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Abadeh, located in the Fars Province of Iran, lies along the high road from Isfahan to Shiraz almost halfway between the two at an elevation of 6200 ft. Ghashghai nomads trade here, and tribal rugs are woven by those who settled in Abadeh. Most rugs are made in sizes up to 5' x 7', but, more recently, a small number of room-sized rugs have been produced. Field colors are usually rust red and beige with light blue being a more recently seen color. Accent colors include red, blue, brown, beige, ivory, and yellow with green, olive and black being more rare. Designs include a repeating, stylized floral and a combination geometric and floral with a medallion. The medallion layout is framed by a large hexagon filled with small, angular flowers and leaves. At the center of the hexagon and in the corners of the field, will be light colored octagon motifs, which resemble 4 leaf clovers. Borders are usually composed of three frames: two light colored and one dark colored or two dark and one light. Due to the use of larger and stronger looms in Abadeh, their rug quality is generally better than Ghashghai rugs made in the vicinity.
A Turkic speaking tribe that used to live in Northwestern Iran. Afshar means "obedient" in Farsi. During the 16th century, ruler Shah Abbas I waged war on these people, exiling them to Kerman in the south. The desert climate was less desirable for their herds, and rugs made with wool from this area will be drier. During the rule of Nader Shah, the Afshar tribe regained some power and influence, as Nader Shah was a member of the Afshari tribe. Their rugs are rustic in appearance with geometric designs that feature depictions of the domesticated livestock animals, like chickens, that are important to their lives. The rugs have short pile and tend to use the primary colors that are easiest to create with natural dye. 5' x 7' is a typical size for an Afshari rug.
Located in Northwestern Iran, Ardabil is derived from the Zoroastrian name "Artavil," meaning "Holy Place." Renounded for trade in silk and rugs, Ardabil has produced what is considered the most famous Persian rug, known as "The Ardabil Carpet," which is housed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England. From the Victoria & Albert Museum website (www.vam.ac.uk): "The Ardabil carpet was completed in 1539-40 and is the world's oldest dated carpet. It is named after the town of Ardabil in north-west Iran. Shah Tahmasp, the ruler of Iran between 1524 and 1576, ordered the carpet for the shrine of his ancestor, Shaykh Safi al-Din, which still stands in the town. The carpet remained in use there for more than 300 years. The Ardabil carpet is very large, measuring roughly 10.5 metres [34' 5"] by 5 metres [16' 5"]. Its size and beauty, together with its outstanding historical significance, makes it the most important carpet in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and one of the finest in the world. The two Ardabil carpets were still in the shrine of Shaykh Safi al-Din in 1843, when one was seen by two British visitors. Thirty years or more later, the shrine suffered an earthquake, and the carpets were sold off, perhaps to raise funds for repairs. The damaged carpets were purchased in Iran by Ziegler & Co., a Manchester firm involved in the carpet trade. Parts of one carpet were used to patch the other. The result was one 'complete' carpet and one with no border. In 1892, the larger carpet was put on sale by Vincent Robinson & Co. of London. The designer William Morris went to inspect it on behalf of this Museum. Reporting that the carpet was 'of singular perfection ... logically and consistently beautiful', he urged the Museum to buy it. The money was raised, and in March 1893 the Museum acquired the carpet for £2000. The second, smaller carpet was sold secretly to an American collector, and in 1953 it was given to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Ardabil carpet hung on the wall in this gallery for many years. In 2006, the Museum created the extraordinary case in the centre of the gallery so that the carpet could be seen as intended, on the floor. To preserve its colours, it is lit for ten minutes on the hour and half-hour."
In East Azerbaijan Province, just southwest of Heriz, lies Bakhshayesh. Bijar is also close enough to Bakhshayesh that the influence of rugs woven in both Heriz and Bijar can be seen on those from Bakhshayesh. Similarities between rugs made in these places include geometric designs, all-over herati patterns, and the "tree of life" motif. Bakhshayesh rugs combine earth tones like brown, cream, and rust with brilliant blue, orange, yellow, and red. A relatively small number of rugs are produced here when compared to the number made in cities like Heriz or Bijar. These rugs tend to be woven in large, room size.
This tribe lives in South Central Iran across the Zagros Mountains. Many of the Bakhtiari shepherds came to settle in the Chahar Mahal district 60 miles southwest of the city of Isfahan, however Bakhtiari rugs are woven in over 100 different villages. The first Bakhtiari rugs came to the U.S. around 1924. Bakhtiari rugs made prior to 1935 are superior in thickness and silkiness to those made later. The famous Bakhtiari design is the "walled garden," which consists of square or diamond-shaped sections filled with different themes from nature. The Bakhtiari are one of the few tribes that traditionally makes rugs large enough to be considered room-sized. Colors tend to be darker and use more yellow than other Persian rugs. In the early 1900's, the French came to Iran in search of a Persian weaving group that was able to make rugs similar to those made in France and up to their standard of quality - they found the Bakhtiari. When you see a Bakhtiari rug that is "shade on shade" this has been influenced by the French aesthetic.
