Frequently asked questions about Oriental Rugs.
In What Way Are Oriental Rugs Unique?
Oriental rugs are different from all others in that their pile (usually wool) is tied to their foundations. That is why they are referred to as hand-knotted rugs, and that, more than anything, accounts for why they last so long—often 50-80 years in use. That also accounts for their expense. The knot-count in a square inch of an average Oriental rug is something like 100.
What Country Makes the Best Rugs?
No one country has established itself as making the best rugs. For years Iran was most highly regarded, but now she seems to have fallen behind many other countries in the use of natural dyes. Many of the best rugs today come from Turkey, India, Pakistan (made by Afghan refugees), Nepal and China. A small production of tribal rugs with a lot of character come out of Afghanistan.
Natural vs. Synthetic Dyes
Dyes made from natural substances such as roots- have been used in Oriental rugs for virtually thousands of years, or they were until about World War Two. By that time, synthetic dyes had almost entirely taken the place of natural dyes. Starting in about 1980, natural dyes again began to be used in a few rugs, and today both natural and synthetic dyes are used in Oriental rugs. For all practical purposes, both are excellent. Connoisseurs, though, almost always prefer natural dyes, citing especially a pleasant variegation in colors made from natural substances and an impression of character natural dyes seem to impart. Bottom line, the choice between natural and modern synthetic dyes is a matter of preference- and money. Rugs with natural dyes cost around 30% more than those with synthetic dyes.
What is Abrash?
Anyone who looks closely at the photographs of rugs in this web site will notice that, in many of them, colors change in horizontal bands throughout the rugs. A band of darker blue, for instance, may lie between larger areas of lighter blue. That kind of color-variation is called abrash. Most often abrash is caused by variation in dyelots and is most often encountered when rugs are woven in relatively primitive conditions where each dyelot may consist of only 20 or 30 gallons- as opposed to dye mixed in cities that may consist of 500 or 1000 gallon batches. But there are other causes of abrash as well. There can be large differences in the kind and the natural color of wool used in one rug, and each wool absorbs dye a little differently. Also, when wool is spun by hand, the tension of the spin varies and consequently so does the capacity of the wool to absorb dye. That band of darker blue that we cited above may result from a batch of loosely spun wool that absorbed a lot of dye.
Is abrash a flaw?
The answer lies in the eyes of the beholder. Germans, by and large, don’t like abrash. Other people enjoy the character that abrash seems to add to oriental rugs. We would like to suggest that strong abrash is not appropriate to finely knotted rugs and carpets made in city workshop conditions—rugs like Kashans and Nains that seem to aim for a kind of perfection. On the other hand, in tribal and village rugs, abrash often looks good and is by no means a flaw. But you, the connoisseur, are the final judge.
What is a Kilim?
A Kilim is a flat-woven Oriental rug, made much like Navajo rugs, without pile. They don’t last as long in floor-use as a knotted carpet—perhaps an average of about 35 years—nor do they cost as much. Many collectors value kilims because often they retain the oldest and most traditional designs and colors.