What is Abrash?
There are a lot of terms used to describe Oriental rugs. If you are just starting to get into antique carpets the lingo can get confusing. One of the most common words we get asked about when someone is interested in a rug is abrash. Abrash describes variations in the color tones of a rug.
Why Does Abrash Occur?
Abrash is usually a result of a weaver changing lots of wool. The color variations occur when the next lot of wool is dyed a darker or lighter tone than the original lot. It appears as horizontal bands, and can range from very subtle to extremely noticeable. Note the lighter and darker areas in the rust-brown sections of the Persian rug below.
The variations in color strength can occur either during the dyeing process or the spinning process. During the spinning process in small villages the wool is hand spun in small batches. The wool may come from different areas and the quality of the wool may be inconsistent which causes variations in the absorption of dyes. During the dyeing process, some colors may absorb differently depending on the wool quality/dye time/dye strength. These colors may appear stronger or weaker than others depending on those variables.
Can Abrash Be Intentional?
While abrash can occur accidentally, it can also be intentional. There are collectors and decorators who love the character abrash adds to a rug and for this reason weavers will incorporate different tones in their carpets. Some machine made rugs even have their own version of abrash where they use different variations of the same color in the field or the border to better resemble hand-knotted rugs.
Some weavers also believe no one is perfect but God and for that reason add abrash into their pieces as an imperfection.
In an antique rug abrash may become more pronounced as the rug ages, whether from sun fading, foot traffic, or general exposure to other elements.
The close-up of a vintage Persian Dergazine rug above shows abrash that isn't as noticeable as the Afshar rug. Note the thin lines of darker blue/black in the field.