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24/06 Sunday 02:55PM

walking on luxury

Westerners often associate oriental handmade carpets with Persian carpets, which is understandable, considering the influences of the Persian carpet industry worldwide. For centuries, the Persian carpet industry has been the dominating economic sector in Iran, formerly known as Persia until 1934. In the 20th century, oil, natural gas and minerals formed the largest export income.  Millions of Iranians are still involved in carpet manufacturing in some way - sheep rearing, shearing, spinning, dying, weaving, washing, repairing and marketing.

The handmade carpets from Iran are often named after the area where they are made, such as Isfahan, Kerman, Shiraz and Tabriz. Sometimes they are named after ethnic groups like the Ghashghais.  The art of weaving and dyeing is inherited and their traditional styles and motifs are distinctive to a particular ethnic group or location. Carpets play a big role in Iranian society.  Carpet shops are ubiquitous in the big cities and truckloads of carpets are transported to bazaars for sale alongside an array of looms, tools and yarns for carpet manufacturing. Out in the countryside, looms are often found inside and outside homes and carpets can be seen being washed out on the streets.


image: An antique Khotan Oriental carpet from Nazmiyal from www.persiancarpetguide.com

One of the most famous carpets - the Ardabil Carpet - was probably from the city of Kashan in Persia. The carpet, which dates back to 1539 A.D is displayed in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It measures 534 x 1152 centimetres and took five weavers three years to complete the carpet. It was ordered by Shah Tahmasp for the Sheikh Safi Mosque. Another Persian carpet from the 16th century was sold in 1999 in London for 1,596,500 pounds making it a world auction record for an Oriental carpet.


image:
A 16th century Medallion carpet from Persia sold for 1,596,500 pounds in London in 1999 making it a world auction record for an Oriental carpet.

Oriental carpets can come from any of the carpet-producing Asian countries in the central part of the continent such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Turkmenistan, Tibet, China, Armenia, Azerbajdzan or the northern African countries like Morocco, Tunisia and Eygpt. The names and styles that carpets are sold under are often taken from the places of origin in that country.
 

image: A Tibetan carpet with a classic fluffy clouds design from www.toranahouse.com

The are several categories of carpets, namely, nomadic carpets, village and workshop carpets. Nomad carpets tend to be more rustic with colour deviations and irregularities which are natural in this category as their tools are not as comprehensive as those in a workshop. In workshops, higher quality and larger sizes can be achieved with bigger and sturdier loom, good quality tools and experienced weavers. Workshops can produce exclusive carpets that carry exceptionally detailed designs that are hand-knotted by professional weavers using high quality material.  Good carpets must have a knot density of at least 600,000 knots per square metre. This involves a very large number of hours of hard work and concentration which is only achieved by experienced weavers. Most studios with exclusive hand-woven carpets are mainly in Iran (Persia) in cities including Tabriz, Keshan, Isfahan, Nain and Ghom but also in Turkey (Anatolia) and in the city of Hereke near Istanbul.

Sometimes, knot density in extremely fine carpets can go up to a million knots per square metre. Carpets like Isfahan, Ghom, Tabriz, Nain, Keshan and Hereke often have an element of silk, sometimes with gold and silver to enhance the details in the patterns. Almost all hand-woven, exclusive carpets bear a signature that is woven into the short side of the carpet. It is common for this signature to be accompanied by, for example, the Iranian flag and examples of signed mats might include Habibian (Nain), Imani (Ghom), Enteshari (Isfahan) and the city in which the carpet was made is usually woven in.

To learn more about carpets, check out the carpet encyclopaedia

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