First of all, look for items made solely in Iran. If you are buying outside of this country, the seller should be able to show you a certificate of authenticity containing rug’s place of origin. The name might be a good hint to its origins as carpets are often named after the province or city where they were woven – for example, if seeing a rug called Kerman or Tabriz, you can usually be sure that it was made in Iran. While Turkish, Moroccan or Chinese woven goods are often of similar quality, they are collectively known as Oriental, not Persian.
Do not expect a Persian rug to be cheap. The price is a good indicator of quality, so the lower it is, the more suspicion it should arouse. The cost depends on materials used, and those most popular for Persian rugs are silk, wool, cotton, jute, animal hair or a combination of them. Any trace of synthetic fibers usually means that the carpet is fake.
When making a purchase, it’s important to use all of our senses. Ask to flip the rug and see if its back looks the same as the front or ask the seller for a photo. If it differs, consider choosing another one. Authentic Persian carpets use a Senneh knot, made by passing a strand under one warp, then over and around the next using wooden looms, producing a consistent pile. However, it should be treated as more of a preliminary step, as machine-woven carpets often have the same pattern on both sides.
The number of knots per square inch (KPSI) can be a great help in undermining the authenticity of a Persian tug. As a general rule, the more knots, the better. For an example, a high quality Tabriz carpet can have around 350 KPSI. Some sellers use raj as a form of measurement. Raj is an equivalent of 2.76 inches and be wary if it’s used for any rug other than Tabriz.
Take your time to look around the shop or an online store of your choice. If you can spot several carpets with very similar designs, this might hint that they were machine-made and not hand-woven. While Persians have the most symmetrical patterns, they still exhibit minor imperfections, which are an inseparable part of hand-craft. Sometimes intuition can be the best advisor on buying authentic rugs. If something seems off, it’s best to walk away.
Buying an authentic Persian rug is a difficult but rewarding process. If enough attention is paid and some precautions are made, you will receive an instant heirloom which will serve for the generations to come.