Monday, July 21, 2014

Is That Really an Antique Rug? Antique Rugs Might Not Always Be As Old As You Think.

(Adapted from an article by Elaine Rogers, Fort Worth Star-Telegram -- posted: 07/17/2014 12:01 AM -- supplemented by Brandon Oriental Rugs)

Persian carpets and other "rugs of the East" are firmly established as elegant design elements - subtle and often-unheralded - that loudly whisper refinement and good taste. Long considered status symbols, and often too precious to put on floors as recently as two hundred years ago, the story of Oriental rugs is quite ancient: try 3000 B.C., when Nomadic tribes in Mongolia and Turkey used hair from their camels and sheep to weave carpets to keep their earthen floors warm, and 1000 B.C., when rugs with an impressive 300 knots per square inch were already in existence. In Persia, especially, the artistry of the carpet developed so much that, today, a dizzying variety of distinctive patterns and styles is linked to at least 40 different rug-making Iranian cities or villages.

Rugs are like paintings. They should not be tucked away and ignored. These types of carpets are meant to be used and enjoyed for many years. A true Oriental rug is "hand-knotted," woven one knot at a time, a tribute to the patience and craftsmanship of the weavers. (The terms "hand-tufted" and "handmade" are misleading. Those can still be machine made.) It is said that the average weaver ties as many as 10,000 knots per day, and a 9-by-12-foot Persian rug that has 500 knots per square inch takes four or five artisans, working six hours a day and six days a week, about 14 months to complete. 

Some care should be taken to analyze claims of age relating to particular rugs. In Iran and some other rug-making countries merchants sometimes use city streets to age rugs prematurely by having traffic drive over new rugs until they look old and worn. This is done because old rugs command higher prices. Industry experts are dismayed to admit that it is extremely difficult for a layperson to tell the difference between a real antique rug and a new rug that's been antiqued in this or similar ways. One such insider, admitted that a lot of rug-finishers are very good at what they do. "They can make a new rug fresh off the loom look very, very old, and no one can tell the difference." That's why you've got to deal with people who are reputable and trustworthy.

With worldwide interest in rare antique, and collectible rugs booming because of their investment potential as stores of value, it's essential to proceed with caution when contemplating an acquisition. Careful research on features of a particular rug type; a verifiable (or at least trustworthy) provenance associated with a specific rug; and the opportunity for independent appraisal by an expert other than the seller are all desirable routes for investigation prior to a purchase of such significance. A good amount of research can be conducted online exploring sale results for rugs like the one in which you have an interest. The major international auction houses maintain archives of prior sales and prices realized which can be used in your investigations. Visits to other rug sellers to look for similar rugs and compare prices can also be helpful if the style is one that has been commonly available in the estate homes of your country or region for the many generations it takes for a rug to truly become an "antique".

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