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Bijan’s Oriental Rugs
Hand-made Oriental Rugs, selected with care and sold with Integrity.

Oriental Rugs - A buyer’s Guide

Countries of origin where oriental rugs are made.

Rugs of the major producing countries

The Caucasian Rugs

  • Weaving region: formerly in the south west of Russia
  • Categories: workshop and occasional nomadic and village

Caucasian rugs were produced in a region of about 160,000 square miles, stretching from the black Sea in the west to the Caspian Sea in the east, in what was the most southwesterly part of the Soviet Union.  Until its final assimilation into the Russian empire, this forbidding mountainous region had an almost unbroken 800 year history of ethnic, cultural and religious strife, with a constant procession of conquests and reconquests by Arabs, Persian, Russian, Mongols, Tartars and Turks.  The indigenous population, comprising Christian Armenians and Islamic tribesmen of mainly Central Asian, Turkish and Persian origin, were alternately subjected to periods of persecution and forced conversion (or extermination)< depending on whether Christian Russia or one of the Islamic countries was in control; this culminated in the widespread slaughter and deportation of the Armenian by the Turks during the First World War. Although the Caucasus was then part of Russia, it was not until the mid 20th century that its borders were defined and political stability was achieved.
This bloody and turbulent history is reflected in the bold, heraldic and violently beautiful colors and designs employed in Caucasian rugs. The influence of Persian, Anatolian and to a lesser extent, Turkoman designs is clearly discernible, yet there is also something unique and unmistakable about Caucasian rugs, which can partly be explained by the rather unusual development of weaving in the region.
For much of the last millennium, the Caucasus was nominally part of the Persian empire, although its inaccessibility made it largely independent.  It was subdivided into several provinces ruled by local Khans, who tried to emulate the art, culture and pageantry of the Persian court. They imported Persian carpet designs, and possibly weavers, and young girls were trained to weave Persian style rugs, working from designs drawn on squared paper. On marrying they would travel to their husband’s village and weave from memory simplified versions of one or two designs they had learned.  Some examples of these sophisticated Court rugs, dating from the 17th century, are in existence today, but by the early 19th century, Caucasian weaving had completed the transition to the “folk art” tradition that is universally regarded as the epitome of Caucasian village textile art.

  • Contemporary weaving
    Caucasian rugs are now mainly woven in the state controlled workshop and manufactories in the Transcaucasian former Soviet republics, and to a lesser extent, other parts of the Russian weaving region. They are generally well made, using good quality wool, and based on a limited number of the older Caucasian designs. Many of the old weaving districts (Kazak, Shirvan, Moghan, Daghestan and Derbend), villages and towns (Erivan, Chichi, Fachralo, etc.) either no longer exist under their traditional names or are no longer associated with the rugs marketed under their names.  A contemporary Shirvan rug, for example, may have been made in Shirvan area, now part of Azerbaijan, a former Soviet Republic, but it could just as easily have come from any of the Soviet weaving centers producing Caucasian style rugs.
    In contemporary Caucasian rugs the name is an indication of quality or design, rather than of the place of origin.  This can be a little confusing, because the same name may be used to describe either, and it is sometimes unclear which is being defined. For example, the name Shirvan is given to the best quality modern rugs, but lesser grade rugs sometimes employ traditional Shirvan designs, and may also be marketed as Shirvans. Similarly, some Shirvan grade  rugs use designs associated with other traditional groups (Kazak, Daghestan, Erivan, etc.) and may therefore be sold under the name of the design, rather than that of the grade.
    The three main grades of contemporary Caucasian rugs, in descending order of quality, are Shirvan, Kazak and Derband. Shirvan grade rugs may be further divided into Azerbaijan and Armenian sub-grades (Azerbaijan is slightly finer).  Derbend grade rugs maybe separated into Dahestans and Mikrans, although there is little difference in quality between the two. Kazak grade rugs are rarely, if ever, divided into sub-grades. However, any contemporary rug my be marketed under the name of the traditional group most closely associated with its design. Therefore, judge each rug with its individual merits, and not on the quality associated with the rugs of the group whose traditional design has been used.
  • Price and resale value
    All contemporary Caucasian rugs fall into the low tp low/medium category, depending on individual quality, and generally represent good value for money. Their resale potential is, however, undermined by their standardized production, and, although they will probably hold their value better than most Chinese rugs, they are unlikely to develop high investment potential over the longer term.

Nepal and Tibet Rugs

  • Weaving region: Nepal and Tibet
  • Categories produced: workshop.

When the Dali Lama fled to exile form Tibet in 1959, many Tibetans followed, settling in Nepal. Today there is a large Tibetan community in Katmandu valley, and Tibetan culture and folk art remains vital and alive.
Some Traditional Tibetan rugs are still produced.  They are a little too grayish for Western taste, but posses a distinctive ethnic flavor, and the wool is good.
Although Nepal has only a minimal rug weaving trade, an increasing number good quality rugs are now being mad in the country by Tibetan refugees. They are largely faithful to traditional Tibetan designs, but the vivacious, even grayish colors have been considerably subdued to produce pale, pastel shades. They are well made, using excellent quality wool, and are comparable in price to the standard “Chinese Style” Chinese rugs.  They are sometimes marketed as Kangris  , though a number of other names may be used.
Persian design antique recreation rugs are being made made in Tibet, and very fashionable for today furnishing trends.
The best of these rugs are still made the old fashioned way with totally hand-spun Tibetan yarn and vegetable dyes. These Tibetan rugs are thick and dense, with heavy, lustrous pile and deep, rich colors.
In all elements of design and construction Tibetan rugs are distinctively different from types in other weaving areas.  Tibetan are woven by wrapping a continuous length of yarn over a rod laid across the warps stretched on the loam. when the rod has been wrapped for its entire length, a knife is slid along the rod, cutting the wrapped yarn into two rows of pile tufts.

The most commonly found grades of Tibetan rugs are “60”, ”80”, and “100” knots qualities. However, the scales of the graphs from which these rugs are woven does not exactly match the physical arrangement of warps on the loom; there are fewer knots per square inch in the actual rug than the graph indicates.  Thus a “60” knot rug actually has about 32 knots per square inch, an “80” knot rug about 50 knots per square inch, and a “100” knot rug about 72 knots per square inch.

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