Persian carpets are ubiquitous in interior design but there is still a lot of confusion when it comes to identifying rugs by their proper names. Even designers who work with them on a regular basis find it a challenge to tell which one is a ‘Tabriz’ or an ‘Oushak’ rug. While this may seem trivial compared to finding the right rug design and colors for a living space, experts say carpet names are more than just a way to differentiate rugs from one another.
A quick Google search about Persian rug names will reveal that many of them are taken from cities, towns, or villages found in Iran, Turkey, and other countries they originated from. According to the professionals, there are several important reasons for this practice.
First, geography is an excellent indicator of the quality of wool and dyes rug makers use. For example, Isfahan rugs have roots in the historic city of Isfahan. Once the capital of the great Safavid empire that reigned from 1502 to 1736, this era generated the world’s most expensive rug on record – the ‘Sickle-Leaf’ carpet that sold for almost $34 million in 2013. Being the center of commerce and trade, rug makers here had easy access to the finest wool and dye in the region. In addition, villages and towns located in mountainous areas are able to use thicker and more durable wool since the sheep that grow in these parts have thicker fleece commonly used in Moroccan rugs.
Second, even rugs that are not named after a place in Iran, like ‘Gabbeh’ carpets are still influenced heavily by geography. ‘Gabbeh’ means ‘natural, uncut, or raw’ which describes its general appearance – rough and ‘unfinished’, unlike other rugs intended for trade. The nomadic Qashqai tribe in Iran’s Zagros Mountains made ‘Gabbeh’ rugs as everyday implements to protect them against harsh weather elements. The process they use did not require big looms so they’re able to make them faster especially when they are on the move.
Lastly, the names of Persian rugs not only say something about their origin but also their value. Rugs from Isfahan and Kerman, two major cities in Iran, are considered to be the most coveted and distinguished by their beauty and quality. The high demand for these area rugs drive up prices which is why it’s not surprising to see them fetch for millions of dollars at auctions.
Finding the perfect rug for living space can be tricky especially with so many designs and styles to choose from. Having a basic understanding of how Persian rugs are named can help make the process easier as they will provide insight into quality and value.