25 Oriental Rug Identification Tools

Learn these tips and tricks and you too can identify Oriental rugs.

1. If it was woven before World War 2, it is neither a Qum nor a Nain.

2. Hamadans (made in several hundred different villages in N.W. Iran) are tied with a symmetrical (Turkish) knot, have cotton warps and wefts, one row of wefts between each row of knots, and often are finished on one end with a simple fringe and the other with a webbing and no fringe.

3. Tabriz is the only Persian city-carpet woven with the symmetrical knot (except for a rare Turkbaff Mashed). The use of the Turkish knot in Hamadan and Tabriz is explained by the fact that Tabriz was once the capital of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire and its predominate population is of Turkic people.

4. Pakistani “Bokharas” are on cotton foundations. Their Turkmen prototypes are woven on wool foundations except for some very new pieces.

5. Many of the tribal and village rugs from southern Iran have multicolored or “barber pole” selvages, such as Qashqa’is, Kamsehs and Afshars.

Old Kerman
Old Kermans like this one are distinguished by their purplish red, dyed from cochineal.

6. Quite often Afshars are in squarish sizes. They can be tied with either symmetrical or asymmetrical knots.

7. Cochineal, a dye derived from an insect, is a red color with a bluish or purplish hue. In Persian rugs it is found only in Kermans and Masheds and occasionally in Afshars—all of which are made in eastern Iran.

8. Karabaughs are the only Caucasian rugs in which cochineal is commonly found.

9. Cochineal is often found in old Indian rugs.

10. Modern Indian rugs usually can be distinguished from, say, Pakistani rugs by their very heavy body and stiff handle, their fat weft threads, and the fact that their selvages are added after the rugs are woven and are not an integral part of it.

Antique dyrnak-gul Yomud
Antique dyrnak-gul Yomud

11. Manchester Kashans were made around the turn of the century in Kashan, Iran with the same wool now used to make, for instance, Pakistani Bokharas- that is, machine spun wool from Marino sheep. They can be identified by their very soft wool pile and by their single-wrapped magenta silk selvages.

12. Turkmen rugs are tied with asymmetrical knots. The exception is Yomuds, most of which are tied symmetrically. Occassionally one sees Tekkes that have a few rows of symmetrical knots just inside their selvages.

13. Bidjars are the heaviest-bodied rugs in the known universe and can often be identified on that basis.

old Turkish rug
Careful examination of an old Turkish rug’s foundation reveals that its wefts, unlike those from other countries, are not twisted or spun.

14. Armenian Immigrant Rugs are those brought out of Armenia after the breakup of the Soviet Union by immigrants and merchants. The strongest clues that a rug falls into that category are full pile and hanging devices sewed to the backs of rugs, usually small, cloth loops. Strangely, the full pile of these rugs often is accompanied by severe damage to the foundation: holes in the body of the rug and eroded corners.

15. Old Turkish rugs can be distinguished from other tribal rugs by the fact that their wool weft threads are not twisted.

16. If it has synthetic dyes, it positively was made after 1865. If its dyes are natural, it may have been made any time in the past 3,000 to 5,000 years.

17. It is possible to confuse Lillihans with Hamadans. Often both have Sarouk-like designs and both are single-wefted rugs on a cotton foundation. However, Lillihans are woven with an asymmetrical knot, and Hamadans with the symmetrical knot.

18. In design, Hamadans and Kurdish rugs often are very similar. But Kurdish rugs are made on a wool foundation and Hamadans on cotton.

old Qashqai
Like Kazaks, old Qashqa’is often have red or pink wefts. Other old Shiraz-district rugs do not.

19. Qashqa’is are most often made with red or pink wefts.

20. Romanian rugs most often are woven with light blue wefts.

21. Karadjas, almost alone among all the Heriz District rugs, are single-wefted.

22. Sennehs are not woven with the Senneh (asymmetrical) knot. Rather, they are tied with the Turkish (symmetrical) knot.

23. Like Hamadans, Baktiaris most often are woven with the symmetrical knot and are single wefted. It is quite possible to confuse them. But if the rug in question wears a lot of rather strong yellow, most likely it is a Baktiari.

24. The most curvilinear of all the Heriz products is that from Ahar. Ahars are exceptionally heavy-bodied as well.

25. The most curvilinear of all the Hamadan products (in fact practically the only curvilinear Hamadan) is from the village of Borchalou. Often Borchalous are made in Sarouk-like designs and feature the color black.

82 Comments

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    Chris Sawtelle November 28, 2012

    I love this page, I’m going to send out a pic of a rug I bought, that has some people stumped on its origin.
    -Chris

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    Gina December 7, 2012

    Hello,
    I have 7 very old oriental rugs that have been in my family for more than 60 years. I would like to know their values. Some must go since we are now downsizing and will not be able to use them. May I send photos? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Gina

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    Kris December 9, 2012

    I sent an email, would appreciate any help I can get. This rug I bought at an auction and giving as a gift to my Mother for Christmas. But, it ahs so many symbols and is so different than any others I’m seeing online, I have a suspician this rug was made as a family rug rather than commercial. Please look at your email and assist. I’d love to give my Mother more information rather than it’s a Hamadan… It even has what look like palaces on each end. Such an array of so many rich colors as well.

