As the name suggests, Persian rugs come from Persia was better known as Iran in the modern day. The art of woven fabric is core to the culture of Iran from generations dating back over two thousand years. As history goes, a ruler by the name of Cyrus introduced carpet weaving in Iran during his reign in 529 B.C. People of different tribes made rugs in regional centres such as Tabriz, Kerman, and Nain. Each tribe incorporated intricate designs that were unique to their tribe. They would then use the carpets for various purposes in the home. These hand woven rugs are famous for their artistic beauty, especially rugs made during the Safavid Dynasty when commercial rug making came into play. Shah Abbas and Shah Tahmas developed the weaving industry into a commercial enterprise revolving around highly skilled and organized weaving workshops. Artists would create a range of designs, and only the best designs would be passed on to the best weavers in the empire. Examples of these exquisite rugs reside in Victoria and Albert Museum in London. This heyday did not last long as political unrest such as the Afghan invasion of 1722, threatened the stability of the carpet weaving industry. Fortunately, this decline did not last long and Americans and Europeans took an interest in the Persian rugs and their demand soared. The new market called for bigger production to satisfy customers in the West.
Although Persian rugs continue to dominate the industry, the art of hand woven carpets has faced fierce competition from the machine made rugs we see today. More so, the introduction of synthetic dyes and shortcuts to weaving undermines the quality and prestige associated with colours. Persian weavers remain unperturbed by these inventions.
Types of Persian carpets
- Bijar - These Persian rugs evoke durability to many carpet specialists. Weavers incorporate Turkish knots and use a large comb to beat the weft and knots. This method makes the pile compact, therefore, preventing small particles from being pressed into the carpet. Bijar rugs are usually red and blue.
- Hamadan - these rugs come from a shiny yarn that gives a durable surface. Hamadan rugs bear geometric patterns as well as floral motifs. Examples of these carpets are Khamse, Zanjan, and Burchalow.
- Heriz - these rugs are durable and can last for many generations. Heriz rugs are sturdy because of the copper deposits at the bottom of Mount Sabalan. Sheep in this area drink water with copper traces hence producing high-quality wool.
- Isfahan - these rugs are known for their high quality and are also known as Polish rugs in the European market. The so-called "Polish rugs" came from Persia in the 16th century and then exported to the Polish Commonwealth where merchants decorated them with the Polish coat of arms.
- Keshan - these carpets are of two types; the first uses pure silk wefts and double silk warps, while the second kind uses unbleached cotton warps and double wefts of cotton.
- Nain - The small town of Nain prides itself in producing the best quality wool. These rugs have a light ivory or white colour to pay homage to their region. The weavers make fine patterns of animals or plants or just intertwined branches in blue or green. Weavers make Nain rugs with knots of wool and threads of silk.
- Shiraz - These carpets hail from the Iranian province of Fars and are made by tribal weavers using fixed looms. Shiraz rugs are geometric and sometimes feature a pole medallion. These carpets are red or brown in colour.
- Tabriz - These rugs are known for their original patterns borrowed from the lives of the people of Tabriz city. These patterns could be floral, hunting landscapes, vases or trees. The pile is made of wool or silk wool while the warp comes from cotton or silk. Tabriz rugs are highly valued, and you can find them in high-end homes or museums.
Persian rugs are renowned for their high quality. High-quality wool has a lustre, but it does not shine. Weavers make these rugs from high-quality materials like silk and wool. A blend of silk and wool is preferred. The best quality yarns result from spinning by hand, and you can see this in flat weave rugs as they have a bumpy texture. Sometimes, weavers mix wool with petroleum-based materials to imitate the sheen of high-quality wool. This combination leads to brittle wool that has an odour, especially if laid on a heated flooring surface.
Persian rugs are made from different material, depending on the weaver and the region they reside in. The most common materials are cotton, silk, and wool. This material is treated or dyed ahead of the knotting process. Traditionally, weavers used vegetable dyes, but as the craft progressed, chemical dyes became popular. With synthetic dyes, weavers can achieve more shades and designs.
These dyes have a greater durability than synthetic dyes. If you want a more natural and muted look for your carpet, vegetable dyes are the best choice. The most common vegetable dye is indigo, which produces all shades of blue. Indigo dye comes from extracting and fermenting the leaves of the indigo plant. This blue extract dyes the wool blue. Weavers can also use larkspur, obtained from boiling the crushed leaves and stems of the larkspur plant. The first round of dyeing gives an intense colour while the second round gives lighter and softer colours. This phenomenon is known as depleting dyes.
Double dyeing technique
Rug manufacturers use this dyeing technique to give different shades of colour on one carpet. For instance, if you want a green carpet, you will dye the wool in blue then in yellow colour. While the rug will predominantly look green, it will have visible traces of blue-green and yellow-green in some areas. Dyers use the notion of depleted dyes and double-dyeing to produce a vast palette of hues from a limited variety of materials.
Before the introduction of chrome dyes in the 20th century, weavers used aniline dyes that produced crude colours thus making them unsuitable for making rugs. The Persian government banned further importation of this dye and anyone caught using aniline dyes faced punishment. Persian weavers resumed the use of natural dyes until chrome dyes came into play during World War I and World War II. Modern chrome dyes are reliable and come in a range of colours that only improve over time. This factor makes these colours a favourite among rug manufacturers and buyers alike.
After learning about the different Persian rugs and the techniques used to dye them, you may be wondering what makes these rugs so great. We have narrowed down to the most crucial factors that make these rugs stand out from the crowd.
- Hand woven - even with the introduction of rug making machines, weavers in Persia continue to produce hand woven carpets meticulously designed over long durations, sometimes even months. If you want to identify a hand woven rug, their patterns are clearly visible, and you can see rows of knots at the base of the tufts.
- Unique designs - Oriental rugs are famous for their designs inspired by historical events such as battles, superstitions and other aspects of the Persian life e.g. religion.
- High quality - while Persian rugs cost a pretty penny, they are a sound investment considering the quality you are buying. These rugs add a touch of class to your home and elevate the atmosphere.