk. And a rug made from high-grade, hand-spun wool or silk will give off a certain luster which a rug made from synthetic materials and machine made cannot duplicate.
Checking the quality of wool
Most oriental rugs are made of wool and not all wool is of same quality. The quality of wool is influenced by the breed of sheep that the wool is sourced from, as well as what they eat and at which altitude they grazed and raised. Yes, all of these things come into play when the wool is sheared. Wool sheared from healthy sheep, raised in high altitude with favorable conditions, will be soft, pliable and strong and have lovely sheen. The best wool, known as kurk, comes from first shearing of lambs between 9 to 14 months old and sheared only from neck and under the arms. Kurk has an almost velvet-like feel and still have exceptional strength. Be wary of poor quality or dead wool which is known as “tabatchi”. It’s the wool sheared from dead sheep. It is so brittle that it will wear out in a very short time.
To check the quality of wool, massage the fibers softly between your fingers. Does it feel soft, pliable and plush or does it feel crisp, dry and brittle?
Also hand spinning wool makes a softer and more natural looking pile with a nicer handle to the rug than one is machine spun. When spun by hand, yarn absorbs more dye where it is loosely spun and less dye where it is spun tightly, thus producing pleasant variegation in the colors of a rug. Machine spun wool is very uniform and gives the rug a very formal appearance. However, most collectors value the effect produces by hand spun wool. Another attribute of hand-spun wool is that due to the nature of the spinning process, the gauge of the yarn is considerably heavier than that of machine-spun wool. This means that very high knot count rugs are generally knot found with hand-spun wool.
Handmade or machine made?
While judging the quality of oriental rug, there are three things to look for that affects both quality and value of your rug. Find rug that is woven by an experienced artist and ensure it was made by hand rather than by machine. There are significant differences. Look at the fringe, if the fringe is sewn to the rug, it indicates machine made which is beautiful and functional but less valuable than handmade one. Also if you find latex backing in the back of the rug, it indicates rug is hand-tufted where they’re being put together by a mechanized “gun” that inserts the wool atop a backing with a pattern drawn upon it. Handmade rugs have no such backing and pile is made of tufts of yarn that have been individually tied into the carpet. These show up as little individual squares. And fringes are made of the warp strings themselves.
Dyes used in the construction
Most experts agree on the fact that natural dyes are better than synthetic ones. While artificial dyes are no reason not to set foot on a carpet, they can never match the earthy evocation of their natural alternatives. However, that isn’t to say Vegetable-dyed rugs are entirely preferred— they simply have a deep sense of tradition attached to their craft.
While natural dyes are expensive, hard to work with and time-consuming, they are also resistant to fading in sunlight and resistant to bleeding when exposed to water. The result is a rug with highly vibrant colors that last even if they are over 100 years old. The dyes also differ in the way they penetrate the fiber. Bend the carpet so as to expose individual threads from the base to the tip. Synthetic dyes will color them evenly whereas natural ones tend to show variance.
Age of the rug
Are old rugs better than new rugs? The age of the rug does play an important role in the price of an oriental rug. Oriental rugs if maintained properly will increase in value with use and age. The beauty of wool is that it takes a very long time to break down and it actually looks better and feels better as it is used. Another reason they increase in value is that as you wear down the pile, you get closer to the original knot base. As you do this, the pattern gets sharper and more focused. Vegetable dye rugs will change colors slightly as the dyes oxidize over years of use. This change will not even be apparent for most rugs for at least 40-50 years, but the difference at 100 year is amazing.
And finally, rugs are unique works of art. For the most part, no two pieces are the same. So as time goes on, designs change, colors change, construction changes. So your Hand-knotted oriental will not be the same as a new one produced just a few years from now, making your type of rug a limited supply, and your individual rug a one-of-a-kind.
Finishing techniques involve shearing and cleaning the rug before it is ready for the showroom. They have been either left to age naturally or, at the very end of the rug-making process, are sensitively washed in substances that subtly tone down the relatively bright colors of a new rug. They are not bleached to death nor muddied up with gunk. Neither are they washed to make them unnaturally shiny.
Look for damage:
Look carefully over the front and back for repairs, worn places, moth damage or other signs of trouble. If a rug has repair, is it obvious, or does it blend almost unnoticeably? When you are investing so much money into this purchase, you definitely want to make sure that the rug you choose has not been damaged or subjected to any repair.
The quality of an Oriental rug is determined by a combination of materials, visual appeal, and by the weaving technique. Aspects like knot counts determine the quality and time it took to make as well as design. Pile density and thickness can determine its longevity. Damage and assessing dry rot is another thing to look for in order to make sure the "new" rug is in fact in tiptop shape.
So the profile of a good rug is something like this: It lies flat and straight on the floor and is reasonably regular in its shape. It is in good condition and has lively, lustrous wool. Good rugs have colors that resist fading in normal light and bleeding when exposed to water. Consequently there is a pleasant variegation in its colors and a feeling that the rug has personality or character. It has been allowed to age naturally and not bleached.