Ultimate Guide to Persian Rugs

Ultimate Guide to Persian Rugs

The Persians and Iran 

The Persians are an Iranian ethnic group that is approximately half the population of Iran, which is the home to one of the oldest continuous civilizations, dating back to 4000 BC. The Persians, or the “Acems” in Ottoman Turkish, are an Iranian people mostly living in Iran. Etymologically, it comes from the word Pars (Pers). Throughout history, Iran has been very important due to its geostrategic location in Eurasia. 

Iranian culture is a mixture of pre-Islamic and Islamic cultures. Iranian culture, most likely originating from Central Asia and the Andronovo Culture, is widely accepted as the heir to the culture of the Iranian region of 2000 BC. Along with Persian as the language of intellectuals and religion, and previously of the people during the second millennium, Iranian culture has long been the dominant culture of the Middle East and Central Asia. Persians and Iran share a common cultural system and are native speakers of the Persian language.

Since Persian is the lingua franca in Iran, most publications and published works are in this language. However, by the end of the eighth century, Persian was heavily Arabicized and was written by analogy with Arabic. This sparked a movement advocating the revival of Persian. The most striking results of this awakening was the Shahnameh, written by Ferdowsi.

Besides Arabic, Persian was used in Anatolia, Central Asia, and India, especially in literature and science. Most importantly, poetry has been an essential element of Iranian culture. The poem has been used in many vital works in Iran, from culture to science and metaphysics. For example, it is known that about half of Ibn Sina's medical articles were written in verse.

The artistic heritage of the Persians includes contributions from both the east and the west. Due to Iran's central location, Persian art has served as a fusion point between eastern and western traditions. Persians contributed to various forms of art, including calligraphy, carpet weaving, glasswork, lacquer, inlay (khatam), metalwork, miniature illustration, mosaic, ceramics, and textile design. In addition to this, since Iran is one of the countries with the wealthiest artistic traditions globally and includes many disciplines, such as pottery, weaving, calligraphy, metalworking, architecture, painting, and stone carving. Carpet-weaving is one of the most original branches of Persian culture and art, and its roots go back to ancient times.

The General History of Rugs and Persian 

In 1949, Russian archaeologists Rudenko and Griaznov found the oldest known "knotted" carpet in Siberia, in the Pazyryk valley, about five thousand feet high in the Altai Mountains. The Pazyryk carpet is woven with rare beauty and great technical skill, dating back to the Fifth Century BC. The carpet found from the frozen tombs of Scythian chiefs aged 2400, 2500 is preserved in the Leningrad Hermitage Museum. Another carpet found in the same region belongs to the first century BC. 

When Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon in 539 BC, he was struck by their splendor and probably helped spread the art of carpet weaving in the Persian Empire. Historical records show that magnificent carpets adorned the palace of Cyrus the Great, who founded the Persian Empire more than 2,500 years ago. Also, the tomb of Cyrus, who was buried in Pasargadae near Persepolis, was covered with precious carpets. Even before his time, it is very likely that Persian nomads knew about the use of knotted carpets. Their herds of sheep and goats provided them with high-quality and durable wool for this purpose. 

The History of the Beginning of the Persian Rugs 

The history of Persian carpets goes back 2500 years. Iranians are among the pioneer carpet weavers of ancient civilizations. They were achieving a superior degree of excellence in creativity and craftsmanship over the centuries. The skill of carpet weaving has been passed down from father to son, like a family secret kept from their closest relatives, which they built on their abilities and handed over to their next child. To trace the history of Persian carpets, it is necessary to follow the traces of their cultural growth. As a specific item used as floor and entrance coverings to protect the nomad's tent from cold and moisture, the increased beauty of carpets found them, new owners, like kings and nobles who looked at them as signs of wealth and prestige and distinction.