Bibikabad is a city in the Hamadan region of Iran. In Farsi, Bibi means "grandmother" and Abad means "town," therefore, Bibikabad is "Town of Grandmother." Rugs are woven in Bibikabad both by families and in factories under the supervision of master weavers. Rugs are marketed in Bibikabad and Ainabad about 30 miles northeast of Hamadan. Rugs woven for sale at bazaars tend to be coarser and more colorful, but not as beautiful or heavy as those woven for export. These rugs are durable and can handle heavy usage. Their designs are styled somewhere between a geometric and curvilinear floral. Red is a color that is frequently seen along with ivory, blue, and green. Rugs may have wide borders made up of layers of narrower borders.
Bijar is the name of an area located in Western Iran. The population is heavily Kurdish. In Bijar, weavers have access to high quality wool and use it to create a tighly woven rug that is solid and durable. City rugs and Kurdish tribal rugs are both woven in Bijar and the surrounding area. Generally, Bijar City rugs feature a medallion. The medallion and field may both be filled with a small scale version of the herati ("fish") pattern or, in rare cases, the medallion may be filled with the Mina Khani design and Shah Abbasi palmette. Some rugs feature an all-over herati pattern. Red is a commonly seen color in these rugs. Bijar rugs are usually no larger than 10' x 14'. Few large Bijar rugs have been imported since the 1950's.
The city of Birjand is 150 miles south of the Shrine City of Mashad, Iran. Rugs are generally not very good quality and lack durability. A few of these rugs went to the European market prior to 1960, but most stayed in Iran for sale in the Tehran market. Low quality wool and washing in lime water prior to dying resulted in a rug that does not wear well. (The practice of washing rugs in lime water prior to overdying them has been discontinued today.) Sizes are generally 7' x 10' to 10' x 14'.
Borchelu is a Kurdish district in Northwestern Iran within the Hamadan weaving area, which is made up of over 100 villages. Rugs are primarily woven in long, narrow shapes. Borchelu rugs are woven by nomadic people. Weaving skills are primarily handed down through the women of the tribe. Borchelu rugs tend to have curvilinear, floral designs, which are unusual for tribal rugs. Colors seen include red, rose, ivory, blue, and green. Rugs may be woven using cotton warps and wool wefts and knotted with wool pile. A popular design is a floral medallion and corners. There are not many of these rugs in the American market, as they were popular with wealthy Iranians and in the German market as well.
The language of Persian (Iran)
Feraghan includes the area bordered by Jozan, Arak (Sultanabad), Kashan, and Ghom in Iran. In the 19th Century, British companies opened weaving factories to produce fine rugs for export to the European market. In the West, Feraghan rugs are known as Mahal rugs, after the city of Mahallat in the Faraghan district south of Arak. Rugs usually feature a small, all-over design or a medallion on an plain field. The herati design and the small henna flower are depicted in the field of some of these rugs. The green wool seen in some Feraghan rugs was dyed using a corrosive copper salt, which resulted in the green colored areas wearing more quickly than others, leaving the rug with a textured surface. Rugs are usually scatter or small room sized up to 9' x 12'.
Gabbeh in Farsi loosely translates as "in the rough." Gabbeh rugs are coarsely woven tribal rugs that have a low knot density and thick pile. Gabbeh rugs are woven in the South Central Zagros mountain range of Iran and its plains by Ghashghai nomads almost exclusively for their personal use. Rugs are knotted from locally cultivated, handspun wool on wool foundations using horizontal looms that are easily collapsed and carried by the weavers. Assymetrical designs and open fields are not uncommon. Natural dyes are used to create tone on tone coloration reminiscent of landscapes. Recently Gabbeh rugs have been made in a variety of sizes for export to the U.S. market.
Ghashghai (Ghashghaee or Qashqai):
A traditionally nomadic tribe in Central Iran speaking a Turkic language. The Ghashghai people mainly live in the provinces of Fars, Khuzestan, and Southern Isfahan. Rugs are marketed in Shiraz. The trend towards settlement has increased since the 1960's and most of the Ghashghai are settled or partially settled today. The Ghashghai weave a tribal rug that is geometric in design with octagons, stars, and occasionally figures of birds. Colors seen most frequently are blue and red. These are very desirable rugs, because they are somewhat rare. A Dozar sized Ghashghai woven in the 1920's or 1930's in good condition may sell for as much as $5000-$6000 due to its rarity; this rug is considered highly desirable. Newer rugs do not necessarily have the material quality of the older rugs.
