In order to buy Oriental rugs at auction, you have to be able to evaluate them. They can be rather complicated so the more knowledge you have, the better off you will be. Once you know what to look for, you will have a leg up on most of the other people in the audience.
No one at an auction is going to help you measure the value of an Oriental rug. You will have to do this yourself. Rugs can be a wonderful bargain at auction as long as you know what you are doing.
Here is what you need to know about Oriental rugs:
What is an Oriental Rug?
It is a rug that has been hand-made in Iran, China, India, Russia, Turkey, Pakistan, Morocco, the Balkans, Mongolia, Egypt, Tibet, Nepal, Afghanistan or the Caucasus Mountains - the region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.
Persian rugs are usually broken out into a separate category under the group heading of Oriental. This is because they are in a class all their own. There is no finer rug than a Persian rug. Not only that, there were more rugs made in Persia than in any other country. Persia is now known as Iran.
What is the Difference between a Rug and a Carpet?
An Oriental carpet is generally considered to be anything larger than 35 square feet. It is considered a rug if it measures anything under this. You may also come across the term "Palace carpet." True palace carpets are usually antique and they measure 14 feet by 10 feet or larger. Years ago they were made in these dimensions so as not to be overwhelmed by the larger size of the rooms found in a palace.
When is an Oriental Rug Considered an Antique?
Unlike most other items that are considered antiques when they reach one hundred years old, an Oriental rug is an antique at 50 years. Rugs that are between 10 and 50 years old are semi-antique and anything under 10 years is looked upon as new. Although most Oriental rugs have value, antique rugs bring the most money and some of them bring huge sums of money.
How Can You Tell if an Oriental Rug is Older?
Determining age can be difficult unless you are an expert. The majority of antique rugs have a design in each corner such as a bird's head. This was quite common back in the day but no longer.
Also, if you separate the rug pile and use a magnifying glass to look at the base of one of the knots, you should see an even and consistent reduction in color all the way to the top of the pile. This is evidence of the fading of the dyes over time. If the reduction in color is more sporadic or uneven, then the color was purposely altered in some way to give the appearance of age.
How to Tell a Hand Made Rug from a Machine Made Rug?
There are many rugs out there that have the look of an Oriental but they are just inexpensive machine made rugs. It is very easy to tell the difference between the two. You can fold an Oriental rug. No matter how big it is, it can be folded like a blanket, although it is considerably heavier and bulkier. Large Oriental rugs can be folded in half and then folded again in thirds for easier moving - as long as you can lift it. A machine made rug has to be rolled up because it has no capacity to bend.
There are two other ways to distinguish between hand made and machine made. The first is to look at the fringe. On a hand made Oriental rug, the fringe is an extension of the rug. It is not sewed on. The second is when looking at the back of a rug, if the pattern on the front is clearly visible on the back then it is hand made.
How do You Judge the Quality of a Hand Made Oriental Rug?
The quality of a hand made rug is determined by how many knots there are in a square inch. The tighter the knots, the more expensive the rug. This rule of thumb is somewhat complicated by another factor and that would be the material used to make the rug. Most Oriental rugs are made from either wool or silk. Clearly a rug maker can get more knots into a square inch with silk than he can with wool. However, there are some wool rugs with a lesser knot count that are more valuable than a silk rug with a higher knot count. Unfortunately that makes quality based on knot count alone hardly foolproof.
All you can do is look at the knots carefully and decide whether or not the knots are extremely close together as it relates to the material used. A knot count of 290 per square inch is considered a fine quality rug. As the count goes down so does the quality. Most antique rugs, which can be pretty expensive, are less than 290 knots but the value of an antique rug is based on age and country of origin as much as it is anything else.
All knots are hand done but there are different kinds of knots. A knot is reflective of a particular area such as a Turkish knot or a Persian knot, also called a Senneth knot. A Senneth knot is usually used on very intricate patterns.
If you are interested, you can do further research on the Internet or you can get a reference book on Oriental rugs. Seeing what these knots look like will further enhance your ability to properly identify each rug you see.
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