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Oriental Rugs: A Buyer's Guide

Oriental Rugs: A Buyer's Guide

As a busy homeowner it can be difficult to find time to enhance your home...

Even when you just know a hand-crafted rug will add timeless character to your room

And when you add in factors such as:

  • Opaque Pricing
  • Inaccurate Information or
  • Multiple Options to choose from

It can be difficult to know where to start...

Today I will show you how to understand the fundamentals of a rugs design to get the very best quality and save thousands on your own handcrafted heirloom fast-track your rug buying decisions

Read below to find the best ways to shop for a high-quality, affordable Oriental rug and the best ways to order a high-quality, affordable, and customized modern Oriental rug.

Frustration Among Oriental Rug Shoppers

A rug’s price (which could range anywhere from $15 to $90+ per square foot) is based on a variety of factors – many of which the average shopper is unaware of.

The abounding number of issues facing consumers and designers today in the Oriental rug industry can be overwhelming, and frequently leads to uninformed decisions by frustrated shoppers.

Below, we’ll outline some of the most common issues facing shoppers;and then in the next section we’ll detail how to solve these problems and ensure you’re getting a reasonable price for your Oriental rug!

Frustration #1. Lack Of Information/Poor Quality Information

The Oriental rug industry has a deep, complex history, and some of its features and quirks may be unseen or confusing to the average consumer.

Oriental rugs are produced around the world, with each production area crafting different types and styles of rugs. Not only do rug styles differ by area, but so do materials, knot styles, colors, and more.

Finding, navigating, and interpreting the cost significance of different Oriental rug styles and features is a major challenge facing uneducated buyers.

For Example:

Manufacturing method, materials used, and knots per inch can dramatically effect the quality and of course the cost of your rug...but by knowing this information you can make an informed decision and make sure you buy great quality.

A high quality rug can easily become an heirloom that lasts generations in your family. In fact, as the rug ages its value can actually increase much like a work of art!

(Some rugs, such as the Pazyryk Rug have been found dating as far back as 500 BC!)

Frustration #2. Overpriced Products

A number of factors (which we’ll outline later) impact the price of an Oriental rug for all retailers but one main differentiator is the number of market actors (or “middlemen”) existing between the end retailer and primary producer.

As an example, a large retailer may buy from a US-based wholesaler, who buys from an overseas wholesaler, who buys from an independent source, who buys from a processing factory, who buys from the producer.

Like any product, with each exchange in the market chain, the final retail price increases. This results in a highly priced rug, frustrating the consumer, but may also mean you speak to a salesman and not a rug aficionado!

We'll discuss shortly the EXACT points you should be looking for, as well as the 8 questions you should ask EVERY retailer to make sure you get the very best rug for your perfect room

Frustration #3. Lack Of Availability

Because Oriental rugs are sourced from overseas and take months to produce, it’s often difficult for retailers to stock enough rugs to meet demand; or stock enough of the right style or size of rugs to meet demand.

If you have a specific idea of what type of rug you want, it might be difficult for you to find the exact product you’re after.

But because most rug retailers don’t offer online galleries of their products, you could end up wasting time driving from store to store -- only to find that the rug you want isn’t available in your area.

This could result in:

  1. Overpaying in order to design a custom rug or
  2. Settling for a product you don’t want.

But this doesn't have to be the case... So Rugknots created our "Ask A Designer" service to help you overcome this with 2 simple options.


Send 2 pictures of your room, with preferred designs and colourways you are interested in, as well as prominent features of your room, and our graphic designer will create photo realistic images of your room with their recommendations of rugs to suit your needs.

This alone can be a HUGE help to fast track

If you prefer an even faster, more Premium Service, book a call with our in-house Interior Designers and they will help discuss the very best options for your needs, mock up designs or even help you design a custom heirloom for your home!

Not only do these features allow you alleviate any previous frustrations, but with your room recommendations on your mobile device, you can then

  • Show your partner,
  • Discuss with your designer/decorator,
  • Ask the opinion of friends
  • And help visualize your new rug when shopping for other items!

Frustration #4. Poor Customer Service

Because rugs are a high-value good in high demand, and because many large retailers hold significant market power in the Oriental rug industry, customer service often falls to the wayside.

Large, national retailers may be too busy or too slow to respond to customer requests; small retailers may be too understaffed or short on funds to adequately respond to consumers.

Obviously this is not the way you should run a business, and buying a rug/decorating your home can be stressful enough!

Which is why here at Rugknots we do our very best to offer fantastic customer service. (We even won the Houzz 2015 Customer Service award in recognition for this!)

Frustration #5. Limited E-commerce Options.

Oriental rug e-commerce has picked up and exists as a small sector within the overall industry; but it generally hosts the same issues (overpricing, lack of information, etc.) as the in-store industry.

Few direct import Oriental rug retailers still exist today, and of those few, hardly any have opened an e-commerce platform. For consumers looking to search online for affordable, high-quality Oriental rugs, the lack of e-commerce options can be frustrating....

The 3-Step Solutions for Oriental Rug Shoppers

So now we understand the issues and frustrations that can happen, lets talk to you about the 3-Steps we recommend you take, before making your purchase:

Step 1: Educate Yourself On The Features And Types Of Rugs, And Learn How They Impact Price And Quality

This way you can make sure that you get the very best quality rug available for you, by understanding the different qualities to look for in your new rug

Step 2: Educate Yourself On The Rug Industry, And Learn How To Best Choose A Rug Retailer

By understanding what questions to ask your retailer, you can quickly gauge if you are dealing with multiple "middlemen" or if you are dealing with someone who can truly help you make the right decision.

Step 3: Seek Professional Help When Needed

If you want to fast track your results, speaking to a professional designer can actually be time and cost effective, as well as help provide great ideas for your home!

So know we know the frustrations and and the steps we recommend, lets jump into providing the information you need!

A rug’s physical features and style greatly impact its appearance, quality, style, and price. In this section, we’ll highlight main features and styles of different Oriental rugs, and explain how these characteristics impact an Oriental rug’s price, and how to use this information..

So lets get started!

Rug Production Location

When looking to purchase a rug, its important to understand that the location the Rug was made can vastly affect the quality, style, imagery and methods that were used to produce it.

Oriental rugs are mainly produced in the following countries:

  • India,
  • Pakistan,
  • Afghanistan,
  • Iran,
  • Turkey,
  • China, and
  • Ukraine.

India accounts for the largest amount of Oriental rug production in the world, with Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran producing significantly smaller amounts of Oriental rugs.

(Note: Turkey, China, and Ukraine also export the smallest quantities of high-quality Oriental rugs)

Rug production flourished in Lahore, Pakistan when the Mughul Emperor Ahkbar loved his Persian rugs so much, he sent for his designers to travel the 2,315 KM from Persia (Now Iran) to Pakistan in the early 16th century.

This lead to a renaissance of design, the creation of rugs as artwork and hangings, and 400 years later is still the capital of fine rug production today.

(As we will discuss later, the number of knots in a rug will determine the quality, durability and depth of detail of a rug. During this period rugs were incredibly prestigious items for royalty, and some could be found with as many as 2000 knots per square inch!)
Each country (and in some cases, each area within a single country) is known for producing different styles of rugs, with different designs, color schemes, and knot counts, and so understanding those methods will help you understand the value and quality of the item

Why Does Rug Production Location Matter?

The complexity of a rug’s design relates directly to its knot count – which is a reflection of the amount of time taken to produce the rug.

Thus, intricately designed rugs often carry higher knot counts and are therefore more expensive than simply styled rugs.

Furthermore, an Oriental rug’s backside is an indication of quality – if it perfectly reflects the frontside, then you can be sure it was made with care and precision.

Rug Knot Types

Each country is known for a particular type(s) of knots – for example, many Turkish rugs have single, symmetrical knots, whereas many Persian countries use asymmetrical, “open” knots.

Each type of knot results in a slightly different look, feel, and overall quality of rug.

Certain styles and knots are often associated with particular cities and areas within countries.

For Example:

Bokhara rugs are mainly produced in the Lahore area of Pakistan, and Pakistan is known to produce many rugs with higher knot counts.

Below you can see the Turkish Ghiordes Knot, and the Persian Senneh Knot, and the differences between the two.

Frontside And Backside

A rug’s design is not only a reflection of its particular style (which is often related to its production area), but also a reflection of its intricacy.

Extremely intricate designs can only be hosted on rugs which have high “knot counts” – that is, number of knots per square inch.

A high knot count, such as 16/16, indicates that:

  1. the rug took a long time to produce;
  2. the rug’s fibers are densely knotted together, resulting in a her feel; and
  3. the rug can host a highly detailed and intricate design.

Although an Oriental rug’s design and intricacy is clearly visible from the rug’s frontside, the backside of the rug tells the truest story of its intricacy and knot density.

By examining the backside of a rug, you’ll be able to physically count the knots per square inch and clearly see the pattern reflected from the rug’s frontside.

Rug-Making Method.

There are basically two ways an Oriental rug is made:

  • by hand, or
  • by a machine process.

Hand-knotted Rugs

(Sometimes known as hand-woven or handmade) rugs are more unique and truly one of a kind, with delicate inconsistencies and intricate detail that cannot be replicated by a machine.

The rug is made (sometimes by a number of artists at once) on a loom by attaching a number of strings or "Weft" vertically, and then weaving the wool in and out of the weft to create the rugs design and imagery. The more knots per inch, the more detailed and durable the design.


The fringe on the top and bottom of the rug is actually part of the weft. Machine made rugs often have this added afterwards to replicate handmade designs

As with any artwork, the quality of your rug can vary from artist to artist, with flourishes in designs, similar to an artists brushstroke.

Be aware of minor imperfections, but also look for symmetry of design and size, as this shows an experienced designer.

Machine-Made Oriental Rugs

Sometimes confusingly referred to as “hand-tufted” rugs which can be produced quickly and sized with near perfect accuracy (for example, a machine-made rug may measure 8x10’, whereas a hand-made rug may measure 7.97x10.08’)

You have 2 main types of machine made rug, hand tufted and purely machine made:


These rugs are created when the weave is shot through a backing material with a tool or "Gun" by a user.

The backing consists of chemical or petroleum based material painted across the backside of the rug to stop the rug from falling apart.

 We sell hand-tufted rugs at lower prices than oriental rugs for all the reasons you have read so far. 

 Remember “hand-tufted” implies that a rug is handmade in some way, but actually means that the piece is made by machine.  Be wary of retailers that try to sell hand-tufted items at prices as high as hand-knotted pieces.

Finally you have;

Machine-Only Rugs

Although machine-made rugs are rising in production, they lack the artistic flourishes and quality of a traditional hand made design.

As we mentioned before, machine made rugs have their "Fringe" sewn on after creation to give the resemblance of a professionally hand-made rug.

Oriental rugs with hand-knotted character and quality are still sought after by many décor enthusiasts.

If you're are thinking of buying a hand made or machine made, the simplest way to decide is this: 

Rug Materials

When trying to determine the quality of a rug, we mentioned before that the number of knots per inch is a great indicator.

The next factor to determine is the quality of the material used, but also the type of material used.

Most high-quality Oriental rugs are made of pure wool, though some are blended with cotton or silk.

Wool is generally considered a high-quality material that retains its lustrous appearance and h texture for years to come, and New Zealand wool (used in the majority of high-quality Oriental rugs) is considered the finest in the world.

Although silk and cotton are less traditional and lower in price than wool, these materials are rising in popularity for their unique appearance and modern character.

Pakistan and India have also begun producing a small amount of high-quality Oriental rugs with silk and cotton blends; and Nepal has risen as top producer of silk rugs thanks to the country’s strong production of bamboo silk fibers.

Contrary to what you might think, the less "Fluffy" a rug is, the more dense and longer lasting, and higher production quality it will have.