After many years, when the Arabs conquered Ctesiphon in 637 AD, they returned with various valuable carpets. Among them, there was also the famous garden carpet, "Khosro Spring." This carpet went down in history as the most valuable carpet of all time. The carpet was made during the I. Khosro period (531-579 AD) and was 8.3 square meters in size.

The History of Persian Rugs During Conquests 

Furthermore, history also highlights the conquest and control of Mongols over Persia (1220 – 1449), which was initially brutal. However, the countryside soon came under Persian influence. 

Tabriz palace (1295 – 1304), belonging to Ilkhanid ruler Gazan Khan has floors paved with precious carpets. The Mongol ruler Shahrukh (1409 – 1446) contributed to rebuilding many places, which the Mongols destroyed, and encouraged the region's people to all artistic activities. However, carpets in this period were mainly decorated with simple motifs in geometric style.

Persian carpet reached its peak in the 16th century during the Safavid Dynasty. Thus, the first concrete pieces of evidence about this craft belong to this period. Around 1500 specimens are preserved in private collections and various museums around the world. During the reign of Shah Abbas (1587 – 1629), trade and weaving succeeded in Iran. 

Shah Abbas transformed one of the most famous Iranian cities, Isfahan, into the new capital and promoted relations and trade with Europe. He also established a palace school for carpets, where talented designers and weavers would create magnificent examples. 

Most of these carpets were made of silk, with gold as well as silver threads used for further decoration. The two best-known carpets of the Safavid period come from the Erdebil Mosque in 1539. Many experts believe that these precious carpets represent successful accumulation in carpet design. Today, these two carpets are kept in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, while the other is on display at the Los Angeles City Art Museum.

The popularity of the Persian carpet ended with the Afghan invasion in 1722. Although it was a short-lived rule, the Afghans razed Isfahan to the ground, and in 1736, a young leader from Khorasan, Nadir Khan, became the shah of Iran. During his reign, all country forces were used in campaigns against Afghans, Turks, and Russians. Due to political complications, precious carpets were not produced during this period. In addition, the following years after his death in 1747, only nomads and artisans in small villages continued these traditional weavings. However, trade and crafts regained their importance in the last quarter of the 19th century and during the Qajar dynasty. Carpet-making gained prominence once again, with merchants from Tabriz, who traded carpets to Europe via Istanbul. At the end of the 19th century, even some European and American companies set up businesses in Iran and organized craft production for the western market.

The Types of Persian Rugs

Carpet weaving in Iran begins with the Seljuk Turks. Currently, there are not any old examples of Persian carpets. However, experts have found carpet patterns in miniatures from the 14th and 15th centuries AD, which signifies the carpet examples of their culture. Persian carpets started to gain specialties after the 16th century, as was indicated earlier. Its brightest period was after these dates. In this period, carpets were made for and attached to the palace. The establishment of good trade organizations since the 19th century has made Iran the first carpet exporter country in the world carpet trade.

The knot styles are also different from carpets woven in Turkey. For example, the weaving style called Persian knot or Iranian knot is looser than Gordes knot or Turkish knot, and it is weaker in terms of quality and durability.

Keşan Carpets 

Keşan is located in Central Iran. It is one of the most beautiful and precious carpets of Iran. It is shiny and soft like velvet, finely worked. There are 10-14 knots per centimeter. Usually, patterns filled with dark colors were embroidered. The main feature of the carpets woven here is that they are silk carpets. Silk was also used in the knots. Depending on their proportions and knots, gold and silver threads are found. Gold and silver threads were also used in Isfahan carpets. In Keşan carpets, the main composition is medallions. As in Tabriz carpets, these medallions were made to determine the middle of the floor.