Ghom (Qum or Qom):
Ghom is a city located south east of Tehran, Iran. It is a religious city and the center of study for the Shiite faith. Their rugs are some of the finest rugs woven in Iran since World War II. Prior to the mid-1940's, Ghom's artisan weavers made textiles for clothing, like sweaters. As machine weaving of these items gained popularity, Ghom weavers turned to making rugs, and they were taught by weavers from nearby Kashan. Ghom rugs display design influences from Kashan, Bakhtiari, and Tabriz rugs. A Ghom rug may feature an ornate, round center medallion reminiscent of stained glass or a vase design with a floral spray. Ghom is known for making silk rugs, and the delicacy of silk lends itself to a very fine rug. Most of these rugs are Dozar or Zaronim sized.
Gorevan is a lesser quality Heriz rug named after the town Gorevan in the Heriz district. The weave of the Gorevan rug is coarser than the Heriz or the Serapi. A good Gorevan rug with good wool and dye will last, but rugs made since the 1950's from machine spun, synthetically dyed wool are lower quality than those made prior to that time when rugs were knotted using handspun, small-batch dyed local wool.
Hamadan is a trading town for smaller villages such as Ingeles, Malayer, Borchelu, Bibikabad and over 100 others. Hamadan is perhaps the largest rug weaving district in Iran. The city is also said to be among the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities. Hamadan Province lies in a temperate mountainous region to the east of Zagros and, due to the climate, wool quality is generally good. Quality reduced after the 1950's when almost 25% of the rugs used the Jufti knot, resulting in a looser weave. Prior to World War II nearly 75% of all Hamadan rugs were chemically washed and then painted to modify their coloring, however, after this time, the practice was greatly reduced, so these rugs will retain their color and pile over time. Many rugs feature a "semi-tribal" look due to rugs being woven by nomadic people and traded in Hamadan. City rugs from Hamadan are tightly woven and usually feature an all-over pattern or a geometric medallion and corners that each feature a quarter of the center medallion. Warp and weft threads will be visible when looking at the back of a Hamadan rug. Hamadan rugs marketed in the U.S. may be sold as Kazvin rugs and those marketed in Europe may be sold as Ekbatan rugs. Hamadan is also the location of the Mausoleum of Esther and Mordecai, whose story is told on the Jewish holiday Porim.
The Heriz weaving district is about 40 miles east of Tabriz, Iran and encompasses an area 40 miles by 40 miles. Heriz is the largest of the weaving towns. Most of these rugs feature a central geometric medallion surrounded by a lighter field within a geometric design scheme. Heriz and Tabriz rugs are thought to have similar design structures with Heriz rugs being a more geometric rendering and Tabriz rugs being more curvilinear. Heriz rugs feature some of the most vibrant and interesting colors such as sky blue, navy blue, deep rust, dark green, magenta, ivory, and yellow. Beautiful Heriz rugs have designs with a crisp look due to the design elements being outlined with contrasting colors. Heriz rugs traditionally have a thick pile and heavy foundation which would account for why there are many room-sized old Heriz rugs in good condition today.
Ingeles is one of over 100 rug weaving villages outside of Hamadan, Iran. Rugs tend to be Dozar sized and feature the all-over herati or boteh (pear) design. Color most often seen is red with a brown tint and borders will be blue or ivory. Many Ingeles rugs came to the U.S. in the 1930's and 1940's. The wool quality tends to be higher due to cooler temperatures. These rugs are a good value for the money.
Isfahan (Isfehan or Esfahan):
Isfahan Province is located in Central Iran. Rug making in Isfahan goes back over 2000 years. Isfahan flourished in the 16th century during the Safavid dynasty, when it became the capital of Persia for the second time in its history. This was an era of mosque and palace building and enhancing their infrastructure. Isfahan is known for its beautiful boulevards and has one of the largest city squares in the world, Naqsh-e Jahan Square. During this time, 20,000 Persian artisans went to India to help with the building of the Taj Mahal, which also resulted in the creation of a rug weaving industry in India. Rugs made during the 16th and 17th century are rare, practically all in existence are housed in large museums or are in the hands of wealthy private collectors. Most of the old vase carpets, hunting carpets, and animal carpets are thought to be Isfahans. Designs seen in the mosaics on the buildings are mirrored in their rugs. The Shah Abbas palmette surrounded by curving vines and flowers makes up the design of many of the rugs. Colors tend to the classic blues, reds, and ivory. Weaving in Isfahan ceased for almost 200 years after the city was captured by the Afghans in 1722. Most new Isfahan rugs are woven for the domestic market and purchased by wealthy Iranians for their own use.
Rugs woven in Persia featuring design themes from Judaica or pictorial representations of historical figures important to the Jewish tradition.
