Frequently Asked Questions
What makes one rug more expensive than another?
There are several reasons, the primary one being the quality of the rug. The quality of a rug has to do with the materials, principally the wool and dyes, as well as the weave.
The best wool for rugs is different than the best wool for clothing; it is coarser and more robust. Wool can either be hand spun or mill (machine) spun, with hand-spun wool generally considered to be superior. Hand-spun wool creates an even more durable rug and has (in our opinion) a better look.
The weave of a rug also influences its price, but the fineness of weave often has only a slight relation to its price. Many finely woven rugs, such as Bokharas from Pakistan, are among the least expensive of all oriental rugs, but this is generally because of their poor-quality wool and lack of compactness of weave. On the other hand, the best rugs are densely woven, with a high fiber density (Note: this is distinct from knot density). To manually test this, grab the edge of a rug with your thumb on the piled side and try to wriggle your thumb into the pile. Do this on several different piled rugs and you’ll begin to see the differences.
Size also greatly influences price, with the cost of new wool rugs typically proportional to the size. The larger the rug, the more labor and materials are required, and so the higher the price. However, this is only a general guideline and is not applicable to all new rugs or to antique pieces.
How do I know if this is a good rug?
There are many things to consider when determining what is a good rug. One thing to remember is that unless you take the time to learn a lot about rugs, you must depend on a more knowledgable person’s judgment. For many people, trust in the dealer is a major factor in choosing a rug. If you choose a rug from an unreliable dealer, an auction, or a “going-out-of-business” sale and later find problems, you’ll have little recourse. Most defective rugs are sold at “bargain” prices and thus what may seem like a great price may be an omen.
A good way to become more of an expert is to ask questions. Different dealers will have different perspectives and different information about rugs, but by talking to various dealers you will begin to know something substantial about rugs – and also about the dealers themselves.
What’s the big deal about natural plant dyes vs. chemical dyes?
Many people think that natural plant dyes create more beautiful rugs, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Natural plant dyes, such as indigo and madder, create uniquely beautiful effects because of natural dyes’ variation and harmony, and their wonderful warm colors. On the other hand, the best synthetic dyes produce a greater variety of hues and are also extremely stable to light. The appeal of natural dyes is the wonderful colors, which tend to be warmer and without the “metallic” look seen in synthetic dyes. Part of the appeal of natural dyes comes from the variation of the color on the yarn; a phenomenon called abrash. This causes slight variations within a particular hue in the rug, usually seen as horizontal striations. Natural dyes also age more gracefully. In combination with good wool, they are why a rug develops the rich patina over the years that one sees in an antique.
Is hand-spun wool better than mill-spun wool?
For rugs, the answer is yes. Hand-spun wool is more durable and contains more natural lanolin. Hand-spun wool is less processed and has a more uneven texture. This results in variation of dye absorption and contributes to more color variation, called abrash. However, another consideration is the desired look. Some rug owners prefer a more even surface and even coloration, in which case mill-spun wool may be preferable.
What’s the difference between a decorative and collectible rug?
A decorative rug is a term applied to a rug that functions primarily to provide a decorative accent to a setting. A decorative rug may be old or new and can come in any style, size, or color. What constitutes a collectible rug is often debatable, even among experts. Generally speaking, a collectible rug is one with great integrity, whether that is due to rarity, age, beauty, or technical execution.
How do I know if this rug is going to work in my house/office?
You generally need to try it out, if at all possible. We encourage clients to take rugs home and spend some time with them before making a final decision. The light is different at home and the scale of the rug design may feel very different there, surrounded by your colors and other furnishings. This is one of the problems encountered when buying a rug at auction or abroad. One often finds that their new cherished treasures don’t work out: color, size, or that ineffable sense of “feeling.”
What country makes the best rugs?
Several countries make extraordinarily good rugs, but each of these countries makes rubbish rugs also. Despite this disclaimer, in general, probably Iran, Turkey, and India currently make the highest-quality rugs, but they vary considerably from each other and the best are a small percentage of the total output.
How durable are oriental rugs?
Decades… and the question becomes how many decades? While a lower-quality oriental rug can last only a few years (less than a decade), a high-quality rug — based on the wool and the density of the weave — can last several decades, even hundreds of years or more.
So why buy a rug that will significantly outlast our own lifetime?
A poor quality rug may look great when it’s new, but that’s the best it will ever look, and it will go rapidly downhill from there. A rug with good wool and dyes will patinize, becoming even lovelier with the passing of the decades. Thus, a high-quality rug will generally retain its value and may eventually increase in value as the cost of comparably high-quality rugs increases.
What’s better: silk or wool?
Wool is nearly always a better choice for floor rugs. Wool has so many wonderful qualities — a warm rich look, high durability, and relative ease of care — that comparing wool to silk is like comparing apples to persimmons. Silk rugs are more like textiles and are better used as such – for walls, throws, etc.
Shall I buy a rug while I’m abroad?
Sure… if you find something you love. But be wary of buying a large rug as a major decorative statement unless you can afford to take the financial risk of it not working. Also, be skeptical of what a rug dealer abroad tells you. There’s little recourse if a problem arises. On the other hand, if you know the dealer or don’t mind the financial risk, some great values can be found. Although you may likely see lots of rugs, as a tourist you will generally not have access to the best. You may see wonderful pieces, but it’s truly a situation of “buyer beware.” However, small little treasures that you fall in love with are sometimes worth buying, even if it’s just for the memory.
What’s the best advice – in a sentence?
Buy what you like but, unless you’re knowledgeable, seek sound advice.