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Handmade Oriental Rugs - Shopping Tips I

Learning to analyze and evaluate an Oriental rug is an art in itself and a complex subject involving thousands of different kinds of rugs with virtually infinite variations. Moreover, prices keep changing because of political, economic and social forces throughout the world. By necessity, therefore, the explanation will be oversimplified. Nonetheless, it will be sufficient enough to analyze the quality of almost all the rugs you are likely to encounter and to estimate their retail value. 

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Analyzing a Rug

There really isn't any precise formula to judge the 'quality' of a rug. However, there is criteria that when examined will give you definite indications as to whether a rug is of high quality, poor quality or somewhere in between. These factors are:


1) Knots per square inch
2) Materials used
3) Design
4) Colors
5) Age
6) Condition

The tables that follow will give you a method of judging a rug in terms of 'value point', so that you can compare two completely different rugs using common factors. As you go through the six tables determining value points on a specific rug, the tables for design, colors and condition may require some interpolation - meaning reaching the proper point number between two descriptions. For example, in the color table you may find the rug is better than description number two but not good enough to fit the fourth. It would then receive a 'three' rating.

The best way to make use of the tables effectively is to spend quite some time examing a variety of rugs from inexpensive to very expensive. By looking at a dozen pieces or so across a wide range of quality, you will easily get an overall feel for color, design, and material. This will make the description in the tables more meaningful.



To measure this factor, turn over a portion of the rug's corner and count the number of knots in a horizontal running inch (3 cm.). Do the same for a vertical running inch and multiply one number by the other. The resulting figure is the number of knots per square inch. You may wish to make your count in two or three places to obtain a good average, as the weave may vary from section to section. Remember that some rugs may have more than one row of knots squeezed in between the weft threads. To determine the value points in the knots factor, use the following table:




Knots per Square inch Value Ratings
729 or above 10
600-728 9
484-599 8
380-483 7
289-379 6
210-288 5
144-209 4
91-143 3
Below 90 0-2


To measure this factor, determine the material used in the rug. Locate the description on the table below and record the value points. Any wool that has undergone strong chemical bleaching should be classified, for the purpose of this table, as 'poor wool'.



Material Value Rating
1. Silk pile on silk warp 10
2. Fine kurk (lamb's) wool on a silk warp or a fine cotton warp 9
3. Fine wool with or without silk inlay on a fine cotton or silk warp; also silk on a cotton warp 8
4. Silk and good wool on a cotton warp 7
5. Good wool on a cotton warp 6
6. Regular wool on a cotton warp 5
7. Regular wool on a regular warp; regular cotton on a cotton warp 4
8. Cotton (art silk) on a cotton warp 3
9. Poor wool on a cotton warp 2
10. Poor wool on a jute warp, cotton on a jute warp 0-1





When allocating these value points, remember that Oriental rugs are handmade and therefore their designs are often legitimately less uniform than those of machine-made rugs. For example, a row of matching flowers need not to be identical. The following table is based on two key elements : the first is the portion of the background field that has been left undecorated (the less decorated, the lower the rating); and the second is the intricacy and precision with which the pattern has been delineated. If an entire design is drawn so that it is seriously crooked, giving the rug a lopsided look, then no matter how finely detailed it is, drop the rug down two value points.


Design Description
Value Points
1. Minutely detailed, small curvilinear pattern differently detailed throughout the pattern, which may either be abstract or representational. Almost the entire background is covered by design.
2. Minutely detailed rectilinear designs that cover almost all of the background. Or finely detailed curvilinear allover, medallion, representational, abstract or floral designs.
3. Realistically drawn figural or pictorial rug, moderately detailed curvilinear, medallion, representational, abstract or floral design.
4. Moderately detailed curvilinear prayer arch and vase designs (these patterns tend to leave a lot of plain background) or well-drawn, curvilinear all-over designs. Or moderately detailed rectilinear representational or abstract patterns.
5. Less detailed an elaborate designs or medallion designs with plain, open fields such as Kirmans.
6. Simple, geometric designs such as typical Afghans or elaborately detailed hand-embossed, patterned rugs such as modern Chinese rugs.
7. Simple, carved, hand-embossed designs
8. Any plain rug


 Courtesy: Nazneen Zafar, A Practical Guide to Pakistani Rugs, Liberty Books, Karachi, 1992