Whether the rugs are made in an isolated village or in a city workshop, Persian rugs are usually named after the town or district in or near which they are produced or collected, with the exception of nomadic pieces that are named after the tribe’s name.
Each area has its traditional designs, executed in a set palette of colours, often using some area specific weaving technique. The designs in Persian rugs generally reflect the passion for detail – the intricate interplay of lines and repeated patterns – that is also present in Iranian painting, tiles and calligraphy. However, Iranian weavers certainly are not averse to making changes to suit the tastes of their foreign customers. Over recent years, some Iranian weavers are substituting light colour and earth tones for the traditional primary colours and adapting some of the classic designs and sizes.
If you are knowledgeable of all the characteristics – colours, designs, materials, weaving technique – of each region, you will be able to identify precisely the source of each Persian rug. However, the matter is slightly complicated by the fact that most Persian designs have been reproduced in other countries throughout the world.
In general, the majority of Iranian rugs have wool pile on a cotton foundation, but you will also find coarser rugs woven on wool foundations in the areas where nomadic traditions are still maintained, as well as very fine pieces woven on silk and linen in the towns around Nain, Isfahan and Qum. In Qum, you can find wool pile rugs with accents of silk to outline or highlight designs, silk pile rugs worked on silk and cotton foundations and rugs made entirely of silk. In Isfahan, silk is sometimes used for the warps, while in Nain it is frequently used in the outlining.
Most Persian rugs are made with Persian knots. However, the Azerbaijan district in the north western part of Iran near the Russian border weavers use the Turkish knots. The weavers in this area use a small hook to work the pile threads into the foundations, a technique that makes it impossible to tie Persian knots.