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Important Information About Oriental Rugs

Your Oriental rugs are handmade and hand knotted?

Isn't that the same thing?

No. Just because a rug is handmade does not necessarily mean it is hand knotted.

Many rugs are handmade; not all rugs are hand knotted.

All of our rugs are 100% handmade and 100% hand knotted and are classified as such upon import by U.S. Customs.

How high is the pile on your rugs?

Most of our rugs have pile height of approximately 1/8" to 1/4". Some of our Kazak rugs have a pile height of approximately 1/2". These rugs come from the cooler, mountainous regions and traditionally have had longer, thicker pile to help insulate the floors.

Longer pile characteristic of some Kazak rugs
Longer pile characteristic of some Kazak rugs.

Even though we do not have a standard pile height, all of our rugs do exhibit the correct pile height, which means correct as concerns being authentic, historically accurate Caucasian rugs and Persian rugs, and that means that in most cases our rugs are low pile.

Plus, there are added benefits to low pile: it wears more evenly, stays cleaner, attracts less dust and dirt, and lets one position furniture half-on or half-off a rug without causing the furniture to wobble.

For the most part, high pile on new Oriental rugs is a modern adaptation to help modern rugs compete in today's marketplace with machine-made Oriental rugs and machine-made broadloom (wall-to-wall carpeting). In many cases, low-quality Oriental rugs are sold in the same stores as wall-to-wall carpeting.

Do you use single-ply or double-ply wool?

We use both. Many Kazak rugs, but not all, use two-ply wool. Two-ply wool allows for thicker pile, which as mentioned above is often found on some Kazak rugs.

For most of our other rugs we use single-ply wool. Single-ply wool affords the weaver finer design detail and knot density.

Why do you only use hand-spun wool?

Because it is better in every way than machine-spun wool.

Hand-spun wool has not been stripped of its lanolin or altered with chemicals, so it is naturally long wearing, hypoallergenic, fire resistant, and for the most part stain resistant. (Dirt stays on the surface of the fiber and does not enter the core.)

Hand-spun wool is also naturally softer and silkier feeling than machine-spun wool and has the added benefit of abrash.

What is abrash?

The fibers in hand-spun wool are naturally of a varying diameter and lanolin content. The result of is is that different fibers absorb the dye differently so the colors differ slightly as well. This becomes even more pronounced when one uses all-natural dyes. Since our dyes are all-natural, no two dye lots can ever be exactly the same.

Abrash in our Marasali Prayer Rugs.
Abrash as shown in one of our Marasali Prayer Rugs.

This is called abrash. It is beautiful, desirable, and found only in hand-spun wool that is dyed with all-natural dyes. Antique rugs have it. Our rugs have it.

Note: too much abrash is not desirable and is often produced by artificial means in an attempt to simulate real abrash.

Why do you only use all-natural vegetable and vegetal dyes?

Because they are better in every way than synthetic dyes. The colors are softer looking, more natural looking, and longer lasting than their synthetic counterparts.

And as mentioned above, all-natural dyes contribute to abrash. Since all-natural dyes are not chemically or synthetically based or fixed, no two dye lots can ever be the same.

You use vegetable and vegetal dyes?

Isn't that the same thing?

No, not entirely. Vegetable dyes are derived from vegetables. Vegetal dyes are derived from vegetal matter, which is defined as any plant matter, flowers or vegetables, for example. Since we use both vegetables and plants to make our dyes, to aid in that distinction we list both vegetable and vegetal dyes. All materials in our rugs are all-natural and earth-friendly, as authentic Oriental rugs always have been.

What specifically do you use to make your dyes?

  • Blue: indigo
  • Brown: walnut shells
  • Green: indigo over-dyed with our yellow dye
  • Red: madder and carrot marina (a native plant of Azerbaijan)
  • Yellow: saffron, safflower, pomegranate skin, and local flowers
  • White/ivory: pure un-dyed, hand-spun wool

In addition, we also use native flowers, seeds, nuts, bark, and berries.

The dyes are set using all-natural sea salt

Note: green fields and yellow fields in Oriental rugs are quite rare. Green is a holy color in Islam and is seldom walked upon, and yellow requires saffron, which is expensive. Since yellow and blue are mixed to produce green, and green is holy, green by all accounts is even rarer than yellow.

What is the knot density of your rugs?

How many knots per square inch?

We do not list knot density because the density varies. In order to preserve the historical integrity of the rug we ensure that each particular type of rug is made with only the appropriate knot density.

Please see what author and rug scholar, Walter Denny says about knot density:

Denny, W., Sotheby's Guide to Oriental Carpets
New York. Simon & Schuster Inc.,1994

"The exact number of knots in each square inch of a carpet is of marginal interest to the expert, usually having little bearing on its worth - either artistic or monetary." (p 43)

The following, and more, all affect knot density:

The type of wool and whether it is single ply or two ply, the weaver, the design, the density of the foundation (the warps and wefts), the diameter of the warps and wefts, the type of knot used, how the knot is tied, and how hard the wefts are beaten. (The weaver uses a comb and a hammer to beat the row of knots down into the prior row of knots.)

In addition, some weaves/designs require more, or less, knot density. For instance, a Kazak with a Tabriz weave would not look appropriate, and similarly a Tabriz with a Kazak weave would appear equally inappropriate.

Using French wine as an example: great French champagne has bubbles, but great French still wine does not. Each wine/rug has its own unique and characteristic structure.

Please take a look at the detailed "penny" shots of a few of our weaves and knot densities. All of our rugs have correct, historically accurate knot densities.

Kazak knot
Historically accurate Kazak knot
Shirvan knot
Historically accurate Shirvan knot
Tabriz knot
Historically accurate Tabriz knot

Please note that some of the most valuable antique Caucasian rugs and Persian rugs rarely have knot densities exceeding 100 knots per square inch. Also, Sotheby's, Christie's, and Butterfield's do not quote knot density in any of their auction catalogs.

What type of knots do you use?

For nearly all of our rugs, we use a historically accurate symmetric knot, also called a Ghiordes or Turkish knot. Occasionally, we may use an asymmetrical Persian knot if requested.

Are any children involved in the making of these rugs?

No. Never. None whatsoever.

Master rug weavers weave all of our rugs. They are all woman, and they are all adults.

Natural dyes on Caucasian, hand-spun wool. Richard Rothstein & Co.
Our hand-spun, hand-dyed wool. Made with all-natural vegetal dyes.

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