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Bijan's Oriental Rug Gallery

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

Oriental Rugs - A buyer’s Guide

Oriental Rugs Weaving Groups

  • Afghan
    Country: Afghanistan
    Category:  Nomadic, Village, and Workshop
    Price range: Low to low/medium; older rugs may be higher
  • General details:
    The term ”Afghan” is normally applied to any traditional rug made in Afghanistan that has not been classified as belonging to one of the major Turkoman or Belouch groups (Beshir, Bokhara, etc.); these contemporary Afghans, in combination with Beshir and Bokhara, constitute the major sources of the famous “red carpets” of Central Asia.  Originally they were the sole preserve of nomadic groups, but today they are also made in villages and craft centers.  regardless of where they were made, they retain the same designs, colors and general characteristics of the nomadic originals.
    Afghan rugs are normally woven on woollen foundations, with between 30 and 160 Persian knots per square inch, using good quality, often lustrous wool which is clipped to form either a low/medium of medium pile. They are traditionally composed in either the “Elephant’s foot” or Hatchli design, although a number of variant geometric schemes are now employed.  The principal colors are red and blue, with white and yellow ochre as secondary tones; the reds are sometimes subjected to gold washing in order to produce paler, more rosy shades. Some deep yellow ochre, or “gold’ Afghan are also found.  Most are simply marketed as Afghans, but they are sometimes given the name of specific village, region or tribe, particularly those made in Dauvalatabad, in the north east of the country; these rugs are renowned for their hard wearing properties and are generally regarded as the best quality, and consequently most expensive, rugs made in Afghanistan.  Occasionally , pure silk Afghans come onto the market. They usually employ traditional designs, although the colors tend to be more subdued, and are both extremely attractive and good value. Afghans are made in a wide range of sizes.
  • Resale value:
    there is no doubt that Afghan rugs represent good value for money, but their investment potential is less assured.  The better rugs, particularly those that can be definitely attributed to an important tribal or village group, are likely to maintain their value over the longer term.
  • Afshar
    Country: Persia (Iran)
    Category:  Nomadic
    Price range: Low/medium
  • General details:
    Made by the nomadic and semi-nomadic tribesmen who roam the town of Kerman in south east Persia, and generally considered among the finest examples of nomadic weaving emanating from the region. The diversity and inventiveness of their designs is legendary, and the finest Afshars possess an unparalleled primitive majesty. The tribe were forcibly moved from their original homelands in the Azerbaijan region of northeast Persia by Shah Tamasp (1524 - 1576) in an attempt to defuse their warlike tendencies, and a distinct Azerbaijan and Caucasian influence is still discernible in their designs. The most common compositions are pole medallions (Diamond Afshars), allover Botehs (Afshar Dejah), repeating geometric motifs resembling chickens (Afshar Morgi), repeating alloever floral motifs (Floral Afshars) and an exceptionally dramatic scheme revolving around a hugs central form, covering most of the field, which is believed to represent an animal skin stretched out to dry.  The palette consists predominantly of deep reds and blues, but burnt orange and a variety of ochres are also used. Unfortunately, the quality of the wool and manufacture is not always as imperative as the artistry of the designs. Afshars can be knotted with between 50 and 250 Turkish knots per square inch and the wool, which is normally clipped to produce a short/medium pile, may vary from coarse to fairly good.  The warp may be either wool or cotton, but the weft is invariably wool. In common with most other nomadic groups, the Afshar make very few large rugs.
  • Resale value:
    Afshars are exceptionally good buys, and better, more finely knotted examples can almost be guaranteed to become collectable in the future.  As with all oriental rugs, this is less true of poorer quality rugs, but nevertheless, all Afshars can be considered reasonably good investment.
  • Ardebil
    Country: Persia (Iran)
    Category:  Village
    Price range: Low/medium to medium
  • General detail:
    Contemporary Ardebil rugs, which are produced in and around the village of Ardebil in the Azerbaijan province of north west Persia, bear no resemblance to the magnificent 16th and 17th century floral carpets, such as the one in the Victoria and Albert Museum, that are associated with this name.  They are rather coarsely knotted on cotton warps, with between 60 and 150 Turkish knots per square inch, using fairly thick yarns of not particularly lustrous wool, which is normally clipped to form a medium or short/medium pile.  Ardebil designs are predominantly geometric, with a distinct Caucasian influence; bright reds, deep blues and ivory, as well as lime and yellow ochres figures strongly in the dyer’s palette. The most popular compositions are base around central medallions, pole medallions, usually 2 or 3 connected diamonds, and repeating octagonal forms, but other Caucasian inspired designs are sometimes employed. Ardebils are very similar in both appearance and construction to rugs made by a number of other groups in the region (e.g., Lamberan), the name is sometimes used rather more collectively than it should, but rugs produced in the village can often be distinguished by their use of an ivory field with green or lime ochre elements in the design.  Ardebils are produced in most sizes, and are often boldly attractive and reasonably hard wearing. Copies are now made by the Indian weavers, usually with more subdued colors and longer piles.
