ANTIQUE CARPETS AND TRIBAL RUGS - INTRODUCTION
By S. Harck
A popular antique textile and accessory to antiques are the Persian or Oriental carpets and Tribal rugs. Antique carpets and Tribal rugs are not one dimensional but have multi-functional usage for floor decoration or as wall accents. Log homes, older character homes and more modern architecturally designed homes, particularly homes with massive wall space or hardwood flooring, are brilliantly enhanced by the use of these colorfully designed carpets or rugs.
In the Middle Eastern cultural weaving circles and in Nomadic and Indian Tribal cultures such as the Navajos, Pueblos, Aztecs and Mayans, carpets, Tribal rugs and Indian blankets are symbolic of different ways of life, usually connected with earthiness and are considered to be sacred.
Weaving can typically be considered another form of art and is one of the oldest crafts in the world and is said to have existed going back to approximately the Third Century A.D. It is most predominant in the Middle Eastern countries of Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and the Southern parts of Russia. China Mongolia and Tibet have provided the Asian influences in terms of design, pattern and color. Weaving also takes place in some parts of Europe such as Spain, France, Greece and Italy. The South American countries of Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Chile are also known as areas where weaving takes place. In Canada and the United States, there are several Indian Tribes that maintain weaving in their cultural circles, particularly the Navajos, Hopis, Pueblos, Nootkas and Crees. North American Machine weaving gained new popularity in the 1970’s.
“The oldest surviving rug is the Ahai also known as the Pazyryk Rug found in the mountainous region of Southern Siberia in the grave of a Scythian Warrior. “As was the custom of the day, the prince was buried with his possessions. Over time as water flooded the prince’s burial place and as cold weather set in, the water turned to ice. The frozen ice preserved the rug which otherwise would have deteriorated.
“The Altai rug is tied with the Giordes knot and has two hundred knots per square inch. It has a Terra - Cotta colored field with the design woven in pale blues, beiges and yellows. The pattern is small squares filled with simply stylized flowers. The inner part of the five main borders contain Octagons closely resembling the Octagons or Guls of later Turkoman weaving. The second border portrays life - like Elks in procession. The third border is a repeat of the stylized border in the Central field.”
A somewhat smaller version of rugs may be runners or prayer rugs. There is religious symbolism crafted into them such as prayer arches, flowers and many beautiful garden and animal scenes. Generally, over the years there has been only a few Hunting Scenes done in Middle Eastern weaving and because of the rarity, these carpets will sell for more money than some of the other carpet scenes that are woven old or new.
Persian and Oriental rugs and Tribal carpets are woven on looms. There are two different types of looms, the Vertical loom and the Horizontal. The Vertical Loom is a permanent loom used by towns and villages and is usually larger than the Horizontal loom. A smaller version rug is woven on the Horizontal loom. Nomadic tribes prefer the Horizontal loom because it can be knocked apart and reassembled fairly quickly and becomes light weight and easier to carry.
In weaving, warp threads are spaced close together. These parallel vertical threads are strung between the cross beams of the loom. Warp threads are usually made of cotton but may be made out of silk or wool. Silk and wool are not as preferable as cotton because they don’t have the strength of cotton and cotton is much cheaper.
The extension of the warp threads at the end of the rug is called the Fringe. When all warp threads are strung, a shed is constructed around the warp threads by weaving a strand horizontally in and out of the vertical threads to keep them in place. The fineness of the rug depends upon the closeness of the warp threads.
The separation of even and odd number threads is called the Shed. Eight or nine inch strands are used. These strands are called the Weft. A woven base called a Kelim by the Middle Easterners protects rows of woolen knots, the body of the rug, preventing the knots from loosening and coming apart. It appears at the point where the fringe begins. Villages and towns rarely have fancily decorated Kelims. Nomadic tribes use vibrantly colored abstract designs.
Once approximately one to six inches of Kelim has been completed, the weaver ties the first row of knots. Knots can be tied with the fingers or a hooked knife called a Tikh. The blade of the Tikh is used to cut and trim after a knot has been tied. When two or three rows of knots are finished, the weaver takes a long Weft thread and weaves it in and out of the vertical warp threads. The Weft is always hammered down into the knots very tightly. By hammering the Weft threads, it pushes the knots down securely adding great strength to the carpet. The Middle Eastern weavers use a Daftun to accomplish this.
VALUES AND PRICES NAVAJO WEAVING
A distinguishable feature of the Navajo weaving is the Geometric designs of Bows, Arrows, Animals and Hunting Scenes. The Navajo Rugs with Earth colors such as gray, black, brown and white appear to fetch more money than the colored ones do as they are most likely more Primitive and would date back to approximately the 1900’s, 1800’s and possibly even earlier.
A rejuvenation of weaving with more greater color selections seems to have taken place in the Navajo weaving circles in the 1950’s. These carpets appear to be pretty popular and may sell anywhere from $1,100.00 USD to at least $2,500.00 USD.
Market prices are usually set by what things may sell for on the open market as in Bazaars where there may be some consortium or selling group and the potential buyer can barter on prices with the seller or auction houses where buyers can bid on the item. Generally, there is no absolute fixed guide to say that a carpet is going to sell for a fixed price. Markets are usually measured through a plus, minus system based on regional weaving areas. It is safe to say that many of the Antique Middle Eastern carpets because of the age and quality of design color and workmanship may be priceless. Even the newer well made authentic Persian carpets can sell for thousands of US dollars and up.
It is best to compare the markets of the areas which they are selling in, reputable auction houses which auction them and reputable carpet brokers.
FACTORS DETERMINING AUTHENTICITY AND VALUE
There are many determining factors which would dictate the value of a carpet, rug or blanket.
1. The Knots per Square Inch.
The higher the number of knots, the more finer and securely made is the carpet.
2. Hand Woven or Machine woven.
Quite often, older carpets had hundreds of knots per square inch but today may not have as many because they are mechanically woven and may not be woven as tight.
3. Pattern is visible on the Underside of the Carpet, Kelim and Fringe Sewn securely or reinforced with a particular backing such as Leather.
If the pattern is visible then it is an extremely well made rug. If there is Leather on the underside, then this adds more security, keeping the rug in tact and holding its value.
4. Condition of the item.
This includes any damages such as rips, tears, stains, wearing and fading that would factor into determining value.
5. The Origination and Date.
Where it was woven such as by a Tribe, Villager, Town weaving group or by a mechanical loom may have an affect on value and attest to authenticity. As well, with the Muslims of the Middle East, the date the carpet was woven may be woven into the carpet and used as another standard for measuring the age of the carpet.
As with antique furniture, rugs that are anywhere from 50 to 100 years old may be classified as being antique.
Antique carpets and newer carpets that are rare and of exceptional quality are often priced much higher than others of lesser quality or authenticity. If interested in acquiring such items, one of the safest ways to determine its value would be to have it appraised by a Certified Appraiser first. If that is not possible then further research should be done on pricing quality and authenticity such as where it was made, the weaver or weaving group, approximate number of carpets of certain styles and types woven, market pricing, and by using informed and reputable carpet brokers and carpet retailers.
Today, there is a much greater selection in terms of color, size, and pricing of the Persian carpets as there has been more factory backed machine weaving with the use of Patterns and a much greater selection of dyes. Even in North America, weaving has been greatly enhanced and its markets expanded with the use of mechanical and computer automated looms. Essentially, North American countries are able to import weavings at a reasonable price and the exporting countries are able to create them at a lower cost due to mass production. Establishing a reputable network of people to work with is the key to success in this area of investing.
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