Isfahan Carpets

In the 17th century, various carpets were woven in Isfahan, the center of Iran, by Shah Abbasi, Shahinshah of Iran. They were woven in Isfahan, partly due to the workshops founded by Shah Abbas I and the weavers effort. However, this period did not last long, and after the death of Shah Abbas, it disintegrated in a short time. It was understood that these carpets, which entered the literature as Polish carpets for a long time under a general harmony, were woven in Iran, and its name was corrected. The name "SAH ABBAS PERIOD ISFAHAN CARPET"  was placed as the correct name. Since they are made with an order, you can find the coat of arms of various European countries and the Poland family. Isfahan carpets, which attract attention due to their technical design and compositional features, are eclectic. For this reason, it is difficult to group Isfahan carpets. It also shows various regional characteristics as different masters make it.

Kirman Carpets

Kirman is a carpet center in southeastern Iran. When lamb's wool is always used, it is long, pile, durable, soft, and very firm to the touch. The pattern is very mixed and completely Oriental and Iranian type. Since it shows with a specific composition, it will be considered and examined as a separate feature. They show differences in terms of technical pattern, color, and compositional elements. In the carpets woven in cine knots, only silk, gold, and silver threads were used, which were woven from wool. Although the Atış and Argaçs are made of wool, sometimes cotton is also used. Borders are very narrow. The mainframe is joined to the floor in the width of the secondary border that we see in other carpets. Therefore, when two carpets are placed side by side, the examples seem to continue on top of each other. These carpets are examples of baklava, which are not depicted in the paintings and miniatures of European painters and the main element in Kirman carpets in terms of composition.

Tabriz Carpets

The world-renowned branch of Tabriz's handicrafts is the art of carpet weaving. Tabriz carpets are a type of Persian carpet and are remarkable for their variety and quality. Tabriz has already been selected as the world carpet-weaving city by the World Handicraft Council. The Azerbaijan region has had a very prominent position in carpet production for a long time. But, on the other hand, the city of Tabriz has more prestige and importance than any point in this region. 

During the Safavid era, large carpet weaving centers were established in this region, and the most extensive and most skilled carpet weaving masters were brought to this city. Thus, most precious carpets were woven in this period. Today, most of the carpets from this period are exhibited in world museums.

According to different historical sources, Tabriz started to export carpets firstly to Istanbul and then to European countries in the second half of the 19th century. And in terms of design is discussed in 19 separate chapters. The carpet art of Tabriz has a representative in most of these departments in terms of diversity and difference. A few of them are as follows: Archaeological and Islamic buildings patterns, Shah Abbasi pattern, Arabesque patterns, Efsan pattern, Adobe pattern, Tree pattern, Avlak pattern, Container pattern, Rose pattern, Vase pattern, Herati or fishes pattern, Mihrab pattern, Geometric patterns, pictorial patterns, and bush patterns.

Although traditional patterns seen in carpet weaving art in Tabriz are common, creative designs have been tried to be made in this area in recent decades, thus adding a special status to the carpet art of the region. This creativity was mostly seen in embroidery, dyeing, and weaving techniques. These creativities have led to the emergence of outstanding value and beautiful works.

The raw material used in the weaving of Tabriz carpets is usually cotton, wool, or silk. Thus, high-quality and precious carpets are produced. The finest woven carpets in Iran are also found in Tabriz. The warp threads of Tabriz carpets are usually made of cotton, and the wefts are made of wool. However, silk carpets are also made in freckle silk, whole silk, or silk flowered shapes. The freckle silk carpets of Tabriz are the most perfect of their kind in Iran. Most of the silk of this carpet is obtained from Iran's Khorasan and Tehran provinces, and its wool is obtained from the Maku region. The quality wool of the Maku region, located in the North West of Iran, is somewhat coarse and thick.

Another feature of Tabriz carpets is the carpet weaving knife with hooks used for weaving. This knife, which is used for weaving carpets, has a sharp edge and a hook on the other. Thanks to this knife, knotting is no longer done by hand but with this tool. After knotting, the thread is cut with the sharp side of the blade.   

Tabriz carpets also vary in size and are woven from the smallest to the largest. The fringes and side parts of Tabriz carpets are arranged differently from traditional and old methods. Carpet designers from Tabriz change the sides of the carpet as they wish. However, in many parts of Azerbaijan, especially around Tabriz and Tabriz, they design the width of the total carpet sides as one-sixth of the width of the carpet. The most important feature of Tabriz carpets is the most important feature of the Azerbaijan region is the Turkish knot. Turkish knot or double knot weaving is a special method for Tabriz and Azerbaijan from the very beginning and is widely used in this region. In this knot type thread, It is passed over the two warp threads and brought back from the sides, and then the warp threads are brought back to the front and reinforced from the inside.

Although this weaving method takes a long time, it prevents knotless and double weaving and prevents confusion and poor-quality weaving. That's why Tabriz carpets are remarkably strong and thin, and they are not easily disassembled and deformed. On the other hand, due to the strong knots used in this method, as a result of cutting the carpet wires most shortly during the cutting phase with scissors, the carpet looks like velvet, and its fineness and patterns take a better and more distinct shape. Thus, although this weaving method takes a long time, it prevents knotless and double weaving and prevents confusion and poor-quality weaving. That's why Tabriz carpets are solid and thin, and they are not easily disassembled and deformed.

On the other hand, due to the strong knots used in this method, as a result of cutting the carpet wires most shortly during the cutting phase with scissors, the carpet looks like velvet, and its fineness and patterns take a better and more distinct shape. Although this weaving method takes a long time, it prevents knotless and double weaving and prevents confusion and poor-quality weaving. That's why Tabriz carpets are remarkably strong and thin, and they are not easily disassembled and deformed. On the other hand, due to the strong knots used in this method, as a result of cutting the carpet wires most shortly during the cutting phase with scissors, the carpet looks like velvet, and its fineness and patterns take a better and more distinct shape.

The pile yarn density or the number of points of the carpets woven in the villages of the Azerbaijan region and especially in the Tabriz region is usually between 15 and 25. The most important dimensions of the new Tabriz carpets are 2*3, 2.5*3.5, and 4*3 meters. It is also possible to come across carpets in smaller sizes. In recent years, the shape of carpets has been mostly round or polygonal.

Heriz Carpets

Tabriz weaving center has five main types of carpets. The first is the second Heriz or Goravan, the third Karaca Kinarets and halças, the fourth is the kinare and halças of the Wine villages, and the fifth is Zengan carpets woven in and around Tabriz. The decoration, dyeing, and weaving of the Heriz carpet differentiate it from the carpets of other regions. Heriz women weave carpets with patterns drawn on the piece. These patterns drawn on the piece are called condiments.

Heriz region carpets are geometric-patterned carpets produced in large sizes with a single medallion in the middle. They are very easy to distinguish, thanks to the large geometric medallions with segments.

Mashhad Carpets

Mashhad is a holly city situated in the east of Iran, in the enormous province of Khorasan. It is the main center of art. Persian carpets from the masters of Mashhad once became a kind of bridge exported to Europe. Most of the time, you will find patterns in shades of blue and red. The entire Mashhad series is distinguished by particular restraint and grace. 

Mashhad carpets are usually large with medallions with floral patterns, often knotted in large sizes. The wool from the Khorasan region is one of the best wools produced in the country as it gives the carpets a soft touch that is hard to find in other carpets. The standard colors that are used are dark red, blue, and khaki. 

Like most carpets, if you want to buy a more sophisticated and higher quality Mashhad carpet, it is better to keep an eye on the knot density. As the thickness of the knot is higher, the carpet gets more pleasing and more valuable.

Herat Carpets 

These are tightly knit, long, and narrow. The rope is thin. The wool used in these is soft. It is soft to the touch, and its yarn is shiny. Pictures in the form of dates, fish, or pears constitute the majority. The color of the ground is red or dark blue. In general, it has a floor with extensive inscriptions and pictures and pictures of dates and flowers. The victorious color is black with light pink and blue. It is famous for its centuries-old antiques.

Garden Persian Rugs

Sometimes, a throne scene is placed in certain carpet corners in which large garden forms are given in these carpets. The floors are divided into large channels in the middle of a middle axis and rectangular fields that cross each other vertically. First, they are divided into small pools at the information where they intersect. Then each rectangular area is divided among itself by smaller arcs. Finally, it is depicted in the garden where the carpet is given the form of a garden, with various flower trees and emerald, ruby, etc. It is understood that it was decorated with a mosaic meticulousness. Garden Persian carpets are carpets in which fish, ducks, and various aquatic animals are depicted, indicating the movement and fluctuation of the knotted and beautiful garden waters. The weavers  showed partial canals and small arcs in the gardens with a realistic understanding. Western Iran carpets have channels and arcs that are stylized with the figures inside; sometimes, a geometric shape is specified, and all of them are integrated into its composition.

Portuguese Carpets

It is understood that these carpets were woven in Iran and sent to Portugal. In the compositions on the carpets, various depictions would make this name different. These carpets are similar to Persian carpets. However, figure depictions in the remaining parts are in a completely foreign style. We can list these features as follows. After the highly mobile indented outer medallion shape forms the middle of the carpet, there is a back depiction in the upper left corner. These ships carry the Portuguese coat of arms, as seen from the flags in the middle. It is similar to the galleys of that period, whose two ends were specified as head-to-head. The folds in the roof form of the home architecture of the Uighurs later influenced the Ottoman galleys.

The first examples of carpet, which is among the most famous handicrafts of the world, are the original hand-made carpets created by the Persians with their techniques, woven with incredible craftsmanship and colored with root dyes that exhibit an astonishing harmony. 

The Persian carpet is a heavy textile made for a wide variety of practical and symbolic purposes and produced in Iran (historically known as Persia) for home use, local sale, and export, which became an essential part of Persian culture and Iranian art. 

The Production of Persian Rugs 

It should be especially noted that the carpets made in modern workshops in Turkey and Iran are woven by hand, which shows significant differences from the carpets woven by the machine. 

The looms that are used to make carpets do not vary too much in detail. However, their size and sophistication differ, just like different computers. The essential technical characteristics of the loom are to provide the perfect tension and to divide the warps into sets of leaves.  

The bench that is used to weave the carpet can be vertical or horizontal. Horizontal looms are easier to break down and transport. Therefore, horizontal looms are used by nomads to make smaller carpets. On the other hand, the vertical loom is more suitable for large and fine carpets. These benches consist of two strong, parallel vertical posts connected by cross-posts from below and above. It is woven in warp length between two cross-posts. 

The work on the loom begins with weaving the carpet approximately 3 to 4 cm. Then the first row is woven, but the warp on the left and right sides of the loom remains empty. Then these bare threads become borders. For better and more sophisticated vintage rugs, motifs and colors are drawn on graph paper.  Then each knot is tied accordingly to the graphs. Knots are connected without a tool in either the Gordes or Iranian Senneh style. The knot is firmly placed on the weft with the comb. Then the end of the rope is cut with a knife. This process continues until the end of the knotting row. After that, it is the weft stroke that continues along the warp and forms the borders. After finishing the knot row, the hairs of the carpet are trimmed. Finally, the completion of the carpet is done with weaving the frames. 

As indicated earlier, mainly in oriental carpets, two knotting techniques are used: the Gördes knot (It gets its name from the Turkish town of Gördes) and the Senneh knot (Iranian knot). In the Gördes knot, the yarn is thrown to form a loop around the two warp threads. Both ends of the thread come out of the middle of the two warp threads. 

On the other hand, in the Senneh knot, the thread is looped around only one of the warp threads. As a result, the yarn comes out irregularly between the parallel warps.

The Materials Used in Persian Rugs

The surface of the carpet is usually made of sheep's wool, while the back (the warp) is often made of cotton or sheep's wool. Very high-quality carpets are made entirely from natural silk, which their beautiful sheen can recognize. Machine-made carpets can also be made of wool, but often some parts are partly made of synthetic fibers. Especially on the backside of it, cheap material is more likely to be used.

  • Cotton 

During carpet production, cotton is generally used only for weft and warp. Sometimes it is mixed with different materials. For example, silk can be used for the warp and cotton for the weft. Thus, weaving gains tremendous strength and durability. On the other hand, cotton is rarely used in carpet knotting because when cotton is used, the pile top of the carpet cannot withstand wear and tear. Cotton wears out in a short time, becomes dull, and gains a worn appearance. Thus, the extraordinary effort to weave the carpet by hand is wasted. For instance, most carpets are woven in Iran; the weft and the warp are cotton. Since cotton production is low in Anatolia and the Caucasus, wool is used for the weft and warp of all carpets. Nomadic Turkmen tribes in Central Asia also use wool for warps.  In addition, wool is always used for Kilim and Sumak. 

The simplest method to distinguish the difference between cotton and wool is incineration. In this method, the end of a thread pulled from the carpet is lit with a match. The yarn curls up as the wool burns and leaves a residue. On the other hand, the cotton thread does not change its shape and burns, leaving white ash.

  • Silk 

Natural silk, which has been the monopoly of China for 3000 years, is still mainly in the hands of China today. Still, Brazil, Japan, India, Iran, and Turkey are also closely interested in silkworm breeding. Since silk is costly, it is rarely used in carpet weaving. However, in the past, some high-quality palace carpets used silk for weft and warp. 

Silk is wonderful and very durable, which makes the carpet an excellent material for high-quality rugs. In addition, these handmade carpets have a unique shine, especially with silk carpets woven during the reign of Shah Abbas I (1589-1628). An example of a silk carpet can be the famous The Hunting Carpet, which is made in the 16th century and still in the Habsburg Collection in Vienna. 

  • Goat Wool 

Nomads usually use goat hair for weft and warp. Goat herds follow nomadic tribes during their migration from one place to another. Goat hair is only used for weaving the base but is rarely used for hand weaving since goat hair is too firm for hand weaving. Although Angora goat wool is very fine and has an extraordinary shine, it breaks easily. However, just like in any other case, there are exceptions to this. Hence, in general, the Angora goat is precious because of the quality of its wool, which is very suitable for carpet weaving.

  • Camel Wool 

Tightly knotted carpets made of camel wool have a shiny appearance. Since camel wool has a uniquely bright and beautiful color, it does not require dyeing. It doesn't take good paint anyway. Carpets woven with camel wool, especially for floors and borders, can be found in Hamedan. Carpets woven with camel wool, especially for floors and frames, are characteristic of Northwest Iran and constitute a separate group. It can also be seen in the Azerbaijan region. 

The Most Used Tools in Persian Rugs

In order to weave a perfect Persian rug, the weaver needs several essential tools

  • a knife is used to cut the yarn as the knots are tied
  • , a heavy comb-like instrument with a handle is used to pack down the wefts,
  • a pair of shears is used to trim the pile after a row of knots, or a small number of rows, have been woven. 

To speed up work, the weavers in Tabriz use a knife combined with a hook to tie the knots. A small steel comb is sometimes used to comb out the yarn after each row of knots is completed. Various tools may be used to trim the wool depending on how the rug is trimmed through the weaving signs of progress of the entire carpet. 

The Motifs Used in Persian Rugs

The high use of curved shapes and floral motifs constitute the main features of Persian carpets. During the period from the middle of the XIX. century to the present, the carpet trade in Iran has been organized more efficiently than in other regions.

XVI. Carpet designers in Iran in the 19th century collaborated with the artists who drew pictures and miniatures of palace manuscripts while preparing the patterns. Later carpet artists revived by drawing the traditional patterns of Iranian decorative art found in Iran's pottery, wood, and leather works and on the tiles in the mosque decorations. Thus, they brought the decorative arts of Iran to the present day as traditional patterns and kept them alive. 

Floral motifs, including buds and blossoms, are often combined with vines and tendrils. This is particularly the characteristic of an antique Persian rug. These tended to be surrounded by geometric shapes in the patterns of carpets woven repeatedly to create a harmonious effect, especially in all of Northwest Iran, except for the Shiraz region. Central medallion motifs with solid colors for the background are more likely to be used in modern Persian carpets. The borders of the carpet reflect the floral motifs of old. 

The motifs used in these carpets have different meanings depending on the area the rug was woven. However, it is always usual to find more than one motif in a single carpet. Some of the more common motifs are:

  • Boteh

Boteh is a Persian word used to refer to an immature flower or palm leaf. It is often found in a cluster. However, it has been known to be used with more intricate and artistic weaves. Many interpretations of this motif have been made, such as Flames, Teardrops, Pinecones, Pears, and Trees.

  • Gul

The Gul motif is seen chiefly in Turkman, Gorgan, and Khal Mohammadi carpets. 'Gul' is a Persian word that is used for flowers. Moreover, it is generally used to describe these all-over or repeated patterns.

  • Herati

The Herati motif has flowers centered within a diamond surrounded by curved leaves parallel to each side of the diamond. This is a very common and a repeated motif, which can be found in various forms such as either geometric or curvilinear designs.

  • Mina-Khani

The mina-Khani motif describes this distinctive pattern, which can be found in many Persian rugs. It is made up of all-over daisies interlinked by diamond or circular lines. This design is used frequently in a number of different rug types. Hence, it is not specific to one single area. Instead, the design is almost always an all-over pattern. You can easily see it in many rugs, but certain workshops use it specifically for Varamin rugs.

  • Rosette

The Rosette design has a circular arrangement of motifs. These little motifs radiate out from the center medallion, which refers to the rose petals. This is usually used in the carpet's borders, which can be found in either natural or geometric forms. The Rosette design is often seen in Nain rugs.

  • Shah Abbasi 

This name is used for the motif of many palmettes, which can be seen in the all-over, medallion, and borders of a carpet. This motif type is perhaps most used in Tabriz rugs. But also can be seen in Kashan, Isfahan, Mashad, and Nain rugs, amongst others. 

The Common Colors Found in Persian Rugs

Some standard colors have a meaning behind them. 

  • Green: It is a holy color of the Prophet Mohammed and used in places least likely to be walked on. It refers to hope, renewal, life, and spring.
  • Red: This is a strong color of beauty, wealth, courage, luck, joy, and faith
  • Blue: It reflects the solitude and truth.
  • Orange: Reflects devotion, humility, and purity.
  • Yellow: Signifies the sun and means the joy of life, glory, and power. 
  • White: Just like the purity of the color, it refers to cleanliness, purity, as well as peace and grief. 
  • Black: It is usually only found in outlines that signify mourning and destruction.
  • Brown: This one reflects fertility.
  • Gold: Just like the gold itself, this color represents power and wealth. 

The Dyes in Persian Carpets 

The existence of colors in human life is a result of their integration with nature. However, while oriental colors express people's feelings, they are a kind of reflex against external factors/tensions. At certain ages, the Persians developed colors as a powerful form of expression in decorative arts. There is no doubt that the subjective and mystical thoughts of the Persians contributed significantly to the development of the use of colors in traditional ceramic, miniature, and tile arts.

William Henry Perkin, the English chemist, found the first aniline dye, mauveine, in 1856. After this important invention, many other synthetic dyes were invented. These are relatively cheap, easy to be prepared, and ready to use whenever compared to natural dyes. 

Around the 1980s, the natural dyeing tradition was revived in Turkey. Hence, the chemical analyses led to identifying root dyes from old wool carpets and new dyeing recipes and processes, which were re-created by many experimentations. 

