The word antique dates back centuries and was originally associated with the study of antiquities. Its widespread use took off in the 18th century, and by the 19th century its meaning shifted to describe "antiquarian" furniture, objects and rugs as opposed to archaeological and architectural antiquities. The definition of the minimum age of an object before it can be considered antique appears to date to the early 20th century when US newspapers reported antiques "must be at least 100 years old". An expert quoted in a 1930 newspaper described an antique as an "old fashioned" object where "sentiment has been shaken off until it is able to stand on its own worth." This definition describes how the passage of time allows an expert to evaluate an object in terms of rarity, condition, and where the object sits within the history of art and design before awarding the designation antique or semi-antique. With few exceptions these terms are reserved for fine handmade objects as opposed to mass produced objects.
Only hand-knotted and hand-woven rugs of exceptional quality are deemed antique and semi-antique. Most dealers and experts use the 100-year rule for antique rugs, but some use an 80-year rule. Semi-antique rugs tend to be between the 1930s and the 1950s, although some reputable rug dealers juggle those dates. Vintage rug are older than 20 years although some dealers stipulate at least 30 years old. The term "true vintage" is often used to distinguish real vintage rugs from ones that are misrepresented as vintage, although reputable rug dealers generally do not use the term as their knowledge and reputation does not require the extra validation of the word "true".
The timeline for all categories shifts each year. An exceptional rug made in 1922 officially becomes an antique in 2022. Age alone does not create a valuable antique, semi-antique or vintage rug. Each rug must be evaluated based on quality, condition, rarity and the rug's role in the history of art and design.
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