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    william December 24, 2012

    a family member owning a persian carpet,knowing 100% fact it was handmade. To first give you the history,which make it intriguing to me.a family member in the 1960’s aquired this beautiful large carpet from a priest of a catholic church for services as he did not have the money to pay.the priest told him it came out of his living quarters of the church and to his knowledge had been there at least 100 years.telling my family member it had been there the whole time of his living there the last 40 someodd years.reading arthur upman pope’s book makes this more interesting.well anyhow unclear of exact timing but was from several months to a short few years a individual approached my family member claiming to be a manufacturer buying back all the rugs distributed out and offered him $35,000 for the carpet.which to me a little suspicious considering how long that was in the church.I would really like to find out everything i can about this carpet but have no idea how to start.To clarify fist there is no interest in selling this carpet, we just want to know everything we can about where it came from,age,values,etc. looking on top i see no visible markings as to a signature of maker.

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    william December 24, 2012

    adding on to the last inquiry/comment on this page.the part that really interests me is as arthur upman pope wrote in this introduction of more than 3 thousand, many centuries old, persian carpets made their way to european and american churches along with some museums and collectors.racking my brain,how did these churches aquire these carpets?was it possibly first aquired by the vatican and placed in storage for period of time and distributed out to different churches belonging to them in europe and america?if so,did they use some sort of cataloging of each individual rug?

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    william December 24, 2012

    i made a mistake back there i had meant to say distributer not manufacturer.

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    Joe January 4, 2013

    I hope that you can help me to idendify a rug and approximate value. I have photos to help. I have been told it is of Indian origin and has been in the family for at least 20 years.

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    Angela February 17, 2013

    I just sent you some photos of a rug that my mother recently gave me. A family friend gave it to her about 35 years ago. It has no tags so I have no idea on its origin. It has what looks like birds and deer and looks to be handmade. Any information you can provide on it would be much appreciated.

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    Valerie February 28, 2013

    Hello, I have a rug that I think is Persian. My brother had bought it in Kuwait when he was stationed there in the armed forces back during the Golf War. He gave it to me but I have no information on it. It is in excellent condition too. I had sent pictures of the rug to Richard’s email address and hope he or someone can identify the origin and hopefully tell me what it’s worth. Hope to hear from him soon as I would like to sell it. Thanks.

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    Jules Capps March 4, 2013

    I have a rug I just purchased at auction. There are two tags attached to the back. Would love to know more about it. Would it be ok if I sent several pictures?

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    Kirsten April 6, 2013

    I sent you several pictures of a rug I purchased 14 years ago from a classified ad in Huntsville, AL. The lady I purchased it from bought it from an antique store and didn’t know anything about the rug. I think it is beautiful and would like to know the origin of the rug and any additional information you can give me.
    Tanks for your help!

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    Jim Baughman May 11, 2013

    Wow, a lot of information above. More pictures would really have helped a novice like me. Also, I think the sheep type is “Merino” rather than “Marino”.

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    Jack Kessler May 28, 2013

    I see rugs on eBay distinguished as having tag or no tags. What difference do the tags make?

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    Louise (Albert) Guyton June 12, 2013

    I have several persian rugs or thereabouts that I would like to know more about. I know all of these were purchased in Iran before 1975

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    Mark W. Smith February 16, 2014

    What determines the ‘top’ end of a rug or the ‘bottom’ end. Is there a definite ‘right’ side or ‘left’ end? I don’t want to hang my rugs upside down on my walls.
    Thank You!

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    sandra March 12, 2014

    Please help me to identify the markings on this rug, thanks in advance.

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    Ann Wright May 25, 2014

    Great article, clear and concise, thankyou.

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    LeeScott November 24, 2014

    Are you still providing this service? I see the last post was May of 2014.

    Lee Scott

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    Lori Howe January 4, 2015

    Terrific information page. Thanks!

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    Kimie Bowser March 10, 2015

    Hello. Thank you for your information. It was very useful. I recently purchased a rug that is in need of repair from a antique shop. I love the colors, size, and design of the rug, which remind me of a Floral Persian Sarouk rug. I can’t tell if it was hand knotted or machine made. Would it be possible to send a picture to you to help me identify the rug and invest in it’s restoration? Thank you.

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    Larry April 19, 2015

    Hello I have searched to try and find information about my rug, but I cannot even get close to its country of origin can you please help? The rug features hunters on horse back with spears, Lions, goats, and Lamas or Alpacas. Also there are hunters on foot whom seem to be carrying rifles? Any assistance would be greatfuly appreciated. Thank you

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    Free Games Download January 4, 2016

    By learning a few key industry terms, you could become a savvier and more satisfied rug shopper. Below, we’ll highlight the exact definition of a “hand-knotted Persian rug,” which is considered one of the highest-quality Oriental rugs.

