Persian Rugs, Oriental Rugs: Imports to Europe and America


Old Persian Tabriz

Old Persian Tabriz

Many years ago, as Persian carpets and Oriental rugs first appeared in the markets of the U.S. and Europe, they were referred to as “Turkish”, simply because importers purchased them from Turkish merchants of Constantinople. However, when it became known that they had been taken there by caravans from countries farther to the east, and that large numbers of them came from Persia, the term “Persian” which to the mind of many conveys ideas of glory and magnificent quality, was at once applied. Even today, all classes of Oriental rugs are often spoken of as “Persian”. Although their value is independent of their place of origin when used as objects of ornament or utility, it is known that the wool and dyes used in some districts are superior to those in others, and consequently, the beauty of some rugs will improve with age far more than that of others. It is also known that because in certain districts the material of warp and weft threads, as well as the workmanship are all of a higher quality, rugs made there will wear better than others. As a result, the knowledge as to the origin of a rug becomes important in determining the quality and value, which otherwise only a critical examination that few people are able to make, would show. Also, the knowledge of where a rug is made, suggesting the character and culture of people who wove it, may add immeasurably to our interest. We just might get more enjoyment from our Persian and Oriental rugs if we knew what people made them and what route they have traveled before they reached our homes.

In the past, any rug merchant would gladly classify a rug at the request of a potential buyer, but he may not have always been right. Rugs of any origin used to be transported to exhibitions and fairs regularly held throughout the Orient where they were offered for sale. Purchasing agents would then buy and ship them to major markets such as Tabriz, Tiflis, and Constantinople, where the bales were unpacked, sorted, and labeled before they were resold to importing firms of Europe and America. In the process, there used to be room for frequent errors of classification. Of course, reputable dealers would never knowingly mislead their customers. Furthermore, in many rug producing countries, weavers and artisans were drawn to weaving centers in search of job, and therefore designs and quality of workmanship characteristic of one district would be adopted in another making the task of determining their exact origin more and more difficult. However, taking into consideration the general pattern and details of the design, the material of warp, weft, and pile, the style of the weave, the knot, the dyes, the finish of sides and ends, it is possible with a reasonable amount of certainty to determine in what districts almost all Oriental or Persian rugs have been woven.

Pakistani Pishawar Rug

Pakistani Pishawar Rug

Today, the importation of rugs into Western markets has become a simplified matter of commerce, and the origin of these rugs classified with much more certainty with advanced technology and modern means of transportation. In 2009, rug imports from India and Pakistan supplied over 50% of the U.S. demand. However, revival of traditional weaving with higher quality of wool and dye in many remote parts of the world may change these statistics in the near future. The path that the rug industry is expected to follow within the next few decades would be very interesting to witness.

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