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Anatomy of Oriental Rugs

Oriental rugs have long been seen as a symbol of wealth. In recent years certain types of Oriental rugs have become more affordable. When shopping for an Oriental rug it is easy to get lost in the nomenclature.

Oriental Rugs VS Persian Rugs

The terms Oriental rugs and Persian rugs have been used synonymously for many years. The term Oriental rug describes any handwoven rug made in the geographical area encompassing the “Orient” and the old Moorish empire. This includes Persia, or what is today known as Iran. So technically, Persian rugs are also Oriental rugs but the opposite is not true. Not all Oriental rugs are Persian. You may have an art deco style Peking Chinese rug, this can be classified as an Oriental rug, but not a Persian rug. Oriental rug, or Carpet? The next issue is whether you call your rug an Oriental carpet or just a rug. Traditionally large room-sized rugs were classified as Oriental carpets, while small rugs around 6’ x 9’ or smaller were just Oriental rugs. These distinctions are still applied today however they are not taken as seriously as they were in the past.

The Foundation Threads

The term foundation is used to describe the threads that make up the base of the rug. These are usually cotton or wool threads which are woven horizontally and vertically. They can be made of other materials such as silk, but cotton and wool are the most popular. The threads which run horizontally on the rug (from left to right) are the weft threads. “Weft” threads are easily remembered because they go to the “left”. The threads which run from top to bottom are the warp threads. These are the threads you see as the fringe of the carpet. Below you see the white strands of thread sticking out from the rug, some call them tassels, but they are more widely known as the fringe. These threads are the warp threads of the foundation.

The Pile

The pile of an Oriental rug describes the material that has been knotted onto the foundation. It is what you feel when you walk across the rug. It may be thick or thin depending on how low it was clipped after being woven. The pile is almost always wool, but in some cases, it may be silk. The wool is knotted on to the foundation threads by skilled weavers following a design that has already been sketched on a paper. In the picture below you can see the pile is what gives the rug its thickness and design. Without the pile, you do not have an Oriental rug.

Components of the finished Oriental rug

Once the Oriental rug is complete, there are several more terms used to define the design of the rug. The edges are the areas on the left and right sides of the rug that hold together the foundation threads. The field is the open space of the rug. It is not the design itself, but rather the background, blank space surrounding the design. The rug below has an ivory-colored field. See the open area surrounding the designs and figures of this unique Oriental rug.


The border is the area around the field. Some rugs have more than one border and some just have one. The border can be thought of like a picture frame. It is the frame around the main design of the Oriental rug. The design is the overall pattern of the rug. It could be floral, geometric, tribal, or it could be one or more medallions. The medallion is a large shape which may be an abstract diamond or a geometric square that is the focal point of the rug.

Rugs you would like to find out more about the Anatomy of Oriental Rugs visit this great site that breaks down all of the different rug styles, knots, and origins with illustrations here: