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Oriental Rugs - A buyer’s Guide

Countries of origin where oriental rugs are made.

Rugs of the major producing countries

Afghan and Turkoman Rugs

  • Weaving region: Afghanistan, southern Russia, and north east Iran
  • Categories: workshop, village, and nomadic

Central Asia is acknowledged by most authorities as the most likely birthplace of oriental rug, and the Turkoman nomads, who have inhabited the region for millennia, and generally accepted as having inherited the oldest pile weaving tradition still in existence. Marco Polo’s glowing report of the beautiful, densely knotted rugs he witnessed during his visit to Turkestan in 1280, could equally be applied to some of the finer rugs being made there today. Certainly, the essential characteristics and overall appearance of Turkoman rugs have hardly changed for centuries. They are almost always red, although a myriad of different shades, from rose to magenta, give them a subtly varied decorative appeal, and their designs are usually based on either repeating gul and vegetal motifs, or, more occasionally, Hatcli schemes.
The Turkoman, who were primarily nomadic and semi-nomadic herdsmen, occupied a vast territory stretching from the Caspian Sea in the West to Tibet in the East, and bounded North and South by the border lands of Russia and Persia.  Today, these ancient have been absorbed into the surrounding countries. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were in Soviet Union, and now two separate states on their own, and east Turkestan is now part of China, and Baluchistan has been split between Iran and Afghanistan. Despite this, Turkoman rugs have retained much of their original character, and a Bokhara will still possess the same essential qualities as one made in Persia or Afghanistan. However, the weaving of Turkoman rugs has taken a different direction in each country, and there are now certain variations in the overall quality and characteristics of the rugs, as well as in the manner in which they are made.

  • Contemporary weaving
    All modern Turkoman rugs are produced in traditional colors and designs are generally of good quality. The majority are now made in workshops, but a number of authentic tribal rugs still find their way onto the market. Russian Turkomans are normally marketed as either Bokharas or Beshirs, depending on their design, and those made in Afghanistan are generally referred to as Afghans or Bokharas, although they may be named after the specific weaving village or tribe (Kundous, Beshir, etc.). Persian Turkomans are entirely tribal and are marketed either as Bokharas or under the name of the specific tribe.  The Belouch nomads who roam the borderlands of Persia and Afghanistan are often included in the general Turkoman group, although their rugs are sufficiently different in character and appearance to warrant a separate classification.
  • Price and resale value
    Afghan and Turkoman rugs, whether of nomadic, village or workshop origin, are with few exceptions excellent value for money, and in terms of sheer quality constitute some of the very best rugs in their price range on the market today.  Although it is dangerous to generalize on the resale value of such a diverse range of rugs, it is probable that village and nomadic rugs, in particular, will hold their value extremely well.

Indian Rugs

  • Weaving region: northern India, Primarily the state of Punjab, Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh.
  • Categories produced: workshop.

Pile weaving as it is understood today was probably brought into India during the Mogul conquest in the 26th century, although the native Indian textile tradition is much older, and was profoundly influenced by Persian culture, art and design.  Evidence of this can be seen in both Indian painting and architecture of the period, as well as in the rug designs, and Persian aesthetic ideals and compositions remain an integral part of Indian weaving to this day. India was not merely a passive recipient of Persian artistic ideas, however. The country had its own rich textile heritage, and its quite probable that motifs and compositions used in Indian tapestry, cloth and fabric weaving were incorporated in to Persian rugs designs.

  • Contemporary weaving
    India is now one of the largest exporters of oriental rugs to the West.  It produces rugs in almost every conceivable quality, size and design, and has skillfully adapted a wide range of of Persian workshop and village compostions to the requirements of Western furnishing tastes. The rug making industry is based around the towns of Srinagar, Amritsar, Jaipur, Agra, Bhadohi, Mirzapur, Khamariah, and Ellora (in order of general quality). With the exception of rugs made in Srinagar, Kahmir, and Jaipur, Indian rugs are usually marketed under the name of Persian weaving group whose design has been copied (i.e.m as Indo Isphahans, Mirs, or Bidjars, etc.), rather than according to their place of origin.  Unlike Persian rugs, where the name of the weaving group is an indication, if not a guarantee, of a certain quality, the “Persian” names used by Indian weavers are totally useless as pointers to the quality of an individual rug; they refer only to the design, and must never be taken as indicating that the rug also emulates the quality and structural characteristics of the original.
    However, India produces some very good quality rugs, and the tend over the last few years has been towards finer and finer rugs. All Indian weavers, whether employed in large manufactories or working at their own family looms, are under contract to one of the major distributors, who tell them what sizes, colors and designs to weave.  This lack of individual and cultural expression may detract from their future collectability, but as furnishing rugs they can be extremely attractive, well made and comparatively inexpensive.
  • Price and resale value
    Indian rugs are generally very good value for the money, and higher rugs compare very favorably in price with similar rugs from the more prestigious Persian rugs groups.  However, it is unlikely that Indian rugs in general will command a high resale value over the longer term. It is advisable to treat them as good value rugs which, if they should hold their prices, could provide an unexpected bonus.

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