How to Identify Oriental Rugs

It can be difficult to know whether you are looking at a handmade rug or a machine made rug as a beginner. There are a few tips you can look for when trying to identify a handmade Oriental rug.

Backside of Oriental Rug

1. Look on the back of the rug at the weave. Look for white, red or blue horizontal (to the fringe) lines of foundation threads. These threads are called weft threads. You may see partial wefts going only an inch or so, and then covered by the wool knots, but it is important that these threads are horizontal to the fringe. Sometimes the horizontal threads go all the way from one side (bound edge) of the rug to the other side. The horizontal row of wefting may not be perfectly straight.

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2. Look for unevenness in the colored knots on the back of the rug. You may see some areas slightly thicker than others.

Antique Hand Knotted Baluch Oriental Rug

3. Now look at the front of the rug. Look at the design carefully. Very rarely will the design be exactly the same size and shape from one end to opposite end of the rug. This is especially true in older Oriental rugs.

4. You may notice slight color changes making thick or thin stripes in the rug. This is due to the change in dye lots of the wool when weaving the rug and how the color of the wool ages with light and atmosphere. These color changes are usually found in the background color of the rug. These color changes are called “abrash”. Abrash is common and does not detract from the value of the rug. 

Made In India

5. Sometimes there is a cloth tag stitched into one corner of the rug which says, “Hand Made in Iran” or "Hand Made in India". You can be relatively sure that this rug is handmade. 

6. Handmade rugs are almost always woven with wool pile. Machine made rugs like the one pictured below are often made with a type of nylon or polyester pile, and are generally very uniform in their weave. On the back of the rug, you may see white woven threads running from fringe end to fringe end, or you may see no white threads at all. There is generally no unevenness in the weave or design, nor will you find abrashes in the color of the rug.

Machine Made Rug

If you have determined you have a genuine Oriental rug the next step is figuring out what type of Oriental rug you have.

There are plenty of great resources for learning more about rugs including this great Facebook Group all about antique and vintage Oriental rugs.

All content provided above is for informational purposes only. Neither the author nor Jessie's Oriental Rugs LLC assumes any responsibility for errors, omissions, or contrary interpretation of the subject matter. See Terms and Conditions for more information.