Archive for September, 2011

Persian Rugs: U.S. Sanctions Ban Their Imports

A new law was signed by President Obama in July 2010, prohibiting imports of Persian goods, including Persian rugs, effective as of Sept. 29, 2010. It meant that dealers of Persian rugs had to get their last shipment out of the customs warehouse, or at least had to have the goods presented to U.S. customs by the end of Sept. 28, 2010, thereby making the date of export from the origin totally irrelevant. Many importers of Persian carpets rushed to get their final shipment clear the customs before the end of September 2010, and ended up with goods they were not completely happy with. There had just not been enough time to have the rugs washed or serviced properly before shipping them. Such pieces will likely damage the reputation of Persian rugs in the U.S. market within the next few years as they find their way to users’ homes.  Few importers had their shipments delayed by airlines for unexpected reasons and were not permitted to get them into the U.S., even though they had appropriate documentations already filed with the port. Under new regulations, the time of entry was when the merchandise arrived within the port limits.

No Entry For Persian Rugs

No Entry For Persian Rugs

Implementing the sanctions against Persian goods was not meant to indicate any attempt by the U.S. government to end its efforts in negotiating with Iran’s government, but merely a hope of convincing Iran to reach compromises with the U.S. on certain issues. Statistics from the Department of Commerce reveal that out of over $560 million worldwide shipments of wool rugs into the U.S., imports of Persian rugs amounted to only about $45 million in year 2009. Of course the worldwide imports into the U.S. include a large volume of hand-tufted and machine made rugs. If we consider the imports of hand-knotted rugs only, then the share of Persian rugs becomes a much larger percentage.

The fact is that production and export activities within the Persian rug industry is carried out by private entities and will do no harm to the government. Sanctions against Persian rugs will hurt business owners and rug importers in the U.S., as well as weavers, villagers, and nomads of Iran whose only means of livelihood is rug weaving. As this article is being prepared, the annual carpet exhibition is taking place in Tehran, and we do not hear any positive news about the number of visitors and potential customers at the fair. On the other hand, Pakistan, India, Turkey, Nepal, and all other rug-producing countries will undoubtedly double their efforts in supplying the U.S. market with new and innovative patterns and colors in order to fill the gap felt by the absence of Persian rugs. It will be interesting to see what path the industry of handmade area rugs in the U.S. will follow within the next few years.

Persian Ardebil Rug

Persian Ardebil Rug

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Persian Carpets, Oriental Rugs: What is considered as antique?

When it comes to Persian carpets and Oriental rugs, a piece needs to be over 70 years old in order to fall into the category of “antique rugs”. Of course, it would be difficult to determine the exact age of a rug with certainty. In fact, there are very few experts and dealers who can claim to have an all-inclusive understanding or knowledge about the subject. As the number of true antique rugs gradually gets smaller, the information and practical understanding of them becomes more difficult to acquire. There are simply fewer of them around to provide the examination opportunities.

It is generally presumed that the wool is dyed by natural dyes in antique rugs, because right about 70 years ago, synthetic dyes found their way into the production of Persian and Oriental rugs. One of the most important qualities of older rugs is color. By exposure to natural light and wear, colors tend to be clearer and more alive in older pieces as opposed to modern rugs. Limited resources forced weavers to dye the wool in smaller batches, and as they ran out of wool while working on a rug, the needed new batch of wool would almost never result in exactly the same shades. The presence of color changes both in the field and the border, called “abrash”, is seen in older rugs. It is simply a reflection of the primitive conditions under which rugs used to be made, and is considered completely natural, not a flaw. In antique rugs, various colors will have worn unevenly since different natural dyes have different effects on raw wool. Deep-blue areas which were created with indigo dye, as an example, should be a bit less worn than other areas.

Antique Persian Rug: Lilihan

Antique Persian Rug: Lilihan

Although repairs, stains, and insect damage are all minus points for antique rugs, minor problems such as very short fringes, or an even short pile, come naturally with age. In fact, to see an antique rug in perfect condition should alarm you. It is possible that the rug has been treated to look old. By adding chemicals during the washing process, this is rather easily achieved. It does make the colors softer and creates overtones, making a better-looking finished product, but it also weakens the pile and wears the rug faster.

If you are interested in furnishing with the older look, begin with the rugs and then select your furniture, paint, fabrics, and wallpaper to match. This way, you will avoid falling into the trap of having to buy an expensive rug –that you may not like so much- simply to match the rest of the room.

And finally, a piece of advice:  The primary reason for buying Persian carpets and Oriental rugs should be to enjoy them, and secondary, to view them as an instrument of investment. Although greater demand in Western markets and diminished production in rug-weaving countries have steadily increased their investment value during the past 20 years, prices of Oriental rugs are affected by so many unforeseen factors. Political unrest, lowered cost of raw material, and sudden increase in production due to government regulations, as well as strong fluctuations in currency exchange rates could all affect future prices dramatically.