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    Susan February 23, 2016

    Can you help me identify this carpet?

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    RB March 15, 2016

    I have several relatively expensive rugs (Sarouh, Belutch, Gharaghan, Bouchara, Isfahan, etc. ) with no identification except for numbers in the back of them. they are 3 – 5 Digits Long. Some even have up to two letters in front of them. What do These numbers/letters indicate? Thanks.

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    ray misiti May 15, 2016

    i have 9×12 oriental rug couristan 1973 pat#430191 100%worsted wool pile locked in weave turkomar impoted is there any value

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    Shonda June 5, 2016

    Hi Richard I have been reading your articles and every single comment from everybody for the past 7 hours ! (maybe more) ..Articles such as Where are oriental Rugs made..Oriental rug care etc…Anyhow I noticed in 2008 when you were very active responding to everybody and even looking at the pictures they sent you and helping them out..After several hours I got tired of hearing everybody ask you for help..There were 100 people asking for help to 1 saying thanks for the article..I even noticed people becoming agitated that you did not get back to them fast enough. As you mentioned you were doing it for FREE ! I’m guessing that after everybody wanting wanting wanting some EXPECTING your time you seem to have lost your passion and slowly disappeared.I need you to know that you was and are very much appreciated for the generosity you have given out of the kindness of your heart and passion Shared with all of us..I do admit once I seen that there was somebody intelligent in this area I hoped to ask you about mine as well but after reading you this 1 person trying to feed a pack of hungry people my concern is not the rug I have anymore but to just let you know how grateful people like myself are to have learned many very good things from you..I also thought maybe if you charged even 5 dollars for your honest opinion it would help you out a ton. Again I know you were doing it for a different reason but it is something to consider ;)..My heart goes out to you and again thankyou so much for the information you have provided all of us for the past 7 years..If theres anything I can do to return the help you provided me feel free to contact me anytime at shondacastro34@gmail.com BLESSING TO YOU AND YOURS

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    Richard June 5, 2016

    Wow! Shondra I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. These days people just email me and I answer as I can. I would never charge for sharing the education I have been honored to have learned being involved in this business for these last 20 years. Strange that I studied psychology with an emphasis on autism in college. My biggest gripe, and I share it only with you you in this public forum, is this. Many people send pictures of carpets that I’m am happy to identify. It starts off as “what is my rug?” I answer and think to be done with it. 90% of the time I get a follow up question. ” What is it worth?” For some reason this bugs me. What is worth? What is monetary value? In most cases the monetary value of a hand made carpet is far from its intrinsic value. A 9×12 Persian Sarouk from the 1920’s is worth monetarily next to nothing. Intrinsically it’s a work of craftsmanship that is 100 years old and will likely last 150 more years. What is art? What’s it worth? It’s worth less than you think, and more than you know.

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    S Dean July 2, 2016

    Hi Richard. I concur with Shonda and yourself. I can see that value for insurance purposes is important to some, but it by no means describes the worth of a rug. Yesterday I purchased a rug I fell in love with on the internet. It appears to be in perfect condition except for the fringe, which I will probably turn under and carefully hand sew a cotton canvas protector over.

    As I have been working with the rug, I’ve gained a huge appreciation for the people (person?) that made it. I’m totally curious about where they live, how they live, (these days how they survive), how old they were when making my rug, what the patterns mean and if there are any secret signatures or codes in the symbols. I am an artist, so I have a huge appreciation for the time, knowledge and effort this rug took to make and the story of it’s journey from a small village in the middle east to my small home in Canada.

    My rug seems extremely unusual being a light cherry color rather than rusty red, the blue is a lovely sky blue and I hope that doesn’t mean it’s a fake from India, although that would be fascinating too. From scouring the internet I think I’ve identified it as a Heriz but that’s as far as I know, it has no tags, labels or numbers on the back.

    Could you post the titles for any great books you are aware of on the subject. Thanks

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    Melissa White July 28, 2016

    Hi Richard,
    I was so happy to find your information on identifying antique Oriental rugs as I have inherited one large one (12′ x 12′), and also, due to my love of them, purchased a smaller one many years ago (although that one may actually just be an old domestic rug). I agree with Shonda and S Dean on how generous you are with your time and knowledge, obviously gained through much experience and study of these beautiful rugs. May I send you some photos of the large rug to the website you list above and get your opinion on where and when it might have been made (NOT “what is it worth, I promise). Please reply to my email: whitemel60@gmail.com Thanks in advance for your response! Melissa

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    nancy schutz 3865590933 August 28, 2016

    i bought a 12×10 rug the label on the back says ferraghahan made in bulgaria 300×400 12.M2
    100 worsted wool extra fine superior rug others numbers are 20121-?-6 6102 8499 ?? colors are rose teal apple green beige and black back ground can you tell me how old is it. it is good shape needs cleaning

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    erika koop heikoopAt comcast.net September 2, 2016

    i have a silk persian rug which has the number D I 4 6 in the back. could you please tell me what this means.

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