  • Resale value:
    Ardebils can be good buys, and although not traditionally noted for their investment potential, the growing scarcity of Persian village and nomadic rugs is likely to ensure their resale value over the longer term.
  • Bakhtiari
    Country: Persia (Iran)
    Category: Nomadic and village
    Price range: medium to medium high
  • General detail:
    Not, in fact, woven by the Bakhtiari nomads (Luri tribesmen, noted for their spectacular summer migration), but by a mix group of nomads and villagers of Luri, Kurdish, Armenian, Turkoman and other ethnic origins, who now occupy the Chahar Mahal region of south and central Persia. The most popular and justifiably famous Bakhtiari compositions is the paneled garden design, but central medallion and tree-of-life schemes are also found. Each individual village or nomadic grouping has its own variation on the traditional schemes, and the quality of the wool, the type of knot used and the fineness of the knotting vary form village to village. All produce reasonably sturdy rugs, however, with a knot count of between 60 and 200 per square inch. The small village of Chahal Shotur produces what are generally considered the finest examples of Bakhtiari weaving; and the major town in the region, Shahr Kurd, whose rugs can be distinguished by their use of the Persian knot (most other villages use the Turkish knot), is noted for medallion rugs reminiscent of pre-Pahlavi Isphahans. The Bakhtiari palette is usually dominated by deep reds, bright blues, yellow ochre, bottle green, orange ochres and browns. Normally, all rugs are marketed as Bakhtiaris, but sometimes they may be named after the specific village, Feridan, Farah Dumbah, Boldaji, Saman, Bain, etc., and occasionally the more finely knotted rugs are referred to as Bibibaffs, which literally means “woman’s knot”. Bakhtiaris are generally made in fairly large sizes, and also rather unusual for village and nomadic rugs.
  • Resale Value:
    Bakhtiaris can be exceptionally attractive, and are amongst the most collectable examples of contemporary Persian tribal weaving. Conseuently, their investment potential is sound.
  • Belouch
    Country: Persia (Iran) and Afghanistan
    Category:  Nomadic
    Price range: Low to low/medium
  • General details:
    Inexpensive, well made rugs, produced in a wide variety of designs, that consistently combine tribal authenticity with a delightful, if somewhat primitive, decorative charm.  The Belouch, or Baluchi, are a large tribal grouping who roam the vast border region between eastern Persia and western Afghanistan, and not, as the name would imply the province of Baluchistan in south east Persia, although some tribes have been known to drift into Pakistan. The vast majority of Belouch rugs are made by the nomadic tribesmen, but a small number are woven i the villages around Firdaus in central Khorassan, by people of Arab extraction.  However, all Belochs are produced in the same way and can justifiably be referred to as nomadic rugs. They are normally woven on woolen foundations, although cotton has been used in recent years, with between 60 and 100 Persian knots per square inch; the pile wool, although not particularly lustrous, is generally of excellent quality.  Belouch designs are usually confined prayer rugs and repeating allover geometrical motifs, although some figurative compositions, often referred to as “figurative” or “presentation” rugs, are sometimes produced.  Within this limited repertoire, a wide variety of motifs and decorative schemes may be found.  In prayer rugs, the most common field decorations are highly stylized tree-of-life, leaf, vegetal and geometric scheme, but architectural boteh and gul like patterns are also employed. In repeating allover compositions the motifs may be either vegetal inspired or entirely geometric, but they are nearly always highly abstracted.  These allover compositions are similar to those of the Beshir, but a Belouch can usually be recognized by a tendency to enclose motifs within a lattice, and by the use of strong white or yellow ochre outlines, particularly in the border. The Belouch palette is dominated by shades of red and blue; camel and beige are also employed, either as pigments or by using natural, undyed wool.
    There are a number of sub-tribes and villages within the collective Belpuch group whose rugs may be marketed under their individual names, these include the Mushwani, Hishapur, Dokhtar-e Ghazi, Koudani and haft Bolah nomads and the village of Chichaksu, but most Belouch rugs are sold as either Meshad or Herat balouch. The former are made in Persia, Meshed being the principal city in the region, and are characterized by their stiffer “feel”, more somber coloring and use of allover repeating designs.  Herat Belouch are made in Afghanistan, the city of Herat being a major collection point, and are generally softer, floppier and more brightly colored than those in Persia; they normally employ prayer rug designs.  There is little to choose in quality between the best rugs from each country, but Meshed Belouch are rarer and may consequently be slightly more expensive.  In common with most nomadic rugs, Belouch rugs are made in relatively small sizes, but runners and carpets are sometimes produced.  Carpets, because of their rarity, may be proportionally more expensive.
  • Resale value:
    A good Belouch is arguably the best buy amongst all contemporary nomadic rugs. They have been some of the most eminently collectable rugs for decades and there is no reason why this should change. You are unlikely to make large profits investing in a Belouch, but a good quality rug should do more than its own against inflation, and rugs from some of the sub-tribes are becoming increasingly rare.

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