According to these analyses, the natural dyes that are used for carpet wools are;

  • Red: Madder (Rubia tinctorum) roots,
  • Yellow:  Plants, including onion (Allium cepa), several chamomile species (Anthemis, Matricaria chamomilla), and Euphorbia,
  • Black: Oak apples or Oak acorns
  • Green: The mix of both indigo and yellow dye,
  • Orange: The combination of madder red and yellow dye
  • Blue: Indigo gained from Indigofera tinctoria.

Dyes like indigo or madder were commonly traded. Hence, it was easier to find them.  After many processes, it is understood that many plants provide yellow dyes, like Vine weld, or Dyer's weed, yellow larkspur, or Dyer's sumach. Furthermore, to have distinctly shaded yellow, grape leaves and pomegranate rinds are used. 

Interestingly, insect reds, also called carmine dyes, are acquired from insects like the Armenian and Polish cochineal. It is also called "laq." This specific dye is exported from Mexico and the Canary Islands. The exportation has increased over the years since the more frequently used dyes such as madder’s plant was not grown, like west and north-west Persia.

Synthetic dyes

After the invention of modern synthetic dyes, nearly every color and shade could be obtained. Hence, it is almost impossible to determine whether natural or artificial dyes were used in a finished carpet if you do not make a chemical analysis. Modern Persian carpets can also be woven with selected and high-quality synthetic colors that can provide artistic value.


Abrash is called when the appearance of slight deviations within the same color occurs. It is usually seen in traditionally dyed oriental rugs. Its presence means that a single weaver has more likely weave the carpet and more likely that they did not have enough time or resources to prepare a dyed yarn with high quality to complete the rug. Probably, they were able to dye only small batches of wool from time to time. 

Since it is tough to obtain the exact color when a new batch is dyed, the color of the pile may seem different when a new row of knots is woven in. Therefore, the color differences suggest that the carpet is woven in a village or tribal. In addition, it is valued as a signature of authenticity. 

Pazirik, the oldest known woolen carpet, is a testament to ancient Iran's advanced dyeing and weaving industry. In carpet weaving, the dye has an important place in the weaving industry. Traditional dyes are root dye, indigo, turmeric, cod liverwort, walnut, pomegranate peel, etc. It is produced from various plants and herbs. Today, traditional natural dyes are gradually being replaced by artificial chemical dyes, which are generally imported.

Before the synthetic dyes use in the production of carpets, all dyes were obtained naturally, mostly from herbs that are already in nature. Chemical compounds extracted from coal have also expanded the chemical paint manufacturing industry. Today, most carpet manufacturers prefer chemical dyes because they are both cheaper and easier to use. However, most Persian manufacturers still prefer natural dyes because they have no side effects and are more suitable for health.

The Importance of Persian Carpets in Our Country 

Carpets are woven in Iran, and its regions have an important place in Turkish carpet art as they are of different richness, and each is a work of art. The pattern, color,, and knot shape used in Persian carpets have also interacted with Turkish carpets in the past and today. Today, carpets specific to Iran are made and sent through carpet companies.

The Importance of Persian Carpets in the World 

The legendary Persian carpet has gained a permanent reputation ahead of other countries' national and ethnic structures globally, and this fame has even become circulating in the eastern world, known as the continent where legends are born. Considered the most important decorative element and the most excellent source of pride in international museums in human history, carpets are works of art by the unique masters of the Iranian nation. These artifacts, which are woven patiently and meticulously by the calloused and graceful fingers, each full of ingenuity, and created with great effort, will continue to be a source of pride for the Iranian nation in the future. Carpets with a maximum of 35 knots per cm2 constitute most of the annual carpet production and meet intense demand both at home and abroad. The establishment of good trade organizations since the 19th century has made Iran the first carpet exporter country in the world carpet trade. Iranian carpet weaving continues today, and the world watches and evaluates Persian carpets.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.