There's a lot about hand-made rugs that is confusing and can be mis-understood, which understandably, makes your average consumer less than confident about making a rug purchase. Here we will go over some of the most popular myths and talk about what is true and what isn't, we'll try to give you the information you need to feel confident about buying a hand-made rug.
Myth #1: New Oriental rugs are no longer made by hand.
Due to current and past US sanctions on Iran it's easy to understand how this myth has gained footing, but it is not at all accurate. In 1979 when President Jimmy Carter instituted the first trade sanctions on Iran, this left an opening in the hand-made rug market, allowing for new weaving facilities, in countries like China, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, to develop. Although early rug production from these countries may not have met the quality level of the Persian rugs, over time their quality has improved and in present time you can easily find high quality, hand made Oriental rugs from all over the world. You can even find new rugs, hand made with natural dyes and hand spun wool, the same way rugs were made thousands of years ago.
If you want help identifying the deference between a machine made rug and a hand made rug please visit our show room and we'll be happy to teach you.
Myth #2: Old Oriental rugs are more valuable than new Oriental rugs.
The truth to this myth is a little less cut and dry. Old is a relative term, 30 or 40 years may seem old us, but for a rug that is on the younger side. The term antique is only given to rugs that have acquired the age of 100 years or more, and typically it is only these rugs that start to acquire value rather than deteriorate in value. The age of a rug alone does not determine it's value, many factors play a part including condition, color, rarity, etc.
When comparing the relative value of old and new rugs, of the same quality, it is helpful to consider the difference between "value" and "cost". Value is what a consumer believes a product is worth to them, cost being the amount spent to obtain a product. Generally, with Oriental rugs that are less than 100 years old, their value is going to be less than what it would cost to purchase a new rug of the same quality. So in looking at it that way, the majority of old rugs are going to be less "valuable" than new rugs of the same quality. In the same sense, Oriental rugs that are over 100 years old generally begin to acquire value, meaning over time they have gained desirability, rarity, or importance etc., which can then mean the exact opposite - antique rugs can have more value than new rugs of the same quality. Remember that we are speaking of rugs of the same quality - meaning an old hand knotted Oriental rug versus a new hand knotted Oriental rug. When you are speaking of different rug qualities (i.e. hand tufted, hand hooked, machine made) these same value rules may not apply.
Myth #3: New Oriental rugs are given an old look with a tea bath in order to trick the consumer.
Many new Oriental rugs have been pre-aged in some way, but it is not done to confuse the buyer but rather to add appeal to the rug. New rugs (possibly up to 90% of new rugs on the market) are given a wash in a chemical solution (usually containing chlorine) to tone down their colors and give the wool a beautiful luster. "Specialists carefully formulate the 'wash', as it is called, aiming at a solution that is strong enough to impart the softness of age, but not so strong as to corrode wool and radically fade colors." - Emmett Eiland, Oriental Rugs Today, 2003
Other aging techniques include herbal washes made from a combination of tea and henna, madder (a natural dye) washes, sun fading, blow-torching, extreme clipping and some rugs are even spread out in the streets "...for man, beast, machine, and elements to render them into semi-antiques" in a matter of just a few weeks. - Emmett Eiland, Oriental Rugs Today, 2003
Regardless of how a rug is artificially aged, a reputable rug dealer will never mislead a customer into thinking that a new "antiqued" rug is actually an old rug. All new rugs are made to fill a demanding market. "It is very important to many people to get just the right look in their homes, especially people with good taste. Not everyone has $25,000 to spend on an antique rug, or sixty years to wait for a new rug to grow old. Even if you have the money to spend, it's not always possible to find the right antique rug. Yes, distressing a rug may take years of useful life out of it, but a new, distressed rug will last at least as long as a $25,000 antique and cost a third as much. As long as people know what they are buying, why not give them what they want, if we can?" - Emmett Eiland quoting Jack Simantob, Oriental Rugs Today, 2003
Myth #4: Knot count is the most important factor in determining the quality of a rug.
This is a frequently held belief that is mis-guided. Knot count is one factor to consider when choosing a rug, and by all means a rug with a high knot count will most certainly be more expensive than a rug with a lower knot count, but it is not the only factor that determines a rug's quality.
The knot count of a rug will tell you the fineness of the rug, but a well-made, hand-knotted rug can be more or less fine and still be equally good in quality.
For more information on knot count please see our previous blog post Rug Speak: Knot Count
As always, if you have any questions please feel free to stop by our show room at 297 Forest Ave, in Portland or contact us. We are always happy to talk rugs!