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Types of Oriental Rugs & How to Identify One

Types of Oriental Rugs & How to Identify One

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Oriental rugs, cherished worldwide for their unmatched craftsmanship and profound historical significance, are the epitome of textile artistry.

Originating from the “Rug Belt” regions spanning the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Far East, these handcrafted masterpieces are more than just decor. Each rug is a woven narrative, a vibrant echo of the unique cultures, traditions, and stories of their creators.

This guide details the various types of Oriental rugs, revealing the distinctive qualities, intricate designs, and rich cultural heritage that make each rug type a standout.

From the timeless elegance of Persian rugs to the rustic allure of Chobi designs, join us as we delve into the captivating universe of Oriental rugs.

Common Types of Oriental Rugs

Chobi Rugs

Afghan blue Zeigler rug

Derived from the Farsi word “chob” or ‘wood’, ‘Chobi’ denotes the use of natural, vegetable-based dyes in the creation of these rugs. Predominantly crafted by skilled artisans in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Chobi rugs are celebrated for their understated elegance, achieved through a muted color palette reminiscent of aged, antique rugs.

The design framework is traditional, often displaying a medley of geometric and floral patterns influenced by the region’s longstanding artistic practices. The resulting aura of rustic sophistication imbued by each Chobi rug enhances a diverse range of interior styles.

Ikat Rugs

Antique Ersari Chuval

Born out of the ancient resist-dyeing textile traditions of Central Asia, Ikat rugs are a creative expression of a unique dyeing process. The yarns are dyed before weaving with the use of a resist, which gives Ikat rugs their distinctive ‘blurred’ designs, resembling soft-edged watercolor brushstrokes.

Abstract geometric patterns form the core of Ikat designs, marked by a vibrant play of colors. The strikingly modern, global aesthetic of Ikat rugs makes them a perfect choice for adding a touch of eclectic charm to contemporary spaces.

Kilim Rugs

Large Veg Dye Afghan Kilim Rug

Crafted primarily in regions spanning Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and the Balkans, Kilim rugs are a variety of flatweave rugs known for their pile-less construction.

Kilim rugs captivate with their lightweight and durable nature, serving diverse functional purposes. The designs are characteristically bold, geometric, and vibrant, infused with symbolic motifs that convey themes such as fertility, protection, and life’s cyclical nature.

The amalgamation of visual storytelling, rich colors, and tactile flatweave in Kilim rugs hold a unique allure for both collectors and design enthusiasts.

Silk Rugs

Persian Fine Tabriz Part Silk Carpet

Silk rugs, woven exclusively from silk, encapsulate a sense of luxury and refinement. Silk’s inherent sheen and plush softness enhance the visual appeal of these rugs. The thin, fine threads of silk allow for a high knot count, resulting in extraordinarily detailed and intricate designs.

While silk rugs are produced in various Oriental regions, Persian Qum and Turkish Hereke silk rugs are particularly valued for their exquisite craftsmanship and nuanced designs.

Vogue Rugs

Vogue rugs signify a modern interpretation of Oriental rugs, marrying traditional rug-weaving techniques with contemporary design philosophy. These rugs are often hand-tufted, using a mix of wool and art silk to create a plush, tactile pile.

The design range of Vogue rugs is vast, spanning from abstract modernist patterns to transitional designs. These innovative designs reinterpret classic elements of traditional Oriental and Persian rugs in modern color schemes, adding a touch of up-to-date elegance to any decor.

Bokhara Rugs

Turkoman Red Bokhara Carpet

Bokhara rugs, named after the Bukhara region of modern-day Uzbekistan, are admired for their dense, soft pile and opulent texture. Their design signature includes a repeating sequence of oval or diamond-shaped motifs, known as ‘guls.’

The colors of Bokhara rugs lean towards rich, monochromatic jewel tones, adding an element of coziness and depth to interior spaces.

Persian Rugs

Antique Persian Heriz Carpet

Persian rugs, originating from Iran, are often seen as the pinnacle of Oriental rug craftsmanship. They are highly esteemed for their superior quality materials, complex designs, and dense knotting techniques. The variety of Persian rug styles is broad, reflecting the diverse aesthetics of different Iranian regions.

Every Persian rug presents a visual narrative deeply rooted in Iran’s historical and cultural framework, from the grand medallion-centric designs of Tabriz rugs to the ornate floral patterns of Isfahan rugs.

Afshar Rugs

Old Afshar Rug (Circa 1960)

Afshar rugs are the creative product of the Afshar tribe, a semi-nomadic group predominantly located in southern Iran. These rugs are a testament to superior craftsmanship, featuring bold geometric motifs and stylized symbolic representations of objects and animals from daily life.

