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Introduction to Persian Rugs

Oriental Rug from Kashan

A Persian rug or Persian carpet, also known as Iranian carpet or Iranian rug, is a type of heavy decorative textile produced in Iran. Ancient Iran (until the 20th century AD) was called Persia – hence the variations in the nomenclature. Persian rugs have a long and rich history – some scholars estimate that the first pile carpets might have been woven there as early as 2500 years ago. Out of all oriental rugs made within the ‘Rug Belt’, Persian carpets have always enjoyed the greatest popularity and prestige. They are characterized by refined workmanship, a vast variety of awe-inspiring designs and deep cultural significance.

Persian rugs are commonly considered the most authentic of all, however, this is not entirely true. In fact, they have always competed with Turkish (Anatolian) rugs – we may safely state that both types played a major role in the stylistic development of woven fabrics.

Genuine Persian rugs are distinguished by a complex, 'calligraphic' character. Their most important feature is always the pattern and line. Sometimes Persian weavers implement geometric style motifs into their designs – the field of such a Persian rug would be occupied by abstract or stylized figures. Nonetheless, the curvilinear style has always dominated – it is the main reason behind Persian carpets’ worldwide success. Despite tribal wars, migrations, rebellions, and commercial impact, the art of Persian rug-weaving has endured and flourished. The rug-weaving methods developed by ancient oriental cultures were so refined that they have changed very little over time.

Persian Rugs’ Design

Persian Style Rugs

Persian weavers created and developed many decorative designs, with the predominance of fine and intricate arabesques that constitute the backdrop for opulent medallions, palmettes, other abstract decorative elements or realistic flower and animal motifs. In terms of shape, square Persian rugs are the most common, since they were made on traditional looms, however, there are instances of oval Persian rugs. The fact that Persia was under the influence of Shiite Islam, much more liberal than the Anatolian Sunni doctrine, gave its weavers greater freedom of artistic expression, allowing them to create images of humans, which was strictly forbidden in other Islamic countries. From the 19th century onwards, representations of human figures even started to dominate Persian rug designs.

The color palettes of Persian rugs are very rich and diverse but never too gaudy or contrasting. Usually, there are no extensive one-color fields – colors are placed separately, often outlined with black, arranged with great panache into a harmonious whole. Red and blue as well as the combination of light motifs against a dark background tend to prevail. Naturally, the colors of Persian rugs coming from nomadic tribes (characterized by abstract or stylized geometric designs) are far less subtle.

Traditionally, Persian weavers worked with the asymmetric knot, known as the Persian knot or Senneh. However, the symmetric knot, known as the Turkish or Ghiordes, was also applied in some regions. The weavers used wool, cotton, silk, and threads of gold and silver for the most luxurious carpets. Persian rugs range from small nomadic or village rugs to very large palatial and urban carpets. The most classic compositional scheme consists of a medallion in the center surrounded by the aforementioned arabesques.

What is the Difference Between an Oriental Rug and a Persian Rug?

Antique Persian Rug

Oriental rugs are rugs that come from the Orient – the part of the world comprising anything that belongs to the Eastern world, in relation to Europe, the Occident. This mainly includes the Near, Middle and Far East but, in the colloquial meaning of the term, also northern Africa. Oriental rugs constitute probably the largest family of floor coverings in the whole world, consisting of Turkish rugs, Chinese Rugs, Moroccan Rugs, Indian Rugs, even Caucasian and Bessarabian rugs, and, of course, Persian rugs.

Persian rugs, on the other hand, come strictly from the territory of ancient Iran. To sum up, every Persian rug is Oriental yet not every Oriental rug has to be Persian.

Persian Style Rugs

The truth is, not all floor coverings with Persian motifs actually come from Persia. Some rugs featuring a ‘Persian design’, also known as Persian style rugs, were made elsewhere, for instance, Indo-Persian rugs. These floor coverings, although originating in India, have Persian patterns and structural elements, and this is just one of many examples. Influences from various, even very distant weaving cultures have been mixing for centuries due to merchants and artisans traveling along trade routes.

Today, Persian style rugs imitating the glorious appeal of antique masterpieces are often made by western companies. These modern carpets are sometimes a good, more affordable substitute for traditional Persian rugs, but they usually lack their soul and depth. 

