What are Persian Rugs? And are they Oriental?
Updated: Oct 27, 2022
Let me get started with breaking this conversation into pieces to simplify the conversation so that we are on the same page.
What is a Persian rug?
A Persian rug is a rug or carpet made in:
or made in areas of the traditional Persian Empire, including present-day Afghanistan or parts of other countries that are associated with ancient Persia;
or some rugs of Persian design, regardless of their place of manufacture.
Why #3 some may ask? The key to number three is "some rugs"; because people often relocate and that has zero impact on the traditional weaving techniques employed in the production of a rug. These can include piled rugs and carpets; Soumaks and Ghilims/Kilims (non-piled rugs/carpets).
What are Oriental rugs?
Oriental rugs refers to carpets of the entire Middle Eastern and central southern Asian continent (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh), associated with hand-made rug manufacture, including northern Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Egypt), the Levant, the Caucasus, Turkey/Anatolia, and parts of the area of the old “Silk Road” (Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and other ex-Soviet states north of Iran and the Caucasus). There are also some Eastern European rug makers, notably Romania and Bulgaria.
A Persian rug IS also an Oriental rug.
Pictured below are a couple examples:
Rug on the Left: A Mir Sarabend carpet from Iran.
Rug in the Middle: A village rug from Yahyali in Turkey
Rug on the Right: A Mahi Tabriz design from India
Here we have photographs of three lovely hand-knotted Oriental rugs, however, two in my opinion are Persian and one of those is up for debate by many. The Mir Sarabend carpet is Persian all the way because it was woven in modern day Iran. The Yahyali in the middle was unarguably woven by ancestors of ancient Persia. The Mahi Tabriz on the right is a great looking Oriental rug with a Persian Design, but it was woven in India.
Hand-woven rugs and carpets have likely been made for thousands of years. Motifs and designs frequently used in rugs, are found among archaeological remains, and in tapestries from India. Many of these motifs are expressed with extensive variations regionally.
Persia has seemingly forever been recognized for their incredible carpets, stunning designs and vast variety of colors, both natural and synthetic. But there is often an expressed lack of respect for styles and variations that fall outside the traditional Persian scope or styles, despite the fact that the entire area of Oriental rugs produce many rugs of excellent workmanship and design.
In recent years, the US and other countries’ sanctions versus Iran, have negatively impacted the Persian rug market, due to prohibitions on importing Persian rugs/carpets. As a result of the impact of the Iranian sanctions upon Persian carpet access, the greater the number of Persian reproduction rugs we’ve seen and which we'll see in the market. As the owner of a Persian rug store, I must say that I once looked down on non-Persian rugs as if they were subpar works of art, however 2022 has been an eye-opening experience for me as we started importing brand new rugs from India, which were produced with high quality wool and by skilled artisans. We've had several rugs recreated in India that featured authentic Persian designs. Thus, the non-Persian area of rug production is able to improve access, as least to Persian-style pieces.
Unfortunately, as I'm writing this article, the issue of trade with Iran probably isn't going to change anytime soon. When sanctions were placed on items of Iran, the import of "Persian Rugs" from Iran became illegal. My business ShopPersianRugs doesn't import rugs directly from Iran, but unfortunately selling these rugs became much more difficult on many online platforms such as Etsy and Mercari. We continue to love Persian rugs and are always looking for a great deal here in the United States as well as expanding our selection of Oriental rugs from around the world.
Are you looking for an Oriental rug or carpet but can't seem to find the perfect one? Please check out ShopCustomRugs.com where they can create your design with your colors and dimensions. They show many examples on their website of projects. Yours could be next!