The Persian carpet is the one item that will always be seen in an Iranian household. You just couldn’t imagine a house without one. It’s like the kettle for the British and the espresso maker for the Italians. ‘Farsh’ (فرش) is the Persian word for carpet, meaning ‘to spread’, so look out for this word whilst you are travelling in Iran and if you would like to buy your own carpet.
Carpet weaving is a key part of Iranian art and culture. Persian carpets were once woven by nomadic tribes, town workshops and royal court manufactories. As a result, they resemble different traditions and people, whilst representing the history of Iran. Persian carpets are widely available to see around the world, with many major museums having their own collection. The Louvre museum in Paris showcases some of the most divine Persian carpets around.
Carpets made in towns such as Kerman, Mashhad, Nain and Tabriz are characterised by their weaving techniques, high-quality materials, patterns and colours. Tabriz in particular has played an important part in reviving the carpet weaving tradition.
The materials used in a Persian carpet are nothing short of impressive. Sheep’s wool is used, being soft and durable. Camel or goat’s hair is sometimes used too. A carpet using wool will most likely lie on the floor, in comparison to a wall hanging. The wool is used in conjunction with silk.
The expensive material of silk is regularly used to highlight particular elements of the carpet’s design. These types of carpets are usually incredibly fine with an elaborate design.
The staple material of cotton is used for the foundation of the rug.
One extremely common tourist activity in Iran is buying a Persian carpet – and what better place to buy one then at the source, hey. Tourists unfortunately may more often than not be charged extortionate amounts and be ripped off. Many people also debate about which city is the best to buy a Persian carpet from. All cities will offer different styles and different prices. Esfahan is said to be a city which can offer some relatively cheaper carpets at around £60-95.
Remember that knowledge is power, so go into buying a Persian carpet with some of the key insider information. I have compiled a short guide of things to look out for when buying a Persian carpet, so take notes, my friends.
Firstly, turn the carpet over. The knots on a machine-made carpet will all be consistent. So keep away if things look suspiciously too similar.
The fibre of the carpet is also a key indicator if your carpet is good quality or not. The ‘burn test’ is a popular way to find out. Some dealers will now automatically get out a set of matches. Have an unpicked knot or part of the fringe burnt for the test. Silk and wool will smoulder, but other materials will catch alight.
There are artificial dyes and natural dyes with the making of carpets. Natural dyes will be bright, vibrant and rich in colour. Avoid hot colours which are mostly chemical dyes. Bend the carpet so to show any individual threads. Synthetic dyes will colour the threads evenly, whereas natural dyes will show some differences and variation.
This has been mentioned in some other posts. I can’t stress this enough – haggle away! You will have already shown that you know a thing or two about buying a carpet, so go all out and try to knock a few rials off your purchase. It’s all part of the carpet buying fun.
For me, what I like about Persian carpets is that there are no two carpets which are ever the same. There will be differences with each one. This type of feature makes a Persian carpet such a unique addition to your home. The richness of the many colours and patterns featured in each carpet is just divine. There are various sizes and shapes, making the Persian carpet all the more one-of-a-kind and your home will never look the same again. Good luck with your purchase.