Josheghan, located in Central Iran, is one of the oldest centers of continuous weaving in the country. Rugs produced there have a unique design of floral motifs arranged in a diamond pattern that create the appearance of a patchwork. This will either be a repeating, all-over pattern or will compose the field surrounding a medallion. Smaller versions of the design elements in the field of the rug will repeat in the borders. Colors seen include a dark red/burgundy background with the designs in shades of blue, beige, white, green, red, and yellow. Borders are often beige or blue. Rugs tend to be Dozar size and larger. Josheghan produces both Village and City rugs, with the Village rugs tending to be of better quality, but produced in smaller quantities. Overall the quality of Josheghan rugs is above average. Their unique design scheme has been adopted by and woven in other parts of Iran and in other countries.
Jozan (Josan or Guzan):
The village of Jozan is 60 miles south of Hamadan, Iran. This rug is of high quality and looks like the old Sarouk rugs that featured a medallion as opposed to an all-over floral design. Due to the similarity in construction and appearance, the term "Jozan Sarouk" is used to describe finer Sarouks in Dozar and Zaronim size.
Kashan is a city about 150 miles south of Tehran. A large oasis, it lies along the road bordering Iran's central deserts. Rug weaving in Kashan is over 2000 years old. Kashan rugs will generally feature the Shah Abbasi design with a central medallion composed of palmettes and curving vines and flowers. A Kashan rug may have one of the densest patterns of any Persian rug. The designs are considered classic, and their beauty is enhanced with a tight weave and short pile. As a group, Kashan rugs are among some of the best Persian rugs. The deep tradition of rugmaking in Kashan has resulted in very experienced weavers, who are weaving rugs with high quality wool. These rugs are highly recommended. Rugs woven between 1900 and 1930 were some of the finest and costliest new Oriental rugs of their day. Within the last 30 years, some Kashan rugs with an ivory background considered to have been made for the export market are less desirable and of lower quality.
Located in South Central Iran, Kerman produces distinctive rugs that are known for their intricate and curvaceous designs and soft colors that are closer to what is seen in nature than any other rugs. There are two types of Kerman rugs: The traditional Kerman and the American Kerman. The traditional Kerman is more strongly colored in red, blue, and ivory. These rugs, woven for both the Iranian and export markets, are very desirable, and a relatively large inventory is available for purchase today. The American Kerman made between 1950 and 1970 for the American market was influenced by French designs. The colors were softer and more pastel, the rugs were thicker, and the designs were less detailed. They have the Aubusson style "broken border" that does not surround the entire edge of the rug. These rugs have an appearance that is evocative of what we call "Art Nouveau" in the West. Common colors used are light blue, light pink, pale gold, soft green, and cream. These rugs are a good value for the money and many are still available in good condition. Kerman rugs were woven in sizes 2' x 3' to 12' x 18' and sometimes larger.
Khorasan is a province in Northeastern Iran where Mashad is located. In Farsi, Khorasan means "where the sun arrives from." This area was divided into 3 provinces in 2004: North Khorasan, South Khorasan, and Razavi Khorasan. Mashad is the administrative center of Razavi Province. Old Khorasan rugs were easy to identify, because an extra weft shoot was used between every three or four rows of knots. This meant that from the back, the rug had a depressed effect about every quarter inch, and, when folded open from the front, the pile would seem to stand together in rows of three or four knots wide. Rugs made later, between 1920 and 1940, were looser and coarser, due in part to the use of the Jufti knot. A design commonly seen is the Shah Abassi motif, and, in larger rugs, the Shah Abassi motif is render on a larger scale. Colors tend to be camel, ivory, and yellow with magenta red, light blue, and brown accents.
Kilim is a Persian word meaning "flatweave." Kilims are made by tribal weavers for their own use as floorcoverings or curtains. A kilim's appearance could be described as primitive or rustic due to its geometric pattern and all wool construction. One of the characteristics of a kilim is that where the colors change, one may observe a small opening or slit. This weaving style was adopted by the French and refined in tapestries and Aubusson rugs. Typically, tribal kilims are long and narrow, 4-5 feet wide and 8-14 feet long. Finding kilims in good condition from the early 1900's is difficult. More Caucasan kilims are available for purchase than Persian kilims, and there are new kilims on the market from Romania, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Iran. Kilims are typically woven in wool on a wool foundation. Kilim is also a term used to describe the area of flatweave created by the woven foundation threads lying between the knotted wool pile and the fringe of an Oriental rug.