Types of Persian Rugs

Antique Persian rugs constitute the largest and most diverse category of textiles, synonymous with masterful craftsmanship and sublime art. Their meticulous designs convey the history and beliefs of the Orient – each motif, line, dot or shade carries profound meaning. Thus, the face of every antique Oriental rug is in fact a story told by a weaver. To read it, one has to study particular elements of the rug and know the place of its origin, like the town, village, tribe or at least the region.

Magnificent and Diverse Persian Rugs from Tabriz

Antique Persian Tabriz Rug

Tabriz is distinguished by perhaps the longest and richest heritage of rug weaving. Therefore, authentic Persian rugs coming from this weaving center are among the greatest and most diverse in the world. The history of carpet manufacturing in Tabriz reaches back to the 16th century when the region was under the rule of the Safavid dynasty.

Tabriz carpets are hard to set apart from other Persian rugs in terms of designs, motifs, and colorations. Why? During its long existence, Tabriz has absorbed influences from practically all Persian weaving centers as well as other cultures and countries.

The repertoire of Tabriz rug designs is abundant – it consists of medallions, all-over classic motifs,  like boteh or Göz, floral and foliage-themed patterns, rectilinear forms as well as curvilinear, scrolling designs. Nonetheless, there is something that may help one recognize a rug from Tabriz. It is the astounding quality measured in units of knot density, also known as “raj”. In a Persian rug from Tabriz, the density fluctuates around 110 raj. Beautiful Persian rugs from Tabriz will be a stunning addition to any décor, introducing not only artistic and utilitarian value but also a rich historical layer.

Unique Persian Rugs from Heriz

Heriz rugs are regional cousins from northwest Persia with Serapi rugs and Bakshaish rugs. They are known for their quality, saturated color palettes, as well as strong, geometric designs. The distinct style of Heriz rugs builds upon classic schemes including splendid flower-head medallions, corner spandrels and multiple borders with angular vinery. Botanical and floral patterns, as well as bold palmettes, may also appear. The motifs are rendered in a geometric fashion with preservation of the refreshing simplicity of the line.

Although Persian rugs from Heriz come from sophisticated city workshops, they still maintain a firm tribal quality. One may encounter Heriz carpets with allover designs of willow trees or ascending shield palmettes, which makes them resemble small antique Kazakh rugs made by the Caucasian villagers in the north. However, creations from Heriz have a decisively larger format.

Heriz rugs are solid and dependable thanks to large knots and a special kind of wool. Sheep living in the Heriz area drink water with traces of copper, which makes their fleece stronger and gives it a unique patina-like glow. The color palette of Heriz carpets is immense. It includes jewel tones of cherry red, navy blue, and saffron yellow, pale terracotta, seafoam, powder blue, and ivory, among others.

Luxurious Persian Rugs from Kashan

If someone is looking for top-notch quality Persian rugs, they should turn their eyes towards Kashan. Located in the center of Iran in the Isfahan province, Kashan is one of the country’s oldest cities. Rugs have been made there since at least the Sasanian Empire (224 to 642 CE). Scholars distinguish two major periods of rug production in Kashan. One took place during the Safavid reign in the 16th and 17th centuries. The next one dates back to the late 19th and early 20th century, under the Qajar rule. Rug production in Kashan was intended for export but also for the domestic market, to cater to the Persian upper class.

Oriental carpets from Kashan belong to the finest and highest-quality rugs in the world. They surpass even the legendary Tabriz floor coverings. Kashan rugs have remained practically unchanged in their form since the 16th century. The earliest pieces from the weaving center were hand-knotted for members of the Safavid dynasty. A great deal of these outstanding carpets were made with high-quality wool on a soft cotton foundation with the addition of silk. Some incorporate a silk pile on a cotton foundation. However, the finest Kashan carpets consist entirely of delicate silk, both in the foundation and the pile. The pile is tightly knotted, with knot density ranging from 100 to over 800 knots per square inch.

Silk Persian rugs from Kashan represent the classic oriental art of design. They incorporate popular motifs like central medallions with pendant systems enhanced by corner spandrels and repeating floral compositions. The color palette concentrates on red, ivory, blue and shades of green. Kashan carpets are an investment that will only increase in value over time.

