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Interpreting Oriental Rugs

Written by Karen Marley
Imagery by iStockphoto

What is it about Oriental rugs that we find so fascinating? Is it their ability to bring visual and figurative warmth to a space? Perhaps it’s the whispers of exotic locales woven into the fibers or the more immediate sense of place they
anchor into a room. A beautiful Oriental rug should be enchanting, not mystifying. Reza Najad Sattari, owner of Oriental Rug Mart, and Jeff Markarian of Markarian Rugs share their deep Oriental rug knowledge to help you become an educated consumer. 

A traditional Oriental rug is hand knotted of natural fibers – wool, silk, or cotton – originating from the geographic regions extending from Turkey to East of the Mediterranean. Enriched with culture, these rugs are like spice blends; every locality has its own flavor. Weaving methods, climate, and even the temperament of the people all play an influential role. Hard working nomads trended toward bold, geometric patterns while urban dwellers with more resources and education leaned toward more elaborate, detailed designs. Local ecology in the form of plants and materials determined the available dyes and fibers.

There are two facets to quality: durability and authenticity. Handmade and machine made rugs can be equally durable. Here is where the world of Oriental rugs gets a little murky. A traditional Oriental rug is hand knotted, not hand tufted. Considered handmade, hand tufted is less durable but has a comparable price point of machine rugs. A hand knotted rug is an artistic expression of the creator. It can depict history, tell a poem, and reveal a relationship and culture between a people and the land.

Hand knotted Oriental rugs have distinguishing characteristics. Look for a pattern that comes through the back. Edges are irregular with slight imperfections that come from the human hand. Prices vary greatly depending on size and antiquity. A good quality, six by nine foot traditional Oriental rug can cost anywhere from one to five thousand dollars. It’s best to work with a reputable, trustworthy dealer.
   If you want an Oriental rug to work with the precision of a highly coordinated room, a durable, machine made rug is an ideal choice. However, if you’re under the spell of the passion and artistry, trust your senses. Take it home and try it out. Each rug has its own personality and your heart will know when you find the right one.

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