When some people think of antique Oriental rugs, they think of fussy, decorative items, impractical or perhaps not durable enough for normal day to day use in the modern household. Or they think of them as something that Grandmother might have, no longer appropriate for today’s lifestyle and design preferences. Neither of these assumptions are quite true!
While some Oriental rugs do indeed have small intricate designs such as the Persian pieces woven in Kashan or Kirman, and may evoke a Victorian aesthetic, there are many weaving areas that produced large geometric designs, which work well with both contemporary and simple early American furnishings.
There really is no stereotypical design when it comes to antique Orientals rugs. Whatever the weaver could imagine is reflected in her carpet.
Whereas some antique carpets and fragments are too fragile for floor use and are best enjoyed displayed on the wall as art, the vast majority of pieces woven from the mid-19th century through the early 20th century that are on the market today are sturdy rugs, able to provide beauty and function for generations to come. This is a testament to both the care and skill of the weaver, and of the quality of the wool and dyes used. These old rugs were not mass produced in factory conditions.
Many of these old rugs were woven in the Caucasus Mountain areas (what is now Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia), and also to the east in Turkmenistan. They were woven by grandmothers, mothers and daughters. The Yurts/tents always had a loom set up out back; weaving was considered “women’s work,” while the men sheared and dyed the wool.
The wool used was sheared from the weaver’s flock, handspun and dyed with materials she gathered locally. Each rug was a unique expression of the weaver’s art and vision and reflected the designs she learned from her Mother and Grandmother. The spirit of these weavings cannot be reproduced in a contemporary carpet.
Antique rugs (as well as antiques in general) also have the modern-day advantage of a zero-carbon footprint. With our generation’s energy awareness, this has become much more significant when choosing items for the home. When you bring an old rug into your life, it’s truly a “green” purchase. You are recycling a rug that has known many prior lives and is ready to share yours.
On a personal note, I purchased my first antique Oriental rug in 1981 and fell in love with everything about it. That initial rug sparked a lifelong passion, and by 1993 I began to sell a few each year, mainly so I could keep buying them! That’s how my small business began. I now keep an inventory of approximately 150 rugs at any given time, all suitable for floor use; all of them are old and all of them have been washed and are ready for their new home!