The Difference Between Persian and Oriental Rugs

Rugs in our showroom

What’s the Difference Between Persian and Oriental Rugs?

As you search for a handmade rug for your home or business, you’ve no doubt noticed that the terms Persian and Oriental tend to be used interchangeably when it comes to these rugs.

So you may be wondering if there’s even a difference between them.

Our answer? There is a difference that matters because the history of a rug and the country of its origin are integral to the workmanship as well as the design of the rug.

In fact, knowing the difference between a Persian and an Oriental rug is of particular importance if you’re looking for an antique rug.

In a nutshell (and by the strictest of definitions), an Oriental rug is one that is hand-knotted in Iran, Asia, China, Russia, India, Turkey, Pakistan, Tibet, or Nepal.

As for Persian rugs, these also are Oriental rugs, but they are made only in Iran (former Persia). It’s a rectangle and square situation.

Many Persian rug designs actually hold the names of the cities in which they originated (a Tabriz design, for example). The designs’ popularity grew over time and even though the patterns now are made in different cities, the designs have retained the names of their city of origin.

A Persian rug also tends to have a thicker pile than an Oriental rug (up to 160 knots per square inch) and has extremely rich colors woven into their unique designs.

Persian rugs also are considered to be of higher quality than an Oriental rug, although hand-knotted Oriental rugs today also are of exceptional workmanship. This difference in quality also means a difference in price, with Persian rugs being worth a bit more than Oriental rugs.

A Persian rug is made by many skilled artisans, who work hundreds of hours on one rug. A 9’ x 12’ foot rug, for example, can take longer than 14 months to complete, with four to five craftsmen working on the rug for up to six hours a day.

Oriental rugs also offer beautiful workmanship, designs and colors, particularly silk rugs. While you may think the silk would be too delicate, these rugs are incredibly sturdy (although they do require a bit more care than wool rugs). Silk Oriental rugs do diverge from their Persian cousins in that they tend to use more traditional Buddhist designs and often use a palette of blue, yellow and apricot for their colors.

If you would like to learn more about the art of rugs, call us at 972-733-0400.

The Difference Between Hand-Knotted and Machine-Knotted Persian Rugs

Handmade Persian vs. Machine Made Persian RugWhat’s the Difference Between Hand-Knotted and Machine-Knotted Persian Rugs?

A hand-knotted Persian rug will be much more expensive than one that has been knotted or made by machine.

In fact – and most importantly – a machine-knotted rug is not an authentic Persian rug. It is possible to find machine made rugs in Persian designs, in fact, you can even browse this type of rug at Behnam Rug’s showroom! But nothing compares to an authentic Persian rug in terms of quality and longevity (Don’t worry, we have plenty of those too!).

A quick check to determine if a rug is hand- or machine-made is to turn the rug over and see if you can make out the rug’s pattern. If the pattern is as clear on the rug’s back as it is on the front, the rug is hand knotted.

The next step to check if the rug is hand-knotted is to bend the rug backwards to expose its pile’s roots. If, at the base of the pile’s tufts/roots, you can see row upon row of knots, you have a hand-knotted rug.

There are two types of machine-made rugs.

The first is a machine-made rug that is made by a machine called a power loom. This is an electronically automated loom that’s controlled by computers. These looms allow for several rugs of the same design to be made at pretty much the same time.

These rugs can indeed be quite beautiful, but they do not go up in value. In fact, a machine-made rug probably will only last – if well cared for – for about 20 years. A hand-knotted rug, on the other hand, can last for centuries with proper care and maintenance (that includes professional rug cleaning!).

The second type of machine-made rug is one that isn’t quite fully made by machine, but neither is it hand knotted. These are known as hand-tufted rugs and they are made by a worker taking a canvas with the rug’s design painted upon it, and using a tool to push a strand of wool through it. The worker continues pushing different colored wool strands through the canvas until the design is complete. The rug is finished by gluing a backing onto the back of the canvas to prevent the design from coming apart. Find out more about hand-tufted rugs here.

If you’ve recently purchased a rug and are wondering if it’s a hand-knotted rug or not, bring it to Behnam Rugs in Dallas. We’d be happy to take a look at the rug and ascertain whether it’s a hand-knotted rug or not. Contact us at 972-733-0400.

If you’re in the market for a new rug, whether it’s machine made or one-of-a-kind, our showroom is home to thousands of quality rugs from around the world. We have something for every style and budget, so please do stop by.

5 Indications of a Persian Rug’s Quality

Antique Rug5 Signs of a Persian Rug’s Quality

You’ve found a handmade Persian rug with a design you adore. You want to purchase it, but you want to make sure it’s a quality rug – after all the rug seller is asking for a good amount of money for this gorgeous “investment piece.”

Read below for 5 indications of a rug’s quality.

  1. If the dealer is saying the rug is handmade or hand-woven, it should have no backing at all attached to it. You should just see tiny knots on the rug’s back side. In fact, the design on the back of a handmade rug should be almost as clear as it appears on the face of the rug.
  2. Take a look at the back of the rug. A rug made by machine will have a uniform warp-and-weft grid while a handmade or hand-knotted rug’s back will have variations and slightly wavy wefts and warps. Perfection is an indication that the rug may be machine made.
  3. You’re not looking for a rug without any imperfections. Handmade rugs will have a few – they are made by hand, after all. Still, a quality rug will lie straight and flat on the floor and should be realistically regular in its shape.
  4. The colors should be lustrous and the rug should be made of wool or silk. Its colors should be balanced and a new rug’s colors shouldn’t have bled or faded. Note that silk rugs have a more noticeable sheen than wool rugs. However, it shouldn’t be too shiny, nor should its colors be exceptionally harsh or bright.Quality Persian Rug

This antique Sarouk rug is a great example of how an antique rug retains its colors over the years. The colors of a new, high-quality Persian rug should be brighter, but not much more so.

5. Perhaps the most important component of a rug’s quality is the density of its knots. To check for knot density, press your fingers into the base of the rug’s pile. The knots should feel as if they are packed tightly. You should do this on different quality carpets so that you can get a “feel” for how dense a rug should be. Many rug dealers – such as Behnam Rugs – are happy to take you around their showroom to teach you how to check for knot density.

You should check out many rugs before you find one to adore; don’t buy the first rug you like. Purchasing a fine Persian rug should be looked at as an investment – in time and in money. Take care as you shop; don’t rush it.

Many reputable rug dealers, including Behnam Rugs, will allow customers to take a rug home with them for a day or two to make sure they love the way the rug looks in their home. All you need to do is leave a credit card on file and return the rug in the condition you brought it home in if you don’t end up purchasing it.

Of course, you should purchase a rug you love and, while it’s certainly fine – and even wise – to purchase a quality Persian rug for its investment value, it’s far more important that you love the rug’s design, it’s beauty, its quality, and how it adds so much to your home’s interior.

As mentioned above, we’re more than happy to take you by the proverbial hand in our Dallas showroom and teach you how to ascertain a handmade rug’s quality. Contact Behnam Rugs at 972-733-0400.


Persian Rugs: How They’re Made

Just How Handmade Are Persian Rugs?

When we say Persian rugs are handmade, we really mean it! Every part of the traditional Persian rug creation process– shearing the sheep, dyeing the wool, creating the yarn, weaving the fibers, washing and finishing the rug, and everything in between- is done by hand. This blog will focus on the first steps in the Persian rug creation process: gathering and dyeing the fibers.

We’ve included photos from both Indian and Iranian artisans in this blog post, as the overall rug making process is quite similar in both countries.

Gathering the Wool

The rug making process begins with gathering the fibers that will be used in the finished rug. Typically, Persian rugs are made of wool, so we’ll be focusing on the wool gathering and dyeing process. Although you can find rugs made of other materials or blends of other materials with wool, the average Persian rug is 100% wool.

Most Persian rugs are made of sheep’s wool. Although you can sometimes find rugs made of other types of wool as well, sheep wool is the most desirable. The quality of this wool varies widely, and not all wool is equal. The quality of wool is highly dependent on factors such as the diet of the sheep and the environment where it has lived.

Additionally, different areas of the sheep’s body have softer or coarser wool. For example, the wool on the belly of a sheep is much softer than the wool found on their backs. This is because the wool on the belly is generally untouched by environmental stressors, like wind and dirt.

This shepherd is shearing his sheep. This usually occurs right before the peak summer months. The wool is high in oil content, making it desirable for use in Persian rugs. The sheep also gets a much-needed haircut before the heat becomes unbearable.

Once the wool is sheared, it must be washed and spun. You can’t just start weaving with the unfinished wool! The wool is thoroughly washed by hand in large buckets of water. At the end of the day, even the softest wool still needs a good cleaning.

The cleaning process removes impurities, such as dirt, small bits of plants, and other things that might find their way into a sheep’s coat. After it has received a nice and thorough washing, the wool can be spun into yarn, which will be used in the actual weaving process. Some rug makers spin their yarn using a spinning wheel, but many rug makers still spin the yarn by hand.

Women in India Spinning Yarn
These women are part of the rug making process in India. They are spinning the wool into yarn using a simple machine which requires a high level of skill to operate.

Dyeing the Wool

Next up is the dyeing process. You might be reading this and thinking that there is no way people still dye the fibers by hand. Think again! People still dye the wool by hand, and the practice is still very much alive in Iran.

Rug dyes fall into two main categories: natural dyes (also known as vegetable dyes) and chemical dyes. Some rugs are made using vegetable dyes, and some rugs are made using chemical dyes. There are pros and cons to both types of dyes. There are also some colors that can only be created using vegetable dyes, while other colors can only be created using chemical dyes.

Vegetable dye produces the traditional colors many rug enthusiasts love, however, it is also very difficult to reproduce these colors using vegetable dye. This is because there is a limited source of materials, and one batch of saffron-based dye can look different from another batch due to the inconsistencies between harvests. It is not unusual to see variations in the color of a rug. For example, the color green can sometimes look different on the same rug because the mixing process doesn’t always produce the exact same shade. Compared to chemical dyes, vegetable dyes age beautifully. The colors become more subtle over time as they fade, yet they still retain their initial beauty.

Women Making Vegetable Dye
These women are making dye using vegetables, which you can see behind them. The dye pigment is produced when the vegetables are ground up into a fine powder. Although these women are in India, the dyeing process is just like this in countries such as Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey.

Chemical dyes are far easier to reproduce. All one needs to do to reproduce the exact same color multiple times is to record the exact amounts used. Chemical dyes also provide a more uniform look compared to vegetable dyes. Depending on your tastes, this can also be a negative attribute, as many people prefer the imperfect look that natural dyes have. The imprecise nature of reproducing vegetable dye colors imparts character and charm to the rug.

Man Measuring Out Chrome Dye
This man is measuring out the exact amount of chemical dye he needs in order to reproduce this color multiple times.

Pigments are poured into a dye vat. Next, the dye is mixed in. Once the mixing process is complete, the wool yarn can be added in. The wool is pushed in with a wooden paddle, spun around multiple times, and thoroughly mixed into the batch of dye. This is to ensure that the colors are applied to the wool fibers evenly. The fibers should be saturated in color with no blotchy areas or undyed spots.

Dye Being Poured Into a Vat
In Iran, this artisan is pouring the dye pigments into a vat. The pigment will be mixed with water, and then the wool can be dyed.

Once the fibers have been dyed, they are laid out to dry. After the drying process, the yarn is brushed thoroughly to remove any tangles and knots. Once that step is complete, the yarn is ready to be woven into a Persian rug.

Wool Fibers Drying After Being Dyed
This wool yarn is drying off after being dyed.

If you are interested in learning more about the rug creation process, call the experts at Behnam Rugs at 972-733-0400. If you are in the market for a Persian rug, read our rug buyer’s handbook.

Rug Shopping Abroad Seminar March 16th

Rug Shopping Abroad

On March 16th, 2019 Behnam Rugs hosted the first educational brunch seminar in its ongoing lecture series. Attendees learned the following and more:

  • What to buy and what not to buy
  • How to buy quality handmade rugs in different countries you are visiting
  • How to recognize real silk from viscose rayon silk  
  • How to negotiate a better rug price

You can learn how to tell the difference between real silk and fake silk by reading our blog.

Images of people enjoying the event