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Persian Rugs: The Famous Persian Sheykh Safi Ardebil Rug

Persian Mashad - Sheykh Safi

Persian Mashad - Sheykh Safi

In North West Persia, and in the city of Ardebil, a pair of amazingly beautiful Persian carpets were discovered in a mosque, the burial place of Sheykh Safi al-Din, the ancestor of the founder of the Safavid dynasty. Later, these carpets came to be known simply as “Ardebil”. Back in 1893, an art referee persuaded Victoria and Alberts meuseum in London to purchase one of these rugs. The other pair is a bit more finely knotted and is now on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. But on this rug, borders and part of the central field are missing. A portion of the missing areas are thought to have been used to repair the carpet owned by the V & A. The Ardebil carpet measures over 17 by 34 feet, and is considered as one of the largest Persian rugs in existence today.

 

Almost certainly, the pair of Ardebil carpets were a royal commission and would have taken approximately four years to weave. However, nobody knows where exactly they have been woven. At one end of the Ardabil carpet, an inscription dates it back to 1540 AD. After some minor and major repairs on this carpet, it was placed behind glass in Gallery 42 of the V & A meseum where it remained on display until 1974. Throughout the years, many visitors to the museum have enjoyed its adorable pattern and colors. Recently, this carpet has been moved to the “Jameel Gallery”, and is certainly the main object of attraction to this place. It is displayed flat under a suspended canopy and viewed from all sides. The canopy forms the top of the case which encloses the Ardabil carpet, protecting it from general gallery lighting. The unique characteristic of the “Sheykh Safi” pattern is that the four corners will form the center medallion if attached to one another. This wonderful pattern has been copied in many Persian carpets and Oriental rugs such as Mashad, Kerman, Tabriz, and Sarouk. Since its acquisition, the Ardebil carpet has been cleaned once and is very unlikely to have the strength of getting another one in the future.

Persian Sarouk - Sheykh Safi

Persian Sarouk - Sheykh Safi

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Persian Carpets and Oriental Rugs: What is KPSI?

Almost all potential Oriental rug buyers out there in the market will, sooner or later, hear the term “KPSI”. But what exactly is it and how important could it be when assessing the value of a Persian carpet or an Oriental rug? KPSI basically refers to the density of knots, and stands for the number of knots per square inch. If you count the knots in one inch (from the backside of the rug and in the direction of the width) and multiply it by itself, you will get the KPSI. Due to the fact that you are dealing with a hand knotted rug, keep in mind that this calculation may result in slightly different numbers if sample areas are taken from different portions of the rug. Often, a rug is knotted by more than one single weaver, and weavers have their own style of weaving and press down the wefts by different amounts of force. Incidentally, if you know the “raj” for a rug, here is the formula to get its KPSI (raj is a unit of measuring knot density in Persian rugs, the number of knots in approximately 6.7 cm in the direction of the width):

[(raj/7)*2.54]^2= KPSI

Knot density (KPSI) is not always the best indication of value. Basiacally, the value of some traditional Persian rugs, such as Nain, Isfahan, and silk Quom is partially determined by KPSI. You should also know that new, mass-produced rugs from China, India, and Pakistan come in a variety of qualities and designs. Once these mass-produced rugs are used, their value in the secondary market is not based on their KPSI, but rather on their overall condition, thickness of the remaining pile, and whether or not their pattern and color combination is still in demand.

KPSI

KPSI

In Western markets, and during the past ten or fifteen years, there has developed a tendency toward attaching too much importance to the issue of KPSI in rugs. While KPSI is, and has always been, a strong factor in determining the value of a hand knotted rug, many other items also come into play. Here, we are not planning to get into details with all these items, but just suffice it to say that a beautiful pattern together with a harmonious color combination gives a better rug as opposed to a piece with a high KPSI and not much more to say for itself.

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Persian Carpets, Oriental Rugs: Save yours from a flood!

Rug dealers often encounter worried customers whose rugs have been swimming in floods. Long-term exposure to wet conditions of a flood, be it excessive rain, burst pipes, or a broken radiator could, of course, damage a Persian Carpet or an Oriental rug. The cleaner the flood water, the more likely it is that your rug will return to its original condition. Your rug may look uneven and have an unpleasant odor when it is wet, but do not be too concerned, as it is all going to get better soon. If you find yourself in a flooding situation, here is what to do:

Your Rugs in a Flood?

Your Rugs in a Flood?