Kurdistan, literally meaning "the land of Kurds" is an extensive plateau and mountainous area in the Middle East. It includes parts of Eastern Turkey (Turkish Kurdistan), Northern Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan), Northwestern Iran (Iranian Kurdistan) and smaller parts of Azerbaijan (Kurdistan Uyezd), Northern Syria and Armenia. Kurdistan roughly encompasses the Zagros and the Eastern Taurus mountain ranges. Kurdish rugs are tribal and geometric, most often with an all-over pattern. They are typically woven from good wool due to the coolness of the region where the sheep graze. These rugs tend to have a somber look due to their dark colors, however, there are some Kurdish rugs in rust, blue, green, and yellow. Rugs are thick and solid, woven in wool on wool foundations. For many years, Kurdish rugs were misattributed to the tribes of Northwest Iran or Caucasian weavers. It is only more recently that antique Kurdish rugs have been acknowledged for their distinct designs and colors.
Lavar, the westernization of Ravar, is a town about 120 miles outside of Kerman, Iran where American companies owned a large number of looms. As a result, many Kerman rugs were woven there, and the Lavar Kerman has cultivated a reputation as a high quality rug. One historical explanation for the quality of the rugs may be that during the wars of the late 19th century, much of Kerman was destroyed, and weavers fled to Lavar where they worked their trade. Lavar Kerman has also become known over time as a trade name for a high quality Kerman rug that may have been woven in other cities of that region or made by certain producers throughout the 20th century. Due to the Islamic Revolution and the relatively high cost of labor in Iran, some producers moved their weaving activities to China. The demand for Lavar Kerman rugs has resulted in their price being higher than similar rugs made in surrounding areas. Arjomand, a local Kerman merchant who sponsored a group of weavers from roughly 1930-1960, produced a high quality rug in distinctive color combinations. Arjomand's signature is woven into these desirable rugs, and their price will be 10%-20% higher due to the value placed on his name.
Lilihan is one of over 100 weaving villages outside of Hamadan, Iran. Rugs made in this area resemble Sarouk rugs in appearance with an all-over pattern on a red or rose field. Designs are open, floral, and considered decorative. Older Lilihan rugs produced prior to World War II were washed and painted like Sarouks in order to appeal to the American market, and this process caused many of them to wear more rapidly. These rugs are somewhat loosely woven and tend to be thinner with the warp threads more spread out. Rugs range in size from 3' x 5' to large room sizes.
Mahalat is between the cities of Arak (formerly Sultanabad) and Delijan not very far from Sarouk, Iran. The rugs have an appearance that is similar to a Sarouk, but the quality is reduced and as a result a lesser quality Sarouk is sometimes referred to as a Mahal. Alternately, Ghisabad is name for a higher quality Sarouk. Traditional colors include red and khaki with blue borders. The Shah Abbasi design is seen in these rugs. In 1883, Ziegler and Co. established a weaving company in Sultanabad employing designers from major western department stores who would modify elaborate 16th and 17th century Persian designs for the more subdued Western aesthetic. Ziegler created rugs in this region with bold, all-over patterns in a softer color palette than their Persian versions. They made a rug that became known as the Ziegler Mahal, and wealthy European industrialists were their biggest customers. Ziegler Mahal rugs are still considered very desirable in today's market.
Malayer is one of over 100 weaving villages outside of Hamadan in Northwestern Iran. Malayer has many popular parks with lush greenery and colorful birds. The patterns of Malayer rugs are primarily geometric and one classic pattern utilizes a diamond or hexagon shaped medallion that may be filled with the boteh or herati motif, while the field is filled with the opposite motif. Motifs used are usually small in scale. Rugs tend to be small and are rarely larger than Dozar size. Common colors are light and dark blue, rust, cream, and orange.
Mashad is the capital city of Razavi Khorasan in Northeastern Iran. This holy city is famous for the shrine of the eighth Shiite Imam, Imam Reza. Astan Quds Razavi is the foundation responsible for overseeing the shrine. They generate income by making rugs and operating other businesses in order to raise money for maintenance of the shrine and for the finance of charitable activities. Sometimes a rug made by Astan Quds is used in the shrine for a number of years and then sold. These rugs are of very high quality and are made by the weavers as an act of goodwill dedicated to the Imam. Every rug made by Astan Quds will be signed and numbered. Mashad is also a trade center for the rugs of its neighboring villages and tribes such as Balochis and Turkomans. The majority of rugs woven in Mashad are made in workshops. The pattern of a Mashad rug is almost always curvilinear. The most common Mashad design is Shah Abbasi medallion-and-corner with large pendants. One way to differentiate Mashad rugs from similar Kashan rugs is their elongated corners. The corners of the Mashad medallion-and-corner layout either almost meet or meet near the center of each border on each side of the rug. It is common to see deep red for the background and blue for the medallion, corners, and border. Mashad rugs with the herati motif are sometimes marketed under the name of the province Khorasan. In these rugs, with the all-over herati or boteh designs, it is more common to see camel and brown colors. Mashad rugs tend to be large in size, 8' x 10' or greater.