Mesmerizing Persian Carpets from Qum

Persian Carpet from Qum

Old age does not always determine the rank of a weaving center. Qum is a great example of a relatively young center that is highly esteemed and produces authentic Persian rugs. Qum is a famous Persian pilgrimage city, graced by impressive architectural monuments. However, it had not produced rugs before the 1920s. The magnificent Oriental rugs from Qum (also known as Qom rugs, Ghom rugs, or Ghum rugs) have rather short piles. Why? Their primary purpose was wall decoration instead of floor covering. Their size ranges from small to medium. Many consist of luxurious silk, while others are woven with very fine wool. Their knot density is impressive, reaching 400-860 knots per square inch.

Qum designs are very diverse. Among the most frequently applied motifs are medallions, flowers, and vinery, spandrels or various allover repetitive patterns, like boteh. Qum rugs bearing labor-intensive and deeply symbolic classic motifs like the Tree of Life or weeping willows are of exceptional value.

The color palette used in Oriental rugs from Qum strongly relies on the characteristic Persian ‘royal color trio’ – the combination of blue, red and gold or ivory. Qum carpets belong to the category of city rugs with curvilinear, flowing lines. Being more moderate than traditional Persian rugs, they are well-adapted to contemporary aesthetic standards. An authentic Persian rug from Qum will be a perfect addition to any modern interior arrangement.

Sturdy Persian Rugs from Shiraz

Oriental Rug from Shiraz

A Shiraz carpet is a type of Persian rug made in Shiraz and the villages surrounding the city. In the 13th century, Shiraz became the leading center of arts and letters due to the encouragement of its ruler and the presence of many Persian scholars and artists. It was the capital of Persia during the Zand dynasty from 1750 until 1800. Shiraz was known as the city of poets, literature, wine (despite Iran being an Islamic republic) and flowers.

The designs of Shiraz carpets come from settled tribal weavers, thus, they mimic Qashqai, Khamseh (Basseri and Khamseh Arabs), Afshar, Abadeh, and Luri designs. Because their weavers used fixed looms instead of portable ones, these rugs tend to be larger and often coarser than their tribal counterparts. Shiraz rugs are woven on a cotton or wool foundation with a woolen pile. These semi-nomadic rugs are almost always geometric in style – small medallions or geometric figures scattered across the rugs prevail. Strong reds and brown are the most typical colors of Shiraz rugs. These Oriental carpets are hard-wearing and compliment wooden floors extremely well.

The average knot count in a Persian carpet from Shiraz is around 120 KPSI (knots per square inch). Shiraz rugs are distinguished by a firm and sturdy construction which translates to their incredible durability. Simple but complex, coarse but delicate in their beauty, they are an exceptional example of semi-tribal rugs, full of paradoxes yet also full of charm. They will easily fit into any contemporary interior, bringing in geometric order and a distinct Oriental vibe.

Dimensions of Vintage Persian Rugs and Antique Persian Rugs from Iran

Large Persian RugAuthentic Persian rugs from Iran come in all sorts of colors and designs but also sizes. Each weaving center had its preferred style and made floor coverings for different purposes. There were small prayer rugs, common medium carpets and large Persian rugs for the rich. When choosing a floor covering for your own home, you should consider which size will suit you best. Only then the rug may create the most practical and appealing foundation for the entire interior design. Keep in mind that next to introducing color, pattern, and warmth into the décor, oriental rugs are the best space definers. We present various sizes of antique Persian rugs, hoping that this will help you choose an ideal rug for your interior.

Large Persian Rugs

The beauty of authentic, large Persian rugs lies both in their elegant designs and great weave quality – such a rug, woven using good wool, can survive decades without any signs of wear. It is impossible to find two identical big wool Persian rugs. Oversized Persian rugs were usually made for the Royal Court and the nobility. These royal Persian rugs often became diplomatic gifts or served religious purposes.

Large Persian rugs are longer than 10 feet on one side (some are 12×18 feet or larger). They will look perfect in ample rooms or as part of a wall-to-wall arrangement.

Medium Persian Rugs

Not too big, not too small – medium Persian rugs have been produced by all weaving centers, making them the most common of all. Due to this fact, their variety is immense – you may find a medium authentic Persian rug in almost every style, pile length, and design. This freedom of choice makes them popular among customers around the world.

Moreover, there are practical aspects. Medium Persian rugs easily fit into contemporary apartments. They may work on their own, as part of layering or any other rug arrangement.

Small Persian Rugs

The majority of small Persian rugs belongs to the category of prayer rugs, which have served Muslims during their daily worship routine for centuries. Handy and portable, prayer rugs provide ideal insulation from the ground and a comfortable platform to pray on. Nowadays, these rugs are usually treated purely as objects of art, especially in the Western world.

