Artisan rugs are decorative or functional pieces that are made using the ancient techniques and traditions of rug weaving that have been passed down from generation to generation. Unlike machine-made rugs, they are painstakingly woven or hand-knotted by skilled artisans from different parts of the world.
Known for their beauty, craftsmanship, and rarity, these high-quality textiles normally cost a fortune but are considered worthy investments due to their exquisite beauty and unmatched durability. When properly cared for, these rugs can definitely stand the test of time.
If you’re looking to invest in a beautiful artisan rug for your home, it’s important to make sure that you are getting exactly what you paid for. Due to the increasing number of rug dealers who sell inauthentic artisan rugs at an unfair price, it’s likely that anyone will end up purchasing fake antique rugs—especially if they haven’t been educated about the basics of authentic carpets.
Here are some things you should consider when buying rugs from dealers, so you can have more confidence in spotting a good rug for your living space—and get your money’s worth.
1. Rug dealer
The first thing you’ll need to consider is the company or store where you plan to purchase your rug from. This is particularly important if you know very little or nothing about rug buying. Leave the actual rug hunting from Persian thrift shops to carpet experts and seek their assistance for now.
Find an established and dedicated rug dealer, retailer, store, or gallery near your area. You’ll know that a rug company or dealer is the real deal by their extensive knowledge in the many different types of rugs and their histories. They will have also been in business for a long time and would be widely-known by many serious collectors and designers in the industry.
Obviously, this means you can’t expect to find a top-quality rug in stores like Home Depot, Costco, Pottery Barn, Lowes, or IKEA. You’ll need to go to a dedicated rug dealer, preferably one that has a showroom or gallery where you can see and feel the rugs for yourself.
If you live in Minnesota or somewhere around the Twin Cities area, Cyrus Artisan Rugs is the best place in Minneapolis if you’re looking for authentic antique pieces or contemporary designer rugs. They have a massive showroom in Bloomington where they showcase over 3,000 handcrafted pieces from all over the world, plus they have an in-house staff of rug and design experts who can educate you about each piece and assist you in choosing the best one for your needs.
One important factor that gives a rug its personality, quality, and longevity is its material. If you want the strongest and most resilient yet super smooth fiber, then consider getting wool rugs. Another reason why wool is the best material for artisan rugs is because it’s great at hiding dust and soil, so you can get away with not having them professionally cleaned all the time.
Real silk fibers show incredible detail and are great for decorating walls as tapestries. Cotton also falls under the category of good, natural fibers, but they’re not ideal for areas with high traffic.
If you want a rug that lasts long and wasn’t treated with dangerous chemical compounds, you’ll want to avoid synthetic, plastic fibers like nylon, polyester, acrylic, and olefin, as well as the poorest quality materials that shed and easily get discolored, like rayon, varicose, sisal, and jute.
Carpet experts always consider the construction of the rug before anything else. Hand-woven rugs will obviously have very slight imperfections (especially on the underside of the rug) compared to machine-woven rugs, but this doesn’t indicate poor craftsmanship or quality. In fact, it’s one sure sign that a rug is authentic. The underside of the carpet should also show the same design as the front and have weft threads that run horizontal to the fringe, which indicate that the fringe is part of the rug’s foundation and wasn’t simply added on by machine.
You may be able to spot an authentic rug from a pile of fake ones by checking out its dye. Examine the carpet up close and make sure it has rich, vibrant colors and an almost-perfect luster. Slight color changes or unevenness in some areas is okay as this is common in hand-dyed carpets.
Antique handmade rugs are colored with vegetable dye, which provides a variation of shades and doesn’t bleed. You can even test this by wiping an area with a cloth dampened with hot water. If the color transfer is very light, a strong colorfast dye was used and your rug should last years of several washings. Experts say orange and hot pink dyes are signs that a carpet was treated with chemical dyes.
Antique rugs from the most popular rug weaving countries like Iran, Nepal, and Turkey usually have similar traditional designs. Thus, with rugs, the design can also help you determine its authenticity. Consider whether or not the design is traditional, which would usually include emblems, birds (parrots and peacocks), stars, pomegranates, hands, and flowers (peonies).
Modern rugs can feature the same motifs aside from more contemporary designs. In this case, you can check other factors, like the construction and dye used.
There are definitely a lot of factors that go into the pricing of a rug. Handwoven wool definitely costs a lot, especially high quality camel hair wool, Manchester wool, and Kork wool that’s common in authentic Persian carpets. Silk is more expensive due to its rarity, but it may not be worth it for some as they are not as durable as wool and cotton.
The age and construction of the rug are also important factors, since antique rugs are sturdy enough to be heirlooms and once required intense labor by multiple artisans. Machine tufted or tufted-hooked rugs, which have a material backing that hides the design, require less work and time to be created and don’t last nearly as long as hand-woven rugs. Be careful not to purchase a tufted rug at a woven rug price.
Lastly, a rare collector’s item that is not mass-produced can cost even more due to the demand. But generally, most artisan rugs can be very expensive, so if the price of a certain rug seems much lower than you expected (and therefore too good to be true) it to be, then you may want to look deeper to ascertain its authenticity.