Uncle Bobs Tips: Rug Guide

Persian Rugs

Persian rugs, by far the most superior rugs on the rug market, have always been and continue to be an intrinsic part of Iranian culture. Iranians have been weaving Persian rugs since ancient times, and Persian rug production in Iran today still exceeds that of all other rug-weaving countries combined.

Every Persian rug is a unique, magnificent creation that weaves together not only threads, but a rich legacy of history and culture. Each Persian rug's particular pattern, colors, and weaving technique are indigenous to a certain geographic area or nomadic tribe. Persian rugs are thereby named after the village, town, district or nomadic tribe where they are woven or collected.

Setting the gold standard for rug excellence, Persian rugs and carpets are famous for their variety in design, color, size, and weave. In fact, Persian rugs are the origin of most motifs, patterns and colors featured in rugs throughout the world today.

Persian rug history dates back to the Safavid Dynasty (1502-1736), when Iran attained its artistic height. Court weaving, together with the arts of calligraphy, miniature painting, and tile work, flourished.. Under the Safavid Dynasty highly qualified rug factories developed in the cities of Kerman, Isfahan, Kashan, Tabriz, and Herat. Under Reza Shah Pahlavi, royal factories were established to utilize the finest materials to make Persian rugs. Persian rug exports began in the 16th century, and to this day Persian rugs continue to command a brisk interest in domestic and international markets.


Uniquely hand-made, no two Persian rugs are alike. However, most Persian rugs can be categorized by their pattern or design. Three broad categories of Persian rug designs are pictorial, geometric, and floral, although each category consists of many styles and Persian rugs may incorporate more than one design.

PictorialPersian rugs don't follow a standard outline and each rug is unique in its details.

Geometric Persian rugs are decorated with repeated elements of vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines, usually woven by nomadic tribes using particular traditional and cultural symbols. Most of the geometric elements are symbols of something cherished by that tribe for generations.

Floral Persian rugs reflect the close affinity of Iranians with nature. Almost all Persian rugs contain some form of nature, whether small plants and flowers or animals.

Although not as famous, prayer rugs are yet another type of Persian rug. Prayer rugs are small carpets used to kneel on during prayer. Their design features a mihrab, or arch, which should be aligned to point towards Mecca during prayers Garden motifs recur in many Persian prayer rugs and are inspired by the Islamic notion of the garden of Paradise.

A central medallion is the common motif in most Persian rugs, and though two may look similar, no two Persian rug medallions are completely identical. Other Persian rug classifications include the Shah Abbasi design. Shah Abbas was responsible for a large portion of the Persian rug industry by setting up royal rug factories all over Iran. Today, a Shah Abbasi is among the finest Persian rugs available. Yet another famous Persian rug design is the Herati pattern, deriving from the town of Herat (now in Afghanistan but once part of the Persian Empire). This Persian rug features a central diamond shaped figure forming the medallion, while simultaneously serving as a border to another similar medallion, which serves as a border to another inner medallion.

Generally, Persian rugs are classified by their region of origin. For example, a rug would be identified as a Tabriz if it were woven in or near the city of Tabriz. A major rug-producing center may also have subcategories, such as the famous Tabriz Mahi. If the Persian rug design of a city, village, or tribe becomes famous, other centers may attempt to imitate the design.

Persian rugs may alternatively be identified by the city in where they are marketed. For example, Arak is a small rural town that has a very large Persian rug trading industry. It is surrounded by dozens of other villages that all produce rugs of their own, yet since all these rugs are marketed in Arak, many of them are referred to as Araks.

Finally, Persian rugs are also distinguished as tribal or city rugs. Tribal rugs are woven by nomads or by the inhabitants of small rural villages. For the most part, these Persian rugs are inferior in quality to city rugs, although when made from top quality wool and dyes they are comparable to their city counterparts.


While Persian rug designs may capture the heart, Persian rug quality is determined mainly by the knotting of the rug. Specifically, the higher the knot count, the higher the quality. Other factors that contribute to the grading of Persian rugs are the quality of the wool or silk, the dyes used, and the symmetry and accuracy of the design.

Don't be surprised to find that fine Persian rugs will almost always include intentional imperfections! The tradition of intentionally including slight irregularities is derived from the religious belief that God is the only perfect being and that only the Supreme Being can make something that is perfect. Slight inconsistencies are also proof that a rug was not made by machine You may also come across Persian rugs that aren't perfectly square or that contain a main color that varies in tone from one end of the rug to the other. These "imperfections", however, are what give character and authenticity to Persian rugs. Machine-made Persian rugs may be perfectly square, however they are inferior to handmade Persian rugs in most aspects.

To avoid rugs that might be falsely (and illegally) sold as Persian rugs, you can obtain a Certificate of Authenticity that will validate the origin and materials of your Persian rug and certify that you are the original owner for insurance purposes. Should you wish to sell your rug, a Certificate of Authenticity will enhance its value.

Persian Rug Sizes: The standard and most popular Persian rug sizes are seven by ten feet, eight by twelve feet, and ten by thirteen feet. However, you can find Persian rugs of non-standard dimensions ranging from a small two by three foot mat to carpets as large as a city block. You can also find runners for hallways and corridors ranging from five to thirty feet long.


Depending on the amount of traffic Persian rugs receive, a professional washing is recommended every one to three years. To even out wear and exposure to light and sun, it is recommended that you rotate Persian rugs every 6 months or once a year. Persian rugs should be vacuumed on a regular basis to remove dirt and restore life to the fibers. Be sure not to vacuum the fringe. It is recommended that you use a quality rug pad under your Persian rugs to protect them from wear and slippage.


When spills occur on Persian rugs, work quickly and blot up excess spills with a clean, white, absorbent cloth or paper towels. Do not rub or soak. For solid spills, take a spoon and carefully scoop up the material. Always work from the edge of the stain inward, and scrape in the direction of the pile whenever possible. Try to remove any residual stain with clean, lukewarm water. If water fails, a solvent can be used. (Common cleaning solvents include mild non-bleach liquid detergent, vinegar solutions, or you can purchase a spot removal kit from Persian rug stores). Apply the solvent directly on the stain without soaking and blot thoroughly. Repeat the process until the spot no longer transfers to the cleaning cloth. ALWAYS pretest the solvent on a small area of the rug by applying a few drops, then blotting with a clean, white, absorbent cloth or paper towel to see if the colors run. When dry, restore pile with a clothes brush or vacuum. If you cannot remove the spot, call a Persian rug professional.

Handmade Persian rugs can easily be repaired in case of tears. The process consists of joining the knots together from the back of the carpet with the same material as the foundation of the carpet. Repairing a carpet with silk thread is best, as silk is stronger than wool or cotton. A Persian rug that has been professionally repaired should look as good as new!

Over the centuries, Persian rugs have remained treasured heirlooms passed on from one generation to the next. Persian rugs can be found in palaces, famous buildings, wealthy homes and museums throughout the world. Make precious Persian rugs an integral part of your home - invest in a genuine Persian rug today!

Some Books On Persian Rugs:

Edwards, A. Cecil. The Persian Carpet. London 1953.

Eiland & Eiland's Oriental Rugs A Complete Guide

Ford, P. R. J. Oriental Carpet Design. London: Thames and Hudson, 1981, paperback 1993.

Housego, Jenny. Tribal Rugs. New York, Interlink Books, 1991.

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