Fine Oriental Rugs
The term “oriental” is an imprecise, historical term created by Westerners to categorise the largely Islamic world found in the “east”. “Oriental” hand woven rugs and carpets (rugs larger than 9' x 12') originate in a large geographic area that includes the former Persian Empire (centered on present-day Iran), the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Turkey (the Anatolian peninsula), parts of north Africa and areas of western China that were once settled by Turkic peoples. In general these areas correspond with land suitable for sheep grazing that provides wool fleece for local spinning, dyeing and weaving.
Unlike Oriental tribal rugs woven on portable looms by nomadic or semi-nomadic people, “fine” Oriental rugs are woven or hand-knotted on stationary, upright vertical looms often located in urban areas and sometimes referred to as “city rugs”. The finest antique Oriental rugs (older than 100 years) were made in Persia (present day Iran) as well as countries that once formed the Persian Empire, particularly Iran's neighbour Azerbaijan. Fine Oriental rugs are functional but also include religious use such as Islamic prayer rugs.
In the 21st century a rug is classified as “Fine Oriental” based on how it is made – design plus hand weaving and knotting techniques – rather than where it is made. Countries where contemporary, new Fine Oriental rugs are made include India and Pakistan. Fine Oriental rugs are usually classified according to their “knots per square inch” known as “kpsi”. A highly detailed rug design can only be achieved with a high level of kpsi. An extremely fine (and expensive) silk rug can be knotted at 2100 kpsi, but in general a Fine Oriental rug will be between 400 and 800 kpsi. A skilled weaver may average 5,000 knots per day and will spend up to a year to complete a room-sized rug with a complex pattern. Small rugs are often the work of one weaver; larger rugs are usually worked on by several weavers. It's worth noting that a Fine Oriental rug may include rows of woven weft in between rows of knots.
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