In Central Iran, not very far from Hamadan and Sultanabad, is a mountainous countryside known as Seraband. The rugs made here feature an all-over pattern with a stylized boteh (pear) motif. The repeating motif may appear in a light color on a dark background of blue or red, or it may appear in blue or red on an ivory background, which is rarer. The border is made up of a multiplicity of small stripes with geometric elements, resembling small palm leaves or leaf bud, in between. The finest of these Seraband rugs are known in the trade as Mir rugs. Most Mir rugs were woven prior to 1910. Over the last 30 years, Indian weavers have been making Mir designed rugs for the export market.
In the late 19th to the early 20th century, some of the finest Kashan rugs were referred to as "Mohtashem Kashan." A firm attribution for the Mohtashem rugs is lacking, but there are signed rugs leading one to believe that there was a specific workshop making these rugs sponsored by "Mohtashem." There is a story that Haj Mullah Hassan, who was a merchant, encountered a situation around 1890 whereby he was left with with a good amount of high quality wool and no clothing business, so his wife from Arak, Iran used the wool to weave a rug. This is said to be the beginning of "modern" Kashan weaving. As a result, Haj Mullah Hassan may have become "Mohtashem." These Kashan rugs have a fine weave and a high knot count. They are also woven from high quality, Manchester wool. The production of Mohtashem rugs ended roughly in 1930 when export of the Manchester wool needed to make them ceased with the start of the "Great Depression."
Moud is a village southeast of Birjand in Khorasan Province, Iran. These rugs feature a sunflower or star-shaped medallion on an open field. Most of these rugs are between 4' x 6' and 8' x 10'. Colors tend to be dark red and brown with blue and ivory. Generally speaking, the wool quality is not as good as is seen in rugs from other areas.
Nain is a city between Isfahan and Yazd in Iran. Nain has been making rugs since the 1940's. Their weavers adopted the style and technique of Isfahan, which is about 80 miles to the north. While these rugs are finely woven, they do not wear well. Nain rugs feature curvilinear designs, and the rosette medallion is often seen. Most rugs are between 4' x 6' and 8' x 10'. They feature light backgrounds of cream and beige with red and blue accents. These newer color combinations are intended to appeal to both the Iranian and export markets. Overall, these rugs are overpriced and do not hold their resale value. It is important to be careful when washing a Nain rug, as the accent colors may run into the light colored field.
Iran was referred to as Persia until 1935, when the Iranian government asked those countries with which it had a diplomatic association to refer to their country as Iran. Contributing reasons for the change were that Persia, which was formerly an empire composed of 128 provinces, had been significantly reduced in size, and the majority of Persians were of Aryan origin; Iran means "Country of Aryans." The name Iran was already used within the country at that time. Prior to 1979, and the fall of the Shah, the United States was the leading importer of Persian rugs. In general, old Persian rugs were made using high quality natural dyes and wool quality varied from region to region. There are hundreds of rug weaving villages and several major rug weaving centers: Isfahan, Tabriz, Kerman, Mashad, Sarouk, Hamadan, and Kashan. Economic sanctions set forth in 1979 prevented the further import of Persian rugs, yet the demand still remained, so other countries began to manufacture rugs copying the classic Persian designs. Sanctions on the import of luxury items like rugs were eased in 2000, however, the American market continued to buy Chinese (Sino), Pakistani (Pak), and Indian (Indo) "Persian" rugs. The highest quality, finest Persian rugs in recent history were made between 1910 and 1940; these are some of the best rugs in existence today.
A prayer rug is a small rug that is used by a Muslim worshipper during daily prayers which are directed towards Mecca, the holy city of Islam located in Saudi Arabia. It is important for a Muslim to ensure the cleanliness of the area of prayer, so the rug is laid down for kneeling and prostration and is them rolled and put away as soon as prayer is completed. Part of its design is the outline of a Mihrab, which is a niche within the mosque that points toward Mecca. Rugs are often highly adorned with floral patterns surrounding the Mihrab. Prayer rugs are usually just over 3' long, providing enough room for an adult to fit comfortably on the rug. Some prayer rugs are as large as 3.5' x 5.5', 4.5' x 6.5', and 7' x 10'. The bigger sizes are used mostly for wall-hanging and occasionally on the floor. The small, delicate rugs, which are of fine wool or silk, are suitable for wall-hanging.
