Caucasian Rugs

Causcasian Rug (BP)

The country of Caucasian rugs lies between the black and the Caspian seas on both sides of the Caucasus Mountains, extending south to Iran and touching turkey on the southwest. The mountain range which gives this country its name extends for seven hundred miles from the sea of azof to the Caspian. The dariel pass, the only access route is flanked by 4,000 foot high cliffs. The pass is currently under Russian military jurisdiction and tightly controlled. The country is interesting and picturesque, with magnificent scenery, extensive forests, rich pasturage for sheep and large cultivated areas where food is raised for domestic consumption. Fine wool is produced and some cotton is raised. The people of these areas have an ancient history. Legends abound, among them that Jason and the search for the Golden Fleece, Colchis strand at the foot of the Caucasus, and Mount Kazbek is the scene of Prometheus’ sufferings. Wars and skirmishes proved to be a significant cultural influence so that remnants of warring tribes of various nations inhabit this country today. Alexander travelled northward to the dariel pass, as did pompey and Justinian. The turks conquered the native tribes and were later expelled under the leadership of David II, a Georgian prince. The twelfth century marks their glorious age, with Queen Tamara as their leader and idol. They succumbed to Genghis khan, to the Persians and, last, to Russia in 1859 after a struggle of twenty years under their chief, shamyl. Of the native people there are sixty or seventy different tribes, speaking different languages and dialects.

The art of rug weaving was most likely transmitted from the Persians, but as the geography of the area makes travel so difficult, the textile arts have developed with little outside influence. The Caucasian rugs have a distinct character making them readily distinguishable from most Persian, turkoman and Turkish rugs types.

These rugs have distinct geometric pattern on a clear ground with little or no shading. The modern Caucasian textiles, which have been only recently promoted by the Russian government after some twenty years’ lapse, are most exclusively geometric. They usually have one or more central medallions, geometric ornamentation in the centerfield, and on the borders. The colors of the finer pieces are muted tones. There are numerous Caucasian rugs currently marketed with very bright red, green and blue. However, it is generally felt that these rugs are of lesser quality than those with softer colors.

Almost every conceivable geometric form has been incorporated into the Caucasian carpets: the eight pointed star of the medes as well as the six-pointed star, the triangle, diamond, square, medallions of various shapes, tarantula, scorpion figures, and all-over fretwork. The “latch hook”, thought to be a modification of the swastika, is a common feature of rugs of this district and on account of its almost universal use, it has been called the trademark of the Caucasian rugs. The “barber-pole” stripe which is quite similar to that in turkoman rugs, is common to Caucasian border design. Another characteristic border design consists of motifs with saw-teeth on each side. When these represented with alternate goblet-shaped figures, the motif is said to represent the lotus in water. The countries of the trans-Caucasus, separated from Italy only by the river aras, reflect at times a distinct Persian influence, especially in the use of floral designs.

The names of the rugs of this district are not nearly as well-known as those of Persian

Origin. Rug making has never been as organized as in iran and the trade routes did not exist so as to promote production for export until more recent times. Generally, the rugs were made the people of the area for personal use. Not until the past twenty years has Russia encouraged production of carpets for commercial purpose. For some time the government suppressed rug weaving in favor of agricultural expansion. However, today, Caucasian carpets are becoming more readily available. They are actively supported by the government, and exports have grown considerably over the recent decade


Persian Rugs

Persian rugs are products of Iran which was known as Persia until 1935. The rugs are handmade in factories employing upwards of fifteen weavers, and by individuals, families and small group of cottage industry.

The rugs produced in factories tend to be standardized in respect to materials, dyes, knotting, and patterns. The weavers are employed to produce specific products and follow directions supplied by their employers. As a result there are few variations in factory made rugs. There are also limited number  of special order rugs produced for individuals and export firms. Qom and Nain are two of the most prominent sources of factory rugs, and produce some of the finest in Iran today.

Nomadic weavers and village craftsmen produce approximately 70 percent of the rugs in Iran. The majority of these rugs are exported, and currently the western countries provide the large market for them. The leasing countries of purchase are the United States, Germany, England and Switzerland.

Identifying Persian rugs can be difficult. There are many variations in design, technique of weave, wool, dyes and sizes. The designs are diverse, but if a general type were too named, the floral patterns are the most typical of Persian rugs. The techniques of weave are also diverse. The two basic know of forms are used, Persian and Turkish, as well as the jufi knot in poor quality pieces. The side and end finishes incorporate both overcast and selvaged sides and ends fringed and selvaged. The wool grades range from soft, shiny wool of the kirman rigs to the coarser, somewhat dull wool seen in hamadan rugs. Dyes currently used are almost all synthetic. There are, however, some nomadic Persian rugs still dyed with natural substances, but these are the exception.  Regarding rug sizes, the Persian rugs are made in all ranges, though not all types are produced in large, room-sized carpets.

Types of Persian rugs

Abadeh                                              Afshar

Ardebil                                              Bijar

Feraghan                                          Gorevan

Hamadan                                          Herat

Herez                                                 Isfahan

Josheghan                                       Kashan

Khorassan                                       kirman

Kudistan                                           luristan

Meshed                                             Qom

Sarouk                                               senneh

Shiraz                                                    Tabriz


Choosing Your Rug

When considering the purchase of an Oriental rug there are few guidelines which help in making a wise choice. Since there are many factors that influence the value of a given rug, it is important to remember the steps of its manufacture. With this understanding, better choices can then be made, and possibly a costly mistake avoided.