Do not panic. In most cases, the situation is not as horrible as it seems. Stay calm and try to find the fastest way of drying your beautiful rug. Using a “wet and dry” vacuum cleaner, or a carpet-washing machine –rented from the Home Depot-, try to extract as much moisture from the body of the rug as possible. Take your time, this process requires some patience. Afterwards, lay it out in the sun, or at least open air, and let it dry. Use pieces of furniture, like an old drawer or bar stools, to raise the rug from the ground as it speeds up the drying process. If weather conditions do not allow, lay the rug flat on a dry indoor surface and use a commercial fan to get your rug dried as fast as possible. The key is to get to it fast. Never roll up a rug that is not completely dry.

In order to remove any residues from the rug, have it washed by a professional, and not by regular carpet cleaners. In most cases, problems with color run will be solved after a professional wash, and if they don’t, your trusted cleaner can deal with that after the wash. Remember that just because your beloved rug has remained very wet for a long time does not necessarily mean that it is destroyed altogether. As a precaution, if you are planning to be away for a while, it might be a good idea to shut the main water valve, or at least, remove your rug(s) from the floor and keep them somewhere safe.

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Persian and Oriental Rugs: What do the colors mean?

The color combination in a Persian carpet or an Oriental rug is perhaps the most effective element directly tied to its beauty, and in many cases, to its value. Often rug buyers ask for a specific color before they mention anything about the size or quality of the rug they are looking for. Colors are not only great improvements to the design, but also communicate feelings. The origin of an area rug is sometimes determined merely by the colors of the field and the borders. Here we are not going to deal with the issue of synthetic Vs. Natural dyes, as it will require a separate article by itself.

Colors Next to Each Other

Colors Next to Each Other

In many rug producing regions of the east, each color has a traditional and specific meaning, with some being almost universal. For instance, the color red symbolises and is associated with joy and happiness, brown with fertility and growth, white with peace and purity, gold with wealth and power, black with destruction and war, light blue with calmness or lacking motion, and dark blue with authority or loneliness. At the same time, we can not argue against the fact that different cultures interpret colors differently. During the process of production, the task of choosing different colors to be used in a rug should be done by an artist and plays a major role in the final outcome. The creation of harmony within a rug is achieved by colors, and by colors alone. The wool piles of area rugs, whether dyed by natural plants or by good quality synthetic dyes, have a bright and rich look at first, but will become softer and more mellow as they get walked on and grow older. Lower quality of synthetic dyes do not look vary charming to begin with, and get even worse as a rug ages. This explains why older rugs are preferred by many collectors and interior designers as opposed to newer pieces. With return of vegetable dyes into the production of many new pieces of Persian carpets and Oriental rugs, the future of the rug industry seems to be much more promising now compared to only two decades ago. Rugs with natural dyes woven today are
sure to become heirloom pieces of tomorrow.

Old Persian Kashan, A Great Harmony Of Colors

Old Persian Kashan, A Great Harmony Of Colors

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Persian Rugs, Oriental Rugs: A Brief History Of Chinese Rugs

Although it is believed that rug weaving in China has a history of over 2000 years, the industry reached its full maturity by the end of 19thcentury. There are reports of rugs being woven in the area around Ningxia (north-central China), as early as three hundred years ago. Many weaving schools were established to create work for the poor in China. By the 1860’s there were workshops in Beijing making rugs for the imperial court. Until relatively recent times, wool rugs were not used in China as a floor covering or for decoration purposes. In the early production of rugs, camel hair, dyed black and red at the borders was used in China. These were very durable rugs decorated with simple geometrical patterns. About 50 years ago, the industry of rug weaving was transplanted to other Asian countries, where more modern techniques were developed.

Chinese Rugs of Today

Chinese Rugs of Today

As the Chinese government took over the carpet factories by the late 1950’s, thick and carved rugs from China in typical “Chinese” designs and pastel colors emerged. Up to about 30 years ago, these rugs used to be very popular in Western markets. Most of these rugs were produced in state-owned co-operatives in and around Tianjin. The knot density was around 55-60 KPSI (knots per square inch) in these rugs. By the late 1980’s, many factories began to produce higher quality rugs in Persian designs with a KPSI of 180 and finer, often called “Sino-Persian” rugs with detailed floral patterns and a shorter nap. Reproduction of Persian designs started with Kashan, Tabriz, and Nain patterns and later expanded to silk Quom and Kerman. Unlike most Persian and oriental rugs, in Chinese designs, the motifs -each having its specific meaning- stand alone rather than joining together to form the pattern. From the early times, silk was being used in the production of Chinese rugs. These rugs come in beautiful and elegant shades of black, blue, red, ivory, and beige. The foundation is typically cotton with two shots of weft inserted over each row of knots. There are many different qualities of Chinese rugs, but the average knot density is between 100 and 400 KPSI. It can be much higher than that for silk rugs. Some of the Chinese antique rugs, treasured by many museums around the world, are very valuable.

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