How to identify Authentic Handmade Oriental Rugs

oriental-rug-loomIt is not easy for normal folks who are not trained in identifying rugs to know the distinction between an authentic handmade Oriental rug and a machine made rug. Hand-woven and hand knotted rugs are also known as Oriental rugs and are mostly collectibles due to their quality. The quality of Oriental rugs hugely depends on the yarns’ quality, dyes used and knot count among other factors. You will find rugs knotted by hand are made through a loom specially designed and knotted through the use of the hand. Hand knotted oriental rugs have been made for centuries through an ancient art that can only be admired. The loom’s size depends on the rug’s size with the weaving carried out moving from the bottom going up to the top. The weaver of the rug usually interleaves the “knots” into the rug’s groundwork, which are hand tied, something that makes the rug’s pile. It is a very time consuming and tedious operation.

The Back of the Handmade Oriental Rug

handmade-vs-machine-made-rugsFlip the rug upside down. On authentic, handmade Oriental rugs you should see foundation threads (usually blue, white or red, but could be different colours). These foundation threads are usually referred to as weft threads and in handmade Oriental rugs they go horizontally with the rug fringes. It is common to find partial weft threads running horizontally along the rugs underside for only a few centimeters, and then disappear because of wool knots. Handmade Oriental rugs do not have perfectly straight horizontal weft threads because they are handmade and not machine made. Furthermore, on the back of the rug look at the colored knots for unevenness where a number of areas will appear a little thicker, this indicating that the rug is handmade and not machine made as well. However, nowadays there are many machine-made rug imitations which do a great job at imitating hand-made rugs, so just because a rug is not perfectly even doesn’t mean that it is hand-made. See the photo below on for a visual of a handmade rug and a machine-made imitation.

Front part of the Handmade Oriental Rug

persian-rug-designYou can turn towards the front part of the rug and peruse the designs intently. Essentially, the design should never be of the same shape and size from one opposite end to the other end of the potentially handmade Oriental rug. Also the design patterns will not always be perfect either. This unevenness is something that is clear in most Oriental rugs that are much older and is a sign of authenticity and should not be mistaken for a poorly done rug. Machine-made rugs usually contain same pattern sizes all around and variations are not really visible. However, machine-made imitations do have uneven patterns but this is less common.

Changes in Handmade Oriental Rug Colour

handmade-oriental-rug-closeupIt is also easy to note some slight changes in color that makes thin or thick stripes when it comes to a handmade rug. Such is the result of dyes used to change the wool during weaving or just the way the wool’s colours age due to the atmosphere, light and washing. Most of the colour changes can be seen in the rug’s background colour known as abrash. It is hard to find such abrashes in rugs made by machines. Running dyes area knwn issue when washing handmade Oriental rugs and extra care needs to be taken not to make the dyes bleed when washing handmade Oriental rugs. A professional rug cleaner like Love Your Rug, carefully hand washes handmade Oriental rugs to make sure that dyes don’t bleed. Basically, a good old scrubbing on both knees is required for washing authentic handmade rugs.

Wool pile

It is worth noting handmade rugs in most cases have wool pile used to weave them. A rug made by a machine is mostly made through the use of a polyester or nylon pile while weaving is very uniform. Towards the rug’s back, you might find some white thread weaves from one end of the fringe to the other. You might also not see any white threads in the rug at all (but this is not really common).

Visual Handmade Oriental Rug Differences

There is always a very strong difference between a handmade and machine made rug visually. This is so especially on the machine-made rug’s back which is very distinct in terms of appearance to a handmade rug’s back. You will find the design of the machine made rug’s back not as colourful as the back of the hand-woven Oriental rug. The face and back of the machine rug are very different in terms of colour and there is a reason for this. While the machine made rug has its edges machine overstitched and a fringe applied, the handmade Oriental rug has the edge overcast using the hand as the fringe is essentially the warp strings’ end and not one that has been sewn upon it. The machine made rug has overstitch patterns running across its back and distinguishing individual knots appearing on the back are not easy to find. In fact, for the machine-made rug, the overstitch construction is generally what keeps the pile material held together. This means that the fringe is applied on a machine made rug once it has been completed while the hand-woven Oriental rug has its fringe as a part of warp strings as they leave the handmade rug’s end.

Electrically made rugs

Machine made rugs are usually made using power looms, which are essentially large machines. The power loom is automated electrically and computer controlled. As a result, rugs made by machines are manufactured very fast using materials such as synthetic fibers and wool like art silk, acrylic, polyester, nylon and polypropylene. Machine-made generally don’t try to imitate hand-made rugs and look perfect in design.

Rug Cost

The price of the Oriental rug and machine made rugs differ a lot. While an Oriental rug is very expensive, a machine made rug costs much less and is an alternative to expensive hand knotted or hand-woven rugs. However, countries of origin like Persia, India, China, Egypt and Afghanistan, do offer significantly cheaper handmade Oriental rugs at a fraction of the price at which they are offered in Canada and other parts of North America. So, it may be worth it to travel to those countries if you are interested in purchasing a quality handmade Oriental rug.

Rug Durability

machine-made-rugsA machine rug has a lifespan of around two decades or much less hugely depending on the fiber and quality used. It is also possible for high quality machine made rugs, such as wool made rugs, to last for a very long time in case they are well maintained. Collectors do not attach any value to machine made rugs, whether they are of a higher quality or not.
rug-weavingHand knotted rugs are usually made through a number of natural materials such as jute, silk, cotton and wool. In most cases, silk is used in rugs made of wool for the pattern’s highlights or outlines to improve the design. Hand woven and hand knotted rugs are very durable and can last for ages if they are properly maintained and of great quality. In case you find a rug is nap blended using synthetic polymers with wool or contains polyolefin or polypropylene, it is most certainly made by a machine. At the same time, a rug identified as an Oriental but was made in Italy, Belgium or any other place in western part of Europe is more likely to be a machine made rug. Identifying Oriental rugs becomes even harder when it comes to wool piles made from Egypt, Turkey and other countries in central Europe such as Bulgaria, Albania and Romania. Each of these nations has produced hand-woven Oriental rugs for about fifty years now, including a production of immense numbers of Oriental rugs imitations through machines. This is why we would suggest you do not buy handmade Oriental rugs from Bulgaria, Albania and Romania. These countries have perfected the art of handmade rug imitations and most people wouldn’t know the difference. However, these countries would be a good place to get an authentic handmade Oriental rug imitation for a low price (if you are a good negotiator). Even after using these tips and still can’t identify an Oriental rug from a man made one, you can always turn to a trustworthy expert for help. Reputable rug shops in the greater Toronto area and across Canada would be a good starting point. Always check company reviews online to make sure a company is reputable.
We hope this article answered some of the questions you had about identifying authentic handmade Oriental rugs and helped you make better decisions with rug purchases.

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