While any pile rugs will upgrade the appearance of any room, tribal rugs with their unique colors and designs, lend a special warmth that cannot be achieved otherwise. The tribal rugs is essentially a one-off work of tribal art usually created by nomadic or semi-nomadic people living in small villages or on the open plains where the raw materials for the rugs come from their own animals from or bought from shops along their routes of travel. It can take several months for one person to make even a small prayer rug, and larger carpets may require the daily work of several persons for more than a year. The value of the tribal rug is therefore directly related to the time and effort made to create it. The quality of the materials and complexity of design affect the time required to create these carpets and these factors also affect the value. An important factor in determining a carpets value is the source of the carpet- i.e.: where was it made and by what tribal group? Carpets of generally similar design, size, materials and workmanship can be made in widely different geographical areas. For example, a Tekke Turkmen rug made by the Tekke tribes in northern Afghanistan and in the former USSR is usually more valuable than a similar quality carpet made in the sweatshops of Pakistan. Today, extremely high quality imitations of Persian silk rugs are now being made in China. Caucasian tribal rugs designs are being copied in Iran and Pakistan, etc.
The serious carpet collector must therefore be armed with sufficient knowledge to study a carpet and with reasonable accuracy, identify some key features about the carpets design, construction and origin. While an amateur collector may never be able to “smell the wool” and tell what village the sheep came from, there is considerable enjoyment and satisfaction in successfully researching a carpet to confirm its origin.
This clause will outline many of the variables in carpet identification and will provide some general guidelines to follow in assessing your future purchases. It is not to be confused as a definitive reference document, and should be used only in context with other carpet books and your own experiences.
Elements To Consider In Rug Identification
There are a multitude of elements which are regularly employed to identify and categorize carpets. The most important element is EXPERIENCE – but this is gained through long term contact with the carpet trade such as a dealer would have. These dealers often have a family history of carpet trading with skills passed from generation to generation – experience the average collector can never hope to achieve. Luckily there are volumes of research available in the forms of books and films, but the collector still must learn certain basic skills of how to study and feel out a carpet he is considering purchasing. The basic elements of rug identification identified in this paper include:
a) Nature of the Rug: What is it – a rug made of pile knotted into a textile backing (knotted pile carpets), or a pile less flat woven fabric which are embroidered or brocaded (kelims), or a simple flat weave. All rugs discussed in this paper will be pile carpets.
b) Design: This is possibly the least dependable element in carpet identification, but a general knowledge of the characteristics of designs used in carpets can help somewhat to focus on the geographic areas where such carpets are normally made and provide a good starting point.
c) Materials Used: What material is the Warp and Weft threads made of. Is it wool, silk, cotton, artificial silk? What is the pile made of- goat wool, sheep wool, silk, camel hair, etc. The kind of materials used often provide important clues as to a carpets origin.
d) Structure: The manner a weaver arranges the three elements of a rug, the warp, the weft and the pile leaves a distinctive handwriting. This is perhaps the most significant element in carpet identification. The type of knots, the layout of warp and weft and the “feel” of the resulting carpet are learnable skills.
e) The Selvage: This is the manner of finishing the edge of the knotted carpet.
f) The Fringe: Pile carpets are fined off at the end by a fringe usually made of the warp threads. Other decorations are often used- which account for another element in the weaver’s signature.
g) Size and Shape: Carpets from certain tribal groups are made consistently one size or several standard sizes. This knowledge can help to differentiate an original from a reproduction of a similar design.
h) Color: The final colours of a tribal rug are determined by the dyestuffs used, the kinds of materials used, the method of initial washing done, and the age of the piece. Dealers place much emphasis on “vegetable dyes” in tribal rugs, indicating that this is an indication of age (and greater value). What is usually not realized by the new collector is the fact that chemical dyes have been around since the 19th century, and that many modern carpets (especially tribals) are still often made with vegetable dyestuffs (or a combination of both). Unfortunately, colour identification is a skill necessitating substantial professional experience, but some basic tricks can be learned by the amateur.
Detailed information on tribal rugs identification is provided courtesy of Philip Holcomb, Carpet Collector: www.rugs-n-relics.com”