As we have mentioned, oriental carpets are woven on looms. Obviously, the size of the carpet is dependent on the loom. Rigid looms, also called horizontal looms, are those used by most nomadic tribes. The rugs produced on these are limited to the height and width of the loom, usually no longer than seven feet. Adjustable looms, with rollers to accommodate the long warp threads on one end and finished section on the other, are adapted to much larger sizes. Generally, the rugs produced in the “factories” where many weavers work on one carpet, and where adjustable looms are used, are the only sources of room-sized carpets.

Natural dyes:
Oriental carpets are produced from yarn dyed with either natural or synthetic dyes. The natural dyes are made from plant and animal sources, which have been processed to produce the desired hues. Synthetic dyes are chemically manufactured and are available prepackaged, thereby saving months of preparation otherwise required.

Color range:
Generally, specific types of carpets are available in a limited range of colors or combinations of colors. This is not an absolute standard, however it is something to consider when purchasing a carpet. For example, if pastel tones are desired, the varieties of carpets available are limited to a few Persian and Chinese rugs and some Indian reproduction. Likewise if red tones are required, the choices is vast including almost every variety of Turkoman, Caucasian and Persian carpet.

Carpets have varying textures resulting from: the foundation threads (warp and woof), the knots (type and number per square inch), length of pile, and the type of wool used in manufacture. An excellent carpet need not have and extremely right weave, long or short pile, or finely spun threads. Each distinct type of carpet has its own characteristics that lend it its particular qualities. For example, kirman rugs have been traditionally associated with their soft, lustrous wool, whereas Hamadan carpets are produced from coarser fibers somewhat dull by comparison. These distinct features lend themselves to certain kinds of wear. It is important to consider this factor of wear before purchasing a carpet for a particular use. If the chosen carpet is to be used in a high traffic area, a hallway for instance, one of the more durable rugs would be best suited.

Design features:
Designs range from simple, geometric forms to extremely ornate floral and animal motifs. Historically, designs used in rugs manufacture were associated with either specific areas of production or with the tribe who produced the carpet. These motifs were, more or less, the trademark of a given rug type. Thus, with most old carpets and many of the ones still made today, one can identify the carpet through design and physical characteristics. We can only discuss the origin of the design in many modern machine made carpets but modern carpets are just as durable and rewarding as the old ones.

Overcast or salvaged sides:
rugs are finished on the sides and the ends. The sides are most commonly overcast with yarn or salvaged. Overcast sides are bound with yarn the full length of the rug. This protects the foundation threads from wear.  Salvaged sides are produced by weaving the warp and woof threads together on the outer edges of the carpet. End finishing include web (selvage),  fringe, and combination of the two.

Careful inspection:
Rug finishing should be inspected to make sure they are secure. If the end are wearing, or the side finishing is not secure, the carpet will eventually begin to unravel. Carpets used in entry halls and positioned under doors where they are constantly rubbed will tend to wear most readily on the edges and ends. This type of damage can be prevented by proper maintenance. If a rug begins to wear, have it repaired immediately. To prevent uneven wear, periodically rearrange the rug, and always keep a mat under it.

Wool quality:
the quality of wool contributes to the value and durability of a rug. It can be stiff or supple, fine or thick, but most of all it should be strong and resilient. Brittle wool, or moth damaged areas, can totally destroy a carpet’s value and eventually its usefulness. Because these problems are not always readily apparent, it is very helpful to inspect a carpet under a magnifying glass. Try pulling some of the fibers under magnification to test their resiliency, they should break readily. The spin of the wool can also be checked at the same time. Properly spun wool is strong and the individual threads that form the yarn should be securely bound together to withstand wear.

Knot forms:
there are primarily two basic knot forms used in Persian, Turkoman, Caucasian, Chinese and Indian carpets. The two most common knot forms are the Senneh or Persian knot and the Ghiordes to Turkish knot. To determine the type of knot used, one method is to separate the nap threads of the carpet. If the threads appear in pairs, most likely the Turkish knot has been used.

Knots per square inch:
knots per square inch is a term frequently used, often as a gauge to rug’s quality. The number of knots per square inch determines the density of wool, and the more wool, the more durable a carpet will be. Tightly woven carpets are generally speaking, the most durable and the most expensive;

History & Making of Oriental Rugs.

The earliest appearance of the loom in history was about 3000 B.C. when it was already known and widely used in Egypt. Its root, therefore, are lost in antiquity.

Obviously, none of the Oriental carpets from a date as early as the ancient pharaohs exists today. The oldest knows rugs, in face, were discovered in 1949 by the Russian archeologists Rudenko and Grjansov in the Siberian valley of Pazyrck high in the Altari mountains. They found the toumb of some Scythian chiefs. The frozen graves were around 2,500 years old. Two carpets were among the items in the grave, and they are now in Lenin grad museum. One carpet is about 4×6 meters (abut 13×20 feet) and made of felt. The other is knotted and about 1.5×1.8 meters (about 5×6 feet).

Museum Rugs:
Other than a few very rare exceptions, like these frozen carpets, there are no carpets in the existence from before 1300 A.D. There are some fragments of carpets in museums daring from the period 1300 to 1500. Starting around 1500, we begin to find existing carpets. The average person, however, would be fortunate to run across anything from as early as 1800.

Tribal motifs:
Since villages and tribes, in the centuries past, were isolated with little communication, compare to today, it is expected that patterns varied greatly from one area to another. Tribes, towns and areas could be easily and clearly identified by their distinctive colors and motifs.

Synthetic Dyes:
As time moved to the present, some major changes occurred. Synthetic dyes were introduced in the mid of 1800’s and, in recent times, machine instead of hand-made carpets have shown dramatic increase. The advent of machine-made carpets, along with the higher standard of living brought on by the oil industry, has resulted in dramatic change in the production of hand-made carpets.

Even today, however, in countless village throughout the East, families continue to make carpets just as their forefathers did in centuries gone past.