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Caring for Your Oriental Rug: What Every Rug Collector Needs to Know

Would you spend a hundred bucks for something you will just walk over? Probably not, unless it’s an Oriental rug. Oriental rugs are ubiquitous, but at the same time, utilitarian. People buy Oriental rugs for a myriad of reasons – for interior design, as a memento of a travel abroad, a gift, or as an art piece. Aside from the purpose of the rug, there are also other considerations when buying one – the design, color, origin, value, quality, size, to name a few. Budget is another major consideration. It’s true. Authentic Oriental rugs cost a fortune, but there are also imitations that look so real and are sold as authentic Oriental rugs. You have to be very careful so you won’t end up buying a fake one! You have to do your homework to get an Oriental rug that is really worth your money. For this post, we won’t talk about the all-too-common and generic rug-buying tips. Here are some secrets of a veteran rug collector – many have learned through long years of rug appraising and collecting.

1. Deal with the right dealers.

When buying authentic, Oriental rugs, be sure that you’re talking with a respected rug dealer. That’s a first and foremost thing to consider. An experienced Oriental rug collector buys items only from these respected dealers. Like any other industry, the carpet and rug industry also has its fair share of crooked dealers.
Companies that have been in this business for long, long years are your best picks. It’s not that newcomers are bad, but you’ll be in better hands when dealing with the ‘old-timers’.

2. A quick check of the wool’s quality.

The first two elements you should look for in an Oriental rug: the complexity of the design and quality of wool. Evaluating the complexity of the design is quite easy. There are many online and offline resources where you can refer to when assessing the design elements.
But determining the quality of the wool can be quite tough. While there are many ways of evaluating a rug’s quality, you would need time and practice to develop these skills. For now, here’s a generic, straightforward technique – form your hand into a rake and scratch along the surface of the rug. If there are wool bits covering your fingers, that’s not a good sign. If your hands appear like a mitten, that’s even worse! Move on and look for other rugs.

3. All about dyes and color.

Antique Oriental rugs used natural or vegetable dye. Modern rugs or those made after 1900s use synthetic or chrome dyes. This makes it easier to spot an authentic and fake Oriental rug. With vegetable dye, you’ll see variations throughout the whole piece. There should also be a patina for vintage rugs. Rugs that have uniform, almost perfect color are often imitations or machine-made – and thus are not good.

4. Inspecting the weave quality.

Perhaps, the most challenging part in appraising an Oriental rug is the quality of the weave. Some rug buyers think that the knot count, found beneath a rug and roughly equivalent to the rug’s thread count, is a reliable indicator of the rug’s quality. But that’s not the case. Knot count can be deceptive; even if a rug has fewer knot count but done intricately and appropriately, it should still be an awesome piece.
Some veteran rug enthusiasts do not actually give prime importance on the knot count, instead placing a more weight on its appropriateness for the type of rug. Take for example: there are highly valuable, artistic tribal pieces that have low knot count but still well-worth your penny.

5. Always hand-woven.

The coming of high-precision weaving technologies has made it possible to manufacture high quality Oriental rugs in very short time. It’s not surprising to find many Oriental rugs out there.
Identifying a machine woven or hand woven rug would require a bit more skill and experience. But the general rule is that hand woven rugs would have “knots” tied around the wrap threads and made up into fringe tassels. On the other hand, machine woven rugs will have tuft that are wrapped around thick weft strands. You’d also see the fringe sewn with a sewing machine.
In terms of construction, machine and hand woven rugs, with good dyes and fibers, would be good rugs. However, hand woven rugs would definitely have a unique characteristic because of the human touch behind its production. Hand-woven Oriental rugs are more valuable and have better craftsmanship. These pieces have a unique artistry. They take long hours, days and even months to be made.

6. Provenance is good, but it’s not everything.

When you visit a rug dealer’s shop, be prepared to listen to a litany of long histories about each rug. Some of these rugs could be traced back to its past owners, weavers and origin. Sure, these stories could add a value to any artistic piece but it shouldn’t be the final determining factor of a rug’s worth.
The history and origin of an Oriental rug would play a major determining factor if it is an antique piece. But even then, you would need an antiquarian to validate the supposed history of a rug. The same is true even when you’re investing into art pieces. It’s good to know the story behind a rug but still it should be valued on its face value. If an Oriental rug is sold at a incredibly high price due to its supposed history, it might be best to find other rugs, or better yet, another rug dealers.
Hopefully, these tips help you on your way to finding the best rugs! Happy rug hunting!

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