10 Myths About Oriental Rugs

February 13, 2008
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Oriental rugs seem to be steeped in the mysteries of the East. It can start with a rug retailer giving a “little story” with the rug to enhance the sale, or just wrong information that is repeated so many times it takes on a life of its own. So, like television’s MythBusters, let’s bust a few rug myths.

Rug Myth No. 1
Oriental rugs are identified only by design. Design is only one component used to identify rugs. Construction, how the rug is put together, is the method used to identify all rugs. Look at the back to first determine if it is machine-made, hand-knotted, flat-weave or some other specialty rug.

Rug Myth No. 2
All Oriental rugs appreciate in value. Most post-World War II rugs do not appreciate in value, nor will most rugs purchased new today appreciate in value. Consumers most likely paid more for some rugs in the ‘60s and ‘70s than they are worth today. The 90-line 9-by-12 Chinese rugs purchased in the early 1980s for $4,000 can be found for under $1,000 today.

Rug Myth No. 3
All old rug rugs are worth a lot. Condition is most important when determining value. An old rug in poor condition is just an old rug. An old rug in good condition may also be without value if it lacks artistic merit. However, some old rugs are worth repairing and their value will increased with proper restoration.

Rug Myth No. 4
Persian rugs are better than rugs from other countries. Some older, traditional pre-WWII Persian (Iranian) rugs such as Ferahan Sarouk, Motashem Kaskan, Tabriz, Bijar, Heriz, certain tribal pieces and other well-constructed semi-antiques will always have a market in the right condition. Since the fall of the Shah in 1979 and the embargo on Persian goods in 1987 (which was lifted in March 1999), other countries have improved and increased their output of rugs. The quality of Persian rugs has gradually deteriorated since the early 1970s. There are certain notable exceptions, such as rugs produced and exported by Miri & Jalili in South Persia (show room in the San Francisco Design Center). Time will tell if the overall quality will return. If it does, it will be smaller quantities and at higher prices. It will be a big job, as they have a lot of catching up to do.

Rug Myth No. 5
Never vacuum Oriental rugs. About 80 percent of soil in rugs is dry particulate matter. It acts as sandpaper and wears the rug. Some rugs have a thick pile, if they are not regularly vacuumed and cleaned, the soil will become so embedded it becomes difficult to finally remove all of it. You should caution your customers to vacuum parallel to the rug end so as to not damage the fringe.

Rug Myth No. 6
Knot count is the best indication of value. The value of only a few traditional Persian rugs is partially determined by knot count. Examples are Nain and Isfahan. The value of silk rugs is also partially based on knot count. New, mass-produced rugs from China, India, and Pakistan come in a variety of qualities and designs. Generally speaking, the more knots per square inch, the higher the price per square foot. However, once these mass-produced rugs are used, their value in the secondary market is not based on knot count.

Rug Myth No. 7
Oriental rugs should never be wet cleaned. A well-constructed Oriental rug can certainly be wet cleaned after first doing a pre-cleaning inspection that includes a colorfastness test. What should be avoided is cleaning rugs in the customer’s home unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as size, weight or furniture, etc. The Oriental Rug Importers of America recommends that hand-made rugs be cleaned every 2 to 4 years, based on traffic, spills, pets and the indoor environment.

Rug Myth No. 8
Oriental rugs should never have a protector applied. The idea that a fluorochemical will somehow devalue a rug is just a plain old myth. I protect my rugs against the chance that someone will spill a beverage. Rug protectors do not make them bulletproof, but allow blotting up of spills to be much more effective, and they can prevent spots from becoming stains.

Rug Myth No. 9
Rug pad is a waste of money. Rug pad provides a protective layer between the rug and the floor. It helps minimize slippage, increases the life of the rug, makes the rug feel thicker and more luxurious, smoothes out irregularities in the floor and absorbs noise. All pads are not created equal. The best pads for hardwood floors have a layer of synthetic felted material with rubber coating on the backside.

Rug Myth No. 10
Silk rugs are a great floor covering. Silk rugs (or most anything silk) are expensive. Silk rugs are not practical to use on the floor. They are not as durable and, because certain manufactures use poor quality silk and dyes, they cannot be cleaned as invasively as good wool rugs. Once they become quite soiled, it is difficult to restore them to their original appearance. Though they can be beautiful, they are best used a wall decoration.

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