Why Does A Rug’s Material Matter?

The rug’s fiber materials impact its appearance, quality, texture, and price. Always ask your retailer if the rug is made of wool, and then ask what type of wool it’s made from.


Rugs made with high-quality and high-fashion materials (such as New Zealand wool and wool/bamboo silk blends) will likely carry higher prices, due to higher quality

Rug Age

Oriental rugs are designed and produced to last for years – and most of them do, with regular care.

Like a work of art, actually rug accrues value as it gets older, o they truly do become heirlooms for your future generations.

Older rugs (often deemed “antique” or “vintage” when they’re more than 30 years old) often boast different styles and unique characteristics compared to modern rugs; more importantly, older rugs often carry sentimental value and/or a special history that some shoppers value deeply.

Since most high-quality, traditional hand-knotted rugs are made the exact same way today as they were many years ago, the quality or style of a modern hand-knotted Oriental rug may not differ than much from an older rug.

However, the uniqueness and history of older rugs means they’re priced higher than modern rugs.

Rug Style.

Perhaps one of the most difficult features to measure, but a rug’s style is an important factor when it comes to price.

Just as different fashion trends come and go in clothing, décor, and art, different trends also sweep the Oriental rug industry. This even happened as far back as the 16th century!

Traditionally rugs were a very sacred item, and so featured religious symbolism in the design. But as styles changed and rugs became more available, a number of designs started to incorporate subtle touches from each other, even featuring multiple religious symbols.

For Example:

The early Mughul rugs featured a number of designs from their Persian tutors, but eventually started to feature wildlife and floral designs native to Pakistan

If you wish to get an idea of the latest trends and styles in the US, see what items are popular among high-fashion Oriental rug producers like ABC Carpet & Home. This is a great reference point (And we include more in article 3)

Alternatively, our designer service can create something similar to your specification based on personal design, or even current room ambience.

But if you prefer a more traditional design, any types of Oriental rugs (such as Peshawar or Bokhara) are known for their traditional and timeless style.

These rugs are praised for their classic appearance and traditional color schemes, which often feature blues, reds, and beige's.

Floral motifs and highly detailed borders are also common in traditional pieces.

Why Does Rug Style Matter?

Retailers know what Oriental rug trends are popular, and will price their stock accordingly (Simple supply and demand) but its also interesting to note that classic and traditional pieces will always hold steady prices because they’re in constant demand by conservative consumers.

(A savvy investor could actually seen a return on investment by purchasing the right rug!)

Does Rug Size Matter? 

Although a rug’s size is perhaps its most obvious feature, it’s often overlooked by designers and consumers.

A rug’s size doesn't simply determine its practical use within a space, but also greatly impacts price.

This can come down to 3 main factors:

  1. Pricing equations are based on size
  2. Hand Produced Rugs limits scalability
  3. Sizing is a core component of custom order rugs

If you find a rug you like, but would prefer it in a different size, always ask the retailer whether he/she would produce a custom-sized order for you.

Most retailers have a pricing system which includes a set price (such as $50) for each style of rug. This set price is then multiplied by the rug’s square foot measurement.

Almost as important as price, is getting the CORRECT size for your space.

The image below shows the best practices for utilizing a rug for both the bedroom styles or dining room:

Be sure to know where the rug will be going in your home, but also to take into account the additional furniture in the room before ordering a size.

This way you can ensure that the rug will be aesthetically pleasing and match the space...


So that's the end of part 1 of this 2 part guide on The 3-Step Solutions for Oriental Rug Shopping.

We've covered:

  • the basic frustrations that most people find when venturing into a rug purchase,
  • we have discussed the 3-Step Solution to make Rug Shopping a breeze,
  • and we've started to discuss the different features and types of rug, and how they impact both price and quality!


In part 2 we discuss the exact questions to ask your retailer before making a purchase, as well as educate you on the rug industry.

But don't forget:

You can get this ENTIRE Guide by clicking the image below to enter the bonus section and receive your bonus download!


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