Hand woven with the finest materials including wool and silk, a single Persian rug can often take years and sometimes decades to create. A high-quality Iranian carpet can cost tens of thousands of dollars, with antique rugs fetching even higher prices. So, how are Persian rugs made. And why are they so expensive?
Types of Persian rugs
Although several countries are associated with the term “Persian rug. The “authentic Persian carpets and the traditional methods of producing them originate in Iran. Every Persian rug is regarded as a piece of art which reflects the history and culture of Iran. There are many varieties of Persian carpet. Each distinguished by their materials, patterns, and weaving techniques. The floral designs of Isfahan in central Iran to the intricate, fine details of Qom carpets and the strong, compact Bidjar rugs from the Western Kurdish village. Gabbeh rugs, made in the Fars province of southwestern Iran, are perhaps the most traditional carpets, characterized by their bold designs.
Making of Persian rugs
Traditionally, Persian rugs are made from sheep’s wool, which is boiled, spun, and dyed by hand. These bright and elaborate yarns are dyed with natural colorings from plants and insects. In many regions, such as Yazd, hundreds of weavers may work in the same factory at any given time. However, in Fars Province, where carpet weaving is recognized as part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list, the materials are distributed to small villages for tribal women to weave in their homes.
The process of weaving a Persian rug differs slightly with each variety. But generally speaking, a bed of foundation material called warp is installed into the frame, called the loom. Starting at the bottom, weavers then feed wool in between the warp, tying knots called weft on each one. A highly detailed silk rug can have over 1,000 knots per square inch. However, most carpets are not valued based on knot count. But rather their materials, design, and overall size. While some varieties of Persian rugs follow design specifications. Gabbeh carpets are often completely improvised. With the weaver adding traditional motifs, such as goats, trees, and dolls.
The origin of these rugs dates back at least 2,500 years ago during the reign of the Persian Empire. It spanned across neighboring countries including what is now known as Turkey. The legacy and tradition of carpet making still remains there. In fact, in 2018, Turkey exported $1.9 billion of hand-woven carpets worldwide, far higher than Iran’s total of $35 million. As such, Turkish carpets can sometimes be regarded as authentic Persian rugs. The most expensive Persian rug ever bought was a 17th-century Persian vase-style carpet. Which sold at auction in June 2013 in London for $33.8 million.
But despite Iran’s rich history of producing handmade rugs. The tribal rugs produced in rural villages could be under threat from a lack of young weaving talent.