Like any major purchase, it’s important to do your research when starting your search for the perfect rug. Beyond questions of taste and function—which room, which color palette, which shape, which function—you’ll also want to keep an eye on quality to ensure you’re not only getting what you paid for but making a sound investment. Sadly, not every retailer is as honest as you might hope, so it’s important you stay informed to avoid getting taken for a [magic carpet] ride.
Just like pieces of art, hand-knotted rugs hold the potential of appreciating in value over time—just as long as you’re investing in quality. Here are the most important things to look out for when shopping for an area rug.
You can’t go wrong with natural fibers like wool, silk or cotton, which are the materials you’ll find in hand-woven rugs. Synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon and acrylic are good substitutes but that’s just what they are—copies of the real thing. If you’re looking for an authentic, high-quality rug, there are a few tricks of the trade you can employ to make sure you’re getting the real deal. The burn test is a good way to determine whether the fiber you’re being sold is what it seems. Clip off a small piece of the fringe or pluck it out with tweezers and light it up. If it smells like burning hair, turns to ash and self-extinguishes, you’ll know it’s genuine. If the scent is more reminiscent of paper and doesn’t self-extinguish, you’ll know it’s synthetic.
Arguably one of the most important factors in the quality of a handmade rug, make sure to ask your dealer about knot count. You should be looking for signs not only of hand-knotting but of high knot count. The higher the knot count, generally, the more time and effort was put into the crafting of a rug. An easy way to check if a rug was hand-knotted is simply to turn it over. If you see knot-work that’s too uniform to be human, you should think twice. Likewise, if you see a material backing, you’ll know that it’s a fake, made to look like a hand-knotted rug from the top but clearly adhered to a canvas from the bottom.
If a rug has been knotted or woven by hand, you should be able to detect a human fingerprint. It may seem counter-intuitive but especially when looking at tribal or village rugs, you’ll want to look out for imperfection. Lines that are ever-so-slightly crooked or patterns that aren’t exactly symmetrical will tell you that a real-life human being crafted your rug, rather than a machine. When looking at high-end city rugs, you can also look for a signature in the corner of a rug. In the same way that an artist might sign a painting, often you’ll find well-known pattern-makers will sign a rug to identify it as their design.
This is a trickier one, since the field has grown by leaps and bounds, but you’ll still want to look out for natural or vegetal dyes when buying an authentic Persian rug. This is what gives Oriental rugs their vibrancy: the richness of cochineal red (extracted from the female insect of the same name), the depth of indigo blue (extracted from the Indigofera tinctoria plant), the intensity of henna orange. Dampen a cloth and press it into the rug; if the dye bleeds into the cloth, you’ll know it’s a lesser quality dye or hasn’t been properly washed. It’s a good rule of thumb: generally, if the dye or the dyeing process is poor, the quality may be poor as well.
Always make sure you’re dealing with a trusted dealer or retailer, like ECG. We vouch for 100% of our rugs, and offer free shipping and a 30-day return policy to make sure our customers are satisfied, and you should settle for no less! Happy shopping.
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