How to recognize an antique rug

Design Jul 15.2021

How to recognize an antique rug

Being able to show an antique rug in your home is a source of pride. The handmade models from oriental countries are true masterpieces, unique pieces that are worth a treasure. Finding an authentic antique carpet is quite difficult and on the market there are several modern carpets that have undergone a process of aging to “resemble” those of the time. Knowing how to recognize a real antique carpet is fundamental to understand the quality of the carpet in front of you. 

What are the differences between antique and antique rugs?

When we talk about antique rugs we are referring to rugs that have been produced until the beginning of the 20th century. These rugs are made entirely by hand, with wool or silk pile colored with vegetable dyes and with a structure that is both soft and robust. 

The color of the rug is one of the first elements to analyse in order to understand if we are dealing with an authentic antique carpet or if the carpet has only been aged. In antique carpets the color has lost some of its natural brilliance and vibrancy. Time and use result in a gradual loss of the color and intensity of the hues. If the carpet appears to be vibrant and uniform in color it is certainly not a carpet that is over 100 years old. 

Similar considerations can be made for the pile of the carpet. To verify the uniformity and the thickness of the pile helps to understand if there are areas more worn than others and if the wear is compatible with the age of the antique rug. 

Even checking the state of the warp is fundamental to recognize an antique carpet. Sometimes it is possible to find very worn rugs, in which the warp is visible. In some cases the warp is colored to give an appearance of uniformity to the design of the carpet. The total absence of the pile in some parts of the carpet indicates major damage to the structure of the product, which could compromise its ability to be used.

Understanding what fibers were used in the making of the rug is another aspect to consider when evaluating an antique rug. Traditionally, rugs are made by hand knotting wool and silk fibers around the warp. The natural fibers are compact but soft and easy to fold. In order to understand if you are dealing with a wool rug or a rug made with a mix of natural and synthetic fibers, it is advisable to check the ease with which a part of the rug can be folded. If the rug resists a bit, it could be a modern rug that has been antiqued. 

It can also be useful to know the different manufacturing techniques used in the oriental regions where the rugs come from. Antique carpets often refer to a specific tradition, such as Persian, Chinese or Turkmen carpets. Knowing how to recognize the symbols used on carpets and how to trace them back to a specific geographical area can help you to correctly date your rug. 

How to recognize antique and machine-made carpets?

During the twentieth century machines began to replace craftsmen even in the process of carpet making. The use of machinery designed for the production of carpets makes it possible to considerably shorten the time and achieve uniform results. 

There is no doubt that a handmade carpet is of a higher quality than a carpet produced with machines. In order to be able to recognize a real antique carpet it is good to know how to identify which are the characteristics of machine-made carpets. 

The first element that usually allows to identify with certainty the machine-made rugs are the lateral bangs. In handmade carpets the bangs are formed naturally by the excess fibres that have been knotted around the warp. In machine-made rugs, however, the bangs are applied at the end of the manufacturing process. If you notice the stitching around the bangs we are definitely dealing with a machine made carpet. 

Knowing how to recognize an antique rug is important in order to be sure to bring home a luxury rug of great value rather than a modern model that has simply been given an antique look, or a rug that is old, but not particularly valuable from a historical point of view. 

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