Antique Rugs

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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In studying antique rugs, the first note you want to make is that the golden age of rug weaving in Persia and Turkey came during the 15th and 16th centuries. In India it came during the 16th and 17th centuries. In China it rose and flourished primarily in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The second item in the lore of antique rugs--and one well worth remembering--is that the oldest surviving example of a hand knotted carpet dates to the fifth century BC. Found in Siberia just after World War II, the exquisite and amazingly well-preserved Pazyryk rug measures about six by five feet and is everything lovers of antique rugs look for. Unfortunately, most early rugs have disappeared into time. Most surviving antique Oriental rugs date from the 19th century.

An Amateur's Primer for Antique Rugs

The first characteristic to identify is the material used in the rug. Wool, silk, and cotton are the only materials you'll find in antiques. The dyes used are also indicators. The two oldest and most common dyes are madder (reds) and indigo (blues). Synthetic dyes were first used in the mid-19th century. Time and use soften vegetable dyed rugs, but fade synthetic ones.

The thickness of the weft and pile--the string base into which the wool and or silk are woven--are another important characteristic. The knot density, while an indicator of origin and type, is not necessarily an indicator for value. Geographic origin, however, is very important. Village and nomadic rugs, in general, are considered the most collectible. The condition of an antique rug is critical in determining its value. Has it been worn or damaged or repaired? Is the color even? Are the fringes and edges in good shape?

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