Nick’s Non-Expert Rug Guide

Nick’s Non-Expert Rug Guide

Let us start off by saying that neither of us are experts in the field of antique rugs, it is truly an art form with a vast history. That being said, we have been actively collecting and selling antique rugs for the past 5+ years so have picked up some knowledge along the way.

When looking at antique rugs we evaluate them based on four factors - Age, Condition, Size, and Type (Design).

1) Age

The age of a rug has a large impact on the value, reproductions are very prevalent in today’s market and while there is nothing wrong with them from a quality or use perspective they do not hold the same value so it is important to know the age of the rug you are looking at. Typically anything called “Antique” means it is at least 100 years old while “Vintage” typically refers to something at least 20 years old so a rug made in 2000 could be considered “vintage” today. Vintage rugs should be considered by those who take one look at an antique rug and say “it’s so beat”. We have friends who say dumb sh*t like this to us all time. If you can’t handle the condition issues and like a nice pile with full vibrant color dyes and a nicer price a Vintage rug that’s handmade does the trick. So there’s no right or wrong way to go really.

A great example of vintage Turkish rugs on the market today - photo from @newenglandloom 

In rugs you have several categories based on age:

  • Museum Quality: 13th - Early 19th Century
  • High Collectible/Connoisseur Caliber: Mostly 19th Century
  • High Decorative: Primarily 1875-1910
  • Decorative: Primarily 1910-1970
  • Reproductions: 1970s to present

Our rugs typically live in the “High Decorative” category with maybe a couple being Connoisseur caliber and some Decorative. Museum quality are typically in museums or if sold would be at Christie’s or Sotheby’s for possibly millions of dollars. High Collectible/Connossieur can be found at better rug dealers and depending on size and condition would typically bring 5 or 6 figures value-wise.

One of the best ways to determine age is to look at the dyes used - prior to 1920 you are typically looking at all natural pigment dyes so softer colors, after that chemical dyes started being used so you will see “hotter” colors - this is not a good thing for value. After looking at rug after rug when your analyzing an antique with old soft colors and natural dyes, a synthetic dye will jump off the page. The orange dye in this rug is an example of a synthetic dye - note how bright it looks

2) Condition

It is common for rugs that are 100+ years old will have wear and repairs, however excessive wear does affect the rug’s value to a collector. To us, we don’t mind the wear because it shows the history of the rug. Most holes can be repaired by a reputable rug shop but we are firm believers in putting furniture over the bad spots. By being open to rugs with these condition issues you can typically get a much higher quality rug for a better price.

This is our kitchen rug - it has significant wear and repair including a burlap patch.

3) Size

This one is easy - if category and condition are all the same typically the bigger rug is always more expensive for obvious reasons. Some rare sizes can carry more value just because of their rarity - for instance square rugs are typically more valuable because “Square is rare.” Certain rugs of high value were only made in a certain size; this can be an authenticator in some instances.

An example of a square antique Tabriz rug from 1stdibs.com selling for $80,000

4) Type

There are many different types of rugs based on where they were produced and the people that produced them. They can be identified by the pattern of the rug, this can be overwhelming to learn but once you start recognizing the patterns it becomes easier. For instance, a Heriz rug typically has a large center medallion with a densely designed field and borders. Some types have more value than others - for instance a “Serapi” is typically looked at as a better Heriz. The different types are really a personal preference in what kind of design you like, my favorites are Oushak, Kazakhs and Caucasians. Jess loves Serapi, Chinese Art Deco and Caucasians.

A Persian Serapi with natural dyes and some wear - probably early 1900s - shop available rugs for sale on our site!

If you would like to learn more about rug types a great online resource is Claremont Rug Company.

On instagram we suggest following @peterpaprugs and @hadimaktabi for more information from real experts.

If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments.

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