Sarouk is a town located 30 miles north of the city of Sultanabad (today called Arak). A major weaving center in Iran, Sarouk is known for making a robust, durable rug. Old Sarouks were woven in the town, however, the weaving area for these rugs expanded over time and more Sarouk rugs came to be made in Sultanabad than anyplace else. Sarouks fall into three categories. The first type, which is referred to as a Sarouk Ferahan or "Old Sarouk," was woven between 1880 and 1930. This is a finely woven rug with traditional designs such as the pendant-shaped medallion surrounded by a field in ivory, red, and blue. These rugs were made in Dozar size up to room size. Sarouk Ferahan is a name developed in the trade for these rugs, which were commissioned by Tabriz merchants. The Sarouk Ferahan is a rare rug in the market today; they are extremely desirable and hard to come by in good condition. A 9' x 12' rug in mint condition could be worth as much as $50,000. The second type of Sarouk is the "American Sarouk," also known as the "Painted Sarouk," produced between 1910 and 1950, which had an all-over, disconnected floral pattern with no medallion. This rug is called the American Sarouk, because it was designed and produced for the American market. These rugs are generally 8' x 10' or larger. The look of the Americak Sarouk is less formal with a background that is usually red. After export, a light chemical wash was used to tone down the color, then the background was painted with maroon red dye to create a shade that was popular at the time. One can identify a painted Sarouk by the difference in color between the front and back of the rug. One factor contributing to the end of this practice of washing and painting rugs was that labor prices in the U.S. continued to rise after 1950, so painting rugs was no longer economically feasible. Although washed and painted, these rugs have held up well over time, which is a testament to the quality of the materials and workmanship used in making the rugs. The third type of Sarouk referred to as a "New Sarouk" is one made since the 1950's using traditional Sarouk designs and colors; in general, the quality is acceptable.
Senneh rugs are woven by Kurds living in and around Sanandaj (formerly Senneh) in the Kurdistan Province of western Iran. Senneh is also the dialect of these people. Senneh pile rugs and kilims display some of the most sophisticated weaving technique of all the Kurdish rugs. Their designs are intricate, and the weave itself is very fine. Some of the highest quality Senneh rugs have silk foundations (warp threads) that may be dyed different colors. These single wefted rugs are thin and pliable, tending to wear harder than rugs made using other weaving techniques. The back of a hand-knotted Senneh rug has a rough, gritty feel like fine grain sandpaper. It is not uncommon to see the herati pattern repeating in the field of the rug with a geometric medallion at the center that is filled by a small, contrasting motif, like the boteh. Colors seen in Senneh rugs are those that are able to be created from natural dyes such as dark blue, red, brown, yellow, and ivory. Rugs are smaller than room-sized and are also commonly narrow and long.
This is the trade name of a quality Heriz rug woven between 1880 and 1930 with a simpler, curvier design scheme and finer weave. The Serapi Heriz is also considered a "decorator rug," meaning that the American design community has shown a passion for this rug over the last 40 years due to its bright and varied colors, however, that popularity has started to wane in recent years. The Serapi Heriz tends to be room-sized, 9' x 12' to 12' x 18', which may indicate that it was made for the export market.
Shah Abbas I ("The Great"):
(Born 1571; died 1629) The ruler of the Persian Safavid Dynasty from 1588-1629. Shah Abbas I enforced adherence to Shi'ism and acceptance of Farsi as the national language. He monopolized the production and trade of silk and used the money to develop his capital in Isfahan. He promoted the building of infrastructure and the development of commerce and was a great supporter of the arts. Rugs designed by artisan weavers were made in the first royal workshop established by the Shah at Tabriz with a second workshop then established in Isfahan. The Shah Abbasi palmette is named after him.
The Rug Company of Iran, Sherkat, was established in the early 1940's by the Iranian Government with the mission of making very fine rugs that would be representative of those produced by all the Iranian weaving centers. Rugs made by Sherkat will be numbered in the border and are considered highly desirable.
Shiraz, the capital of Fars Province, is located in the west central part of Iran. It is a trading town for weaving tribes like the Bakhtiari and Ghashghai. Shiraz was the capital of Persia during the Zand dynasty from 1750 until 1781. Shiraz is known as the city of poets, wine, and flowers. The memorial tombs of the two great Persian poets, Sadi and Hafiz, are inside the city, and the memorial tomb of the poet Khoaju is located near the city gate. Shiraz rugs bare a resemblance to Ghashghai rugs; Shiraz has become a generalized name for newer rugs made in that vicinity. As these are tribal rugs, the sizes tend to be smaller, under 8' x 10'. Colors will be red and brown with some green and beige in the newer rugs, which, generally speaking, have been colored with poor quality dyes. Most rugs are knotted on a wool foundation. Design elements in the fields of these rugs include the boteh (pear) motif, and, like Ghashghai rugs, geometric figures of birds. A diamond-shaped medallion may be repeated in a row down the middle of the rug or a smaller diamond motif may appear in multiple rows across the entire field.
