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6 Types of Persian Rugs; & What Makes Them Different?

There are Six types of Persian rugs: Nomadic, Tribal, Flat Weave, Village, City & Antique; we'll explain the differences between them. We'll start the discussion with the simplest of rugs and work our way up in complexity.


1.) Nomadic Rugs

Our first type of rugs are Nomadic rugs, this picture here isn't exactly what we had in mind. Oops!


Nomadic rugs are typically prayer rugs, used by Muslims, some Christians and those of the Baha i' faith.


Prayer rugs are commonly woven by nomadic people in Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan, similar to these Balochis rugs on our site. Many of these people are becoming more settled as society applies pressures to the traditional nomadic lifestyle.

Photo by Kate Darmody on Unsplash.


In Iran, most of these rugs are wool pile on a cotton foundation, however, the antique prayer rugs are commonly made on a wool foundation.



Afghan Balochis Rug with a geometric design.
Wool Pile and Wool Foundation - Afghan Balochis Rug

In Afghanistan it's common for these rugs to be a hundred percent wool, while the ones in Pakistan have mostly transitioned over to using cotton for the foundation.


This type of rug is often woven on horizontal looms and produced in smaller dimensions, which are more convenient for traveling, which was traditionally the lifestyle, but now looms are changing as the pressures on society continue to grow.


2.) Tribal Rugs

Tribal rugs aren't entirely different from nomadic rugs and while many nomads live in tribes, the tribal rugs of today are commonly produced by people that are settling in villages, that fall in close proximity to where these tribes have traditionally lived.


Tribal rugs, like nomadic rugs typically have small imperfections such as an irregular shape, uneven borders / patterns, color variations also known as abrash and possibly other small imperfections.


In city rugs, imperfections would be frowned upon, however, in nomadic and tribal rugs, it adds to the character of the piece. Tribal rugs may be woven on horizontal looms, but tribes that are more settled may have better access to larger, vertical looms and in turn weave larger rugs.



3.) Flat Weave - Kilim & Soumak

Kilim and Soumak rugs are handwoven rugs using two different weaving techniques, which consist of weaving threads around the warps of the rug.


Kilim rugs are reversible, as the pattern is the same from both sides of the rug.


Soumak rugs are created using a different technique, which can be observed by the differences on the back side of the rug.


As the title says, Flat Weave, these rugs are flat and have no pile, which makes them lighter in weight and typically less expensive than pile rugs.


One of the best features of flat weave rugs, is their diversity of uses. Pile rugs mostly keep to the floor or sometimes a wall, however flat weave rugs could be used on tables, couches, floors, walls or even as a blanket. With so many uses for this type of Persian rug, you're truly getting your money's worth in purchasing one.


Often times the designs are geometric and extremely colorful, however you can probably find just about anything you're looking for.



4.) Village Rugs

Village rugs are one of my personal favorite types of Persian rugs for several reasons. Not only are Village Rugs more affordable than Workshop rugs, but the vast variety of designs that are created is spectacular.


Personally, I love a good and thick wool pile surface under my feet.


With a village rug you can find both primitive, mostly geometric, rectilinear designs or highly curvilinear ones more similar to Workshop rugs.


You might say that a village rug is a well-balanced middle between nomadic and workshop. One may assume that these rugs are only created in villages, but the reality is that production of this same type of rug is found in cities throughout Iran.


Unlike Workshop rugs, Village rugs and Nomadic rugs aren't frowned upon for irregularities but are seen for the characteristics they add to the design of the rug. While some irregularities might be tasteful to one person, they may not appeal to another, which is really what determines the market value of a rug, the appeal to the consumer.


5.) Workshop Rugs

Here's where you'll find the Highest-Class category of Persian rugs that are desired by the Kings and Queens of the World, by the Ultra Rich and Celebrity Class, however at the lower end of the spectrum we still find high quality, high knot density Persian Rugs with very curvilinear designs from the same well-known cities such as Esfahan, Nain, Qum (Ghom), Kashan, Kermen, Tabriz & more, which are often inspired by nature as well as their incredible Architectural design found throughout the ancient cities of Iran.


Unlike other types of rugs, Workshop rugs are held to a higher standard of perfection in the weaving process of their rugs. I've often heard stories of a masterpiece being referenced as worthless if a mistake were found in the carpet. Now, I'm not buying-in to these rugs being worthless or that they're giving them away, but that in such a fine rug, that subtle irregularities in the weave mostly go unnoticed.


6.) Antique Rugs

Unlike all the previous types of rugs, this category of rugs isn't characterized by how they were made, but when.


Persian rugs as a whole are valuable based on where it was made, the size, quality and desirability together.


Old rugs may be desirable but being valuable because it's old doesn't really occur for any rug

Antique Bakhtiari Persian rug from Iran
Antique Chahar Shotor Bakhtiari Persian Rug

until it reaches that one-hundred-year mark and receives an authentic antique status.



As we divide Persian rugs up into multiple types, we see how similar these works of art are, no matter where it's woven from or by whom.


At the end of the day, these rugs serve the same purpose, to create income for their families, to furnish their homes and to be loved by the beholder.



References:

Oriental Rugs: A Buyer's Guide, by Lee Allane, Published in 1988 Thames & Hudson Inc.

Available here on Amazon


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