WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING AN ORIENTAL RUG.
There is a common misconception that all oriental carpets are investments. Like many of the marketing myths that have been built up around oriental rugs, this is most certainly not true. Much like antique furniture, rare, old or fine carpets, are very valuable provided they are in reasonable condition. This is not to say that well taken care of, a carefully chosen handmade oriental carpet or kelim will not appreciate in value over time, the retail value will certainly increase but it might be difficult to find a buyer. If it’s in good condition you might be able to trade in your rug with the shop that you bought it from. Educate yourself! If you buy something old and tribal like a Qashqai or an old Senneh, you have more of a chance of buying an investment as rug production in these areas has slowed down immensely and they are becoming rarer and rarer. There’s a huge variety, from the finely woven floral arabesques of city carpets like Isfahan, to the rough, chunky nomad- woven Gabeh. If you want to collect, start small with easy-to-trade pieces like saddle bags or small carpets.
Rug production has slowed down tremendously since the war in Afghanistan, it has affected the whole carpet trade in the Middle East, so tribal rugs are starting to become scarce as the tradition of passing down weaving skills is dying out, which means that the prices are gradually going to rise as they become more difficult to source. Already rugs from places like Senneh are becoming much harder to find. The prices of Qashqais and Gabehs have risen as less and less people are weaving. So if you’re looking to start a collection of tribal rugs, start soon – before the prices sky rocket! If you are looking for more collectible pieces, look for Persian, Turkish, Russian or tribal Afghan rugs.
Rug production has been taken over by India, China, Tibet and Pakistan. Factory style workshops have been set up and rugs are being mass produced in accordance with western tastes in colour and design (examples are Chobis, Zeiglers and Agras, as well as more modern-style weavings). While these rugs are still handmade and often vegetable dyed on good quality wool, they have purely decorative value. Copies of Persian and other designs are also made in these workshops, so if the label says Indo-Bidjar, it is an Indian copy of the Persian original design. While these rugs are hand-woven, they are not as fine as, nor do they have the same value as an original Iranian Bidjar.
If you are looking to buy, here are a few pointers:
Firstly look for a reputable dealer. there are some “wholesalers” operating out of warehouses or garages, they are often fly -by -night dealers who will up and away as soon as they have sold their stock, which leaves the buyer with no one to go to if they have a problem with their rug. There is a risk that they will overcharge vastly or sell you damaged goods – they won’t have to protect their long term reputations in the same way a shop owner would. Trust your instincts, and use a dealer who doesn’t make your hair stand on end!
Be careful of buying on auction. It’s occasionally possible to pick up bargains, but the auctioneers will generally not be liable if there’s a problem with your purchase, whereas shops will generally exchange within 2 or 3 years.
Take maximum and minimum measurements for the area you’re looking to enhance. What do you want from the carpet? Are you looking for something gorgeous and striking that will be the focus of the room? Are you looking for a rug that will bring the elements of your room together? Are you looking for kelim (flatweave, like heavy cloth) or pile (velvet texture)? Are you looking for something that will grow in value? Are you looking for something that is purely decorative ie: it goes with your curtains or upholstery? Take note of all the colours of the room. This includes the floor, the walls, the artwork and the woodwork and plants. If you have swatches or a loose cushion take them along.
Give your dealer the measurements and an idea of colours and he will show you his selection. This generally involves some strenuous physical activity as they will have to be opened one by one. Don’t feel guilty, dealers and their staff are very used to doing this, and there is no other way of showing their wares. Remember, the more manual work to do, the more employment to offer.
Find a few carpets that you like. Ask the dealer about them, where do they come from? Are they tribal (made in small towns or villages, or by nomadic people (eg Qashgai or Anatolian) or city rugs (eg Nain or Tabriz)? Are they vegetable or chemical dyes (bear in mind that vegetable dyes are more expensive, and that most rugs produced today are chemically dyed). Many rugs on offer will be from Pakistani, Indian, Chinese or Tibetan factories, and although they are handmade, will have decorative value only. Look at the rugs from both ends, as they will have a light side and a dark side. Turn the carpet over. Is it fine (density of knots)? Look for major repairs. If there are, ask for a discount. Ask if you can take the rugs on approval – most shops will allow this. Take home a small selection and put them down in your room. Bear in mind the dark and light sides, and arrange accordingly. If you’re stuck, ask the dealer to come and take a look, they know their stock and may have another rug that suits better. Also, bear in mind that the rug will look different in different light, so keep it overnight and observe the way it looks under both daylight and electric light.
Certificates are not worth the paper they are printed on. Certification was started by one of the major dealers as a marketing ploy – he printed his own certificates, and now many carpet shops are expected to provide them. Your insurers know this and will ask for the original invoice, so keep the invoice to send to them for a record of value.
If your rug is going on tiles, or any other hard floor get a non stick underfelt as it will stop the rug from slipping and help cushion the rug from wear and tear.
Look after your rug. Vacuum occasionally, staying away from the fringes, which should be lightly brushed. Lift it and shake it every few months, and if the fringes start to unravel, have it repaired. Most shops provide a cleaning and repair service. Have your rug professionally cleaned. It’s not worth the risk of damaging it by doing it at home. If the rug is in full sunlight there is also a possibility that it will fade. There is not much you can do about this except to turn it around occasionally so that it fades evenly, this will also ensure that it wears evenly. If any part of it is under furniture, lift the furniture and vacuum that piece occasionally because that will protect it from moths. If you have any queries, contact your dealer. Enjoy…
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