Sirjan, south of Kerman about 200 miles north of the Persian Gulf, is a trading town for the Afshari Tribe. It is at the intersection of roads joining the four southern provinces of Iran, which has helped Sirjan grow as a market center. Sirjan is well-known for producing and exporting pistachios. Due to the prevalence of the Afshari people in this area, Afshari rugs may also be known as Sirjan rugs. Designs are geometric and include the diamond-shaped medallion repeating vertically down the center of the rug as well as motifs of small birds and animals in the field. Colors are red, navy, blue, and beige with additional bright accent colors. The foundations of these rugs are generally cotton and in some cases are wool. Turkish and Kurdish influences may be seen in the construction of these rugs. Also known as Shahrbabak rugs.
Sultanabad (Soltanabad or Arak):
Sultanabad is the old name for the city of Arak in Iran, which is not very far from Sarouk. Sultanabad has been an active carpet weaving center since the 19th century, and, in 1883, export company Ziegler and Co. turned Sultanabad into a thriving trade center for rugs as well. Rugs woven under the oversight of Ziegler and Co. featured overall floral and vine patterns and large borders: they are also known as Ziegler Mahals. Rugs were colored with natural dyes from local wool that was spun by hand. Red, blue, green, gold, and ivory are typical colors. An original Ziegler and Co. Sultanabad rug in 10' x 14' could be as much as $20,000-$30,000 today. The company ended operations in Sultanabad in the late 1920's. Antique Sultanabad rugs may have floral designs rendered in a geometric fashion. Sultanabad rugs are very desirable for decorative purposes and are popular with American & European interior designers, but the weave is not very fine. Many on the market will be heavily restored, and the restoration work tends to be good. Designs are being copied in Pakistan and India today.
The largest city in Northwestern Iran. The most prolific of all Persian rug-making centers, Tabriz is known for the overall quality of its rugs, however, quality may vary widely. The Safavid Dynasty, 1499-1722, was the "Golden Era" of rug weaving in Tabriz, and during this time the first royal rug-making workshop was established in the city. Many contemporary Tabriz rugs reflect the style standards set by the Safavid rulers centuries ago. The master weavers of Tabriz take great pride in their work, and often sign their rugs, which adds an additional aspect to their value. Most are woven on a foundation of fine cotton, but some are made on silk. Rugs woven in Tabriz traditionally have a design featuring a medallion and utilize dense floral motifs and large palmettes. The very finely woven floral rugs of this type may be overpriced. Some rugs are pictorial with images of vases or hunting scenes woven into them, and Tabriz is known for making rugs with these designs. The Tabriz Mahi is a rug design that utilizes the herati pattern. New Chinese Tabriz rugs are in many ways superior to new Persian Tabriz rugs in wool quality, dye quality, and workmanship, making them a better value.
The capital of Iran. Rugmaking is not a popular or developed industry in Tehran. Tehran only became a producer of rugs in the late nineteenth century. When migrant workers would come to Tehran for employment, their wives would weave rugs in the home. Tehran established a high standard of weaving using classical Persian designs that resulted in the production of rugs on par with those being woven in Tabriz or Kashan. Today finding rugs in the U.S. woven in Tehran is rare, and the quality tends to be very high. Patterns are precise and the weave is tight. Colors tend to the deep and classic blues and reds with fewer rugs being woven in softer shades.
Toudeshk is east of the city of Isfahan, Iran on the road to Nain. Rugs woven there are rare with a limited number having been produced over the years. They are very high quality and tightly woven.
Varamin is a city located 30 miles southeast of Tehran, Iran. Varamin has a diverse population and the surrounding areas are gathering places for many tribes. It is not uncommon for these rugs to have a repeating pattern and no center medallion. A common pattern is a row of palmettes vertically down the center of the rug connected by curving vines and leaves to a smaller scale version of the same pattern on either side. A second common pattern is similarly laid out, but features geometric, rather than curvilinear, design elements. Nomadic weavers in this area create both flat weave and hand-knotted rugs.
Yalameh is a village located southeast of Chahar Mahal, Iran. (The name Chahar Mahal refers to 4 large villages in the Bakhtiari region.) The tribal rugs knotted in Yalameh have an unusually fine weave. A common motif used in the design of these rugs is a diamond shaped medallion with hooked edges. The medallion may repeat across the entire field of the rug or only down the center. When the diamond medallion runs down the center, it is usually enclosed by a hexagon in a contrasting color. In between the diamond medallions, there will be small geometric motifs, like stars and flowers, and, in some cases, domesticated birds are depicted, especially in the border. Colors most often seen in Yalameh rugs are red, blue, ivory, and yellow made from natural dyes.
Unlike most rugs where the name refers to their place of origin or the tribe who made them, Zelsoltan refers to a rug with a small repeating pattern across the entire field enclosed by a narrow border. The repeating motif is usually a small floral. These rugs tend to be Dozar sized. Today Zelsoltan rugs are being made in India, Pakistan, and China.