Brief history of Oriental rug trading

The principal production centres of oriental rugs are mainly situated in Middle East, India and China. The carpet trade centre, where international traders meet, are in Tehran, Istanbul, London, Leningrad, Hamburg and Zürich. 

In recent years, the production of Oriental carpets and rugs have been systematically industrialised. In some regions of Iran, the production is under the control of the Iranian Carpet Company, whose headquarters are in Tehran. In these workshops, the ancient methods of dyeing with a base of natural colours of vegetable die have bene resumed. There are also large private factories in Kirman, Nain, Isfahan and Tabriz, smaller ones are found in Arak. However, the majority of the output still comes from families who work from home following traditional methods. 

Since the 1970s, Greece, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania and Albania have produced rugs with fine and glossy wool, with fairly deep pile (height of rug) generally known under the name of ‘Spartan’ or ‘Macedonian’. Iranina and Turkish weavers supervised the installation of the looms. 

At Hereke, in Asia Minor, there exists an old industry created in 1845 by Sultan Abdul Mecid, who wished to emulate the early rugs produced under the reign of the Shahs of Persia. They were copied with remarkable fidelity. Among these high quality pieces (with up to 650 knots per square inch) are some splendid examples in silk. 

The popularity of Oriental rugs in Russia was unparalleled to other countries around the beginning of 20thcentury. The imperial and princely palaces and governors’ residences were decked out with magnificent and rare collections. At Leningrad and Moscow, the collections of Caucasian and Persian carpets had been built up from the spoils of war collected by the Tsars during their struggle against Mohammedan states. The old cathedral and convents also possessed beautiful rugs received as gifts from soldiers and diplomats taking part in the movement of Russian expansion in the East. Before the WWI, Russian exported Caucasian and Turkoman carpets in great quantity. For example, in 1913 approximately three hundred tons of rugs were exported. In 1928, according to the information of the Bureau Sakgostorg (USSR), Caucasian rug export was to the value of ten million roubles, while the export of rugs from Russian Turkestan had increased by 30% in one year. 

Formerly, the European carpet trade took place almost exclusively on the Italian markets, notably at Palermo, Pisa, Genoa, Florence and especially Venice, where the merchandise of the Orient abounded. In the 15thcentury, the Queen of the Adriatic controlled the monopoly of carpet imports, which she redistributed in Europe. Already in the 4thcentury, the Venetians had established this trade at Pavia. It is certain that the rugs that so much delighted Holbein came to Germany from Turkish to Venetian shops. 

Quick note on purchase of Oriental rugs

In buying an oriental rug one should take the same care as one does when buying a jewel: the purchaser should go to a reliable specialist house, where prices will correspond with the quality of the goods. The expert is also a man of taste, capable of guiding the choice of the client according to the use to which the carpet is going to be put. 

In general, the Oriental carpet blends easily with the interior of modern homes; its colours are restful to the eyes and are so harmonious that they are incapable of detracting from the beauty of either tapestries or furniture. It is preferable to choose a compact rug of good quality wool. Some rugs have a slacker texture (less knots per square inch), the dealer will indicate to the collector for what use the rug is intended. A carpet must always be examined on the reverse, where one will find again the pattern but more or less distinctly. It goes without saying that the more compact, fine and careful the knotting, the better the rug. 

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