Small, authentic Persian rugs, especially those not of religious nature, are an ideal addition to every interior décor. They may complement a bathroom, bedroom, kitchen or even a vestibule. Small Persian rugs enhance the design, creating tiny islands of visual pleasure.

Persian Rug Styles

Antique Persian Rug with Medallion

Scholars find it extremely difficult to unravel mysteries of the past that reach back millennia. They suspect that weaving started humbly with the nomads who made tribal Persian rugs. Later, their lore permeated to village and town workshops to finally become the flagship craft of Persia, curated by its rulers under Royal Court Manufactories.

Some say it was exactly the opposite. As weaving requires the cooperation of many artisans, the supply of materials and dyes, they claim it was developed in settled communities and then picked up by the nomads. The truth is, we don’t really know how the weaving was born. And perhaps it is not of such great importance, as each environment in which antique Persian rugs were made largely contributed to their overall shape. Depending on the exact place of origin, Persian rugs represent diverse, simultaneous lines of tradition and reflect the history of Iran and its various peoples.

Tabriz, Isfahan, Kerman, Meshad, Qum or Nain are only several of many historically grounded and renowned Persian weaving centers. Each of them can boast of its distinct weaving techniques and designs. Yet, in general, they happen to have more similarities than differences. What connects them is a profound respect for beauty and quality, expressed by the use of high-quality materials as well as beautiful colors and patterns.

Village and nomadic vintage Persian rugs have a heartwarming, absolutely irresistible charm, widely desired by aficionados of design. They tend to carry bold, direct designs and are made with slightly coarse wool. Nevertheless, the raw purity of artistic expression makes them incredibly authentic.

The most sophisticated are perhaps the Oriental rugs woven in the Safavid court manufactories of Isfahan during the 16th century. Their level of excellence is so high, that they have been elevated to the rank of high art. Presently, many of these best Persian rugs are treasured in museums and private collections all over the world. Their most important role, however, was setting up the sublime artistic tradition that was kept alive through the entire existence of the Persian Empire and continues until this day.

Persian Rugs NYC

Antique Persian Rug

Are you wondering “where to find real Persian rugs near me?” Doris Leslie Blau presents a collection of hand-knotted Persian rugs for sale, both in New York City and online. We pride ourselves on bringing these magnificent treasures of the Orient to western customers. Each piece in our stock, from antique or vintage Persian rugs to modern Persian rugs, is 100% authentic, hand-made from the best materials. You can find all our Persian rugs’ prices on the website – most Persian rugs are expensive, they are rarely cheap, but you will surely find some affordable Persian rugs in our stock too.

We make every effort to maintain the highest standards in terms of both our products and services. The considerable number of our satisfied customers is probably the best recommendation of all. Among them, you will find names such as Brad Ford, Robert De Niro, Michael J. Fox, Tommy Hilfiger, and Julianne Moore. We dare to advertise ourselves as the most trusted purveyor of Persian rugs in NYC.

Fine Persian rugs are ideal for the living room, which is usually the heart of every home – it is there that you receive your guests and spend the most time with your family. Colorful Persian rugs, like red Persian rugs or turquoise Persian rugs, will become the jewels of your décor.

Persian Rugs for Sale at DLB

Oriental rugs for sale at DLB – no matter your preference for color, texture, style or vintage, DLB offers the widest selection of authentic Persian rugs and carpets and vintage Persian rugs for sale in NYC and other parts of the world. Within our stock, there is a Persian rug for sale to suit your taste in every size imaginable, from room-sized to large area rugs.

We know everything about old Persian rugs, and we want to share our expertise on oriental rug styles, their history, characteristics, as well as answer any questions and doubts you might have with regard to antique Persian rugs for sale. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us by email or via telephone.

We approach the subject of carpets with passion and devotion as we all are under the spellbinding influence of these masterful, hand-woven floor coverings from the East. Bearing this deep love for eternal beauty in our hearts, we are dedicated to spreading knowledge about magnificent Oriental rugs in order to make people appreciate, but most importantly – understand – all of the complexities and stories woven into the intertwining warp and weft of every awe-inspiring Persian rug.

Please visit Doris Leslie Blau Showroom:

DLB - Main Showroom at Interior Arts Building
DLB @ Interior Arts Building (Main Showroom)
306 East 61st Street, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10065
Antique Rugs: 212-586-5511
New & Custom Rugs: 212-752-7623