The Afshar rugs’ color palette commonly leans towards deep reds and blues, producing a strong, eye-catching aesthetic.

Mashad Rug

Oversize Persian Mashad Carpet

Mashad rugs, originating from the holy city of Mashad in Iran, are a renowned type of Persian rug known for their intricate designs and superior craftsmanship. Typically large, these rugs feature a central medallion surrounded by elaborate floral motifs, rendered in rich blues, reds, and creams. Hand-knotted from high-quality wool, sometimes with silk details, Mashad rugs offer exceptional durability.

With their exquisite designs and robust construction, Mashad rugs encapsulate Persian elegance, enhancing any decor.

6 Ways to Identify an Oriental Rug

Identifying an Oriental rug is not easy. These types of rugs have been in the market for decades and even centuries. They originate from Oriental countries, which have some of the most complex artistic representations in the world.

The designs of the rugs bring to life all the symbols of their countries of origin, as well as the unique craftsmanship techniques used to produce them.

There are sixe common ways to identify an oriental rug and what type it is.

1. Geographical Origin

Authentic Oriental rugs are exclusively handmade in the “rug belt” – an area extending from Morocco in North Africa to Central Asia and India. This region includes countries like Iran (Persia), China, India, Russia, Turkey, Pakistan, Tibet, and Nepal.

The country of origin significantly influences the rug’s design and craftsmanship.

2. Handmade Quality

One of the defining characteristics of an Oriental rug is its handmade nature. You can confirm this by inspecting the back of the rug. If the design mirrors the front with slight irregularities, it’s an indication that the rug has been hand-knotted, a characteristic feature of Oriental rugs.

In contrast, machine-made rugs have a mesh or plastic backing that often obscures the design.

3. Knot Density

Knot density refers to the number of knots per square inch (KPSI) in a rug and is a significant indicator of its quality and origin. Oriental rugs typically have a high knot density, with some fine Persian rugs reaching up to 600 KPSI.

While a higher knot density often denotes a higher-quality rug, it’s not the sole determinant of an Oriental rug’s value.

4. Material

Authentic Oriental rugs are usually made from high-quality, natural materials like wool, cotton, silk, and occasionally camel or goat hair. Wool is most commonly used because of its durability, rich texture, and dirt-resistance.

Silk is used for finer, more expensive rugs. Synthetic materials are a telltale sign of a non-authentic Oriental rug.

5. Design and Color

Oriental rugs are celebrated for their intricate designs and vibrant colors. The motifs can include geometric shapes, floral patterns, vinery, medallions, hunting scenes, and more.

Each region has its distinctive designs, so understanding these can help pinpoint the rug’s origins. The colors in genuine Oriental rugs are derived from natural dyes, offering a unique richness and depth that synthetic dyes can’t replicate.

6. Fringes

Fringes on Oriental rugs are not added but are an integral part of the rug’s structure. They are the warp threads – the foundation threads running vertically on the rug, on which the knots are tied. Machine-made rugs often have fringes sewn on after the rug is complete.

Motifs And Symbolism In Oriental Rugs

The design of an oriental rug comes across in shapes, patterns, motifs, weaving techniques, and color.

These designs are not random, however. They are deeply rooted in the cultural background of their places of origin and display some symbols and meanings behind each line, as an intention to record history and facts on the rug itself.

There are two main design symbols from which you can define whether an Oriental rug has been produced by craftsmen in the city or by tribes.

Generally, if the rug has floral and organic patterns on them it comes from city producers, while if it has clean geometric lines then it has most probably been woven by a village tribe.

In addition, all other design elements that behold symbolism are plants, animals and colors.


Plants are mostly used as positive symbols in the Oriental rug design.

Some common symbols include Lotuses and Lilies, which represent purity, the Tree of life, which represents paradise, fruit trees such as Cyprus and Pomegranate represent health, while Bamboos and Peonies represent wealth.


Animal symbols are also prevalent in Oriental rugs. They represent happiness and well-being, such as bats, butterflies, and deer. Doves represent peace, dragons, elephants, and phoenixes represent power, the horse is used to show speed, while fish is a symbol of abundance. Lions are used to show victory, while ram horns show male fertility.


Bold colors are very dominant in Oriental rugs. These rugs use mainly primary colors such as red, blue and green. Some more strong colors can also be seen.

Generally, red is used to show happiness, while black shows destruction. Brown represents fertility, while blue is the color of the truth. Green and orange have more of a spiritual meaning, where green represents paradise and orange is used to show devotion.

Some rugs also feature yellow and white, where yellow means power and white is purity.

Frequently Asked Questions About Oriental Rugs

What makes Oriental Rugs so expensive?

Oriental rugs are often expensive due to their handcrafted nature. The intricate process of creating one involves time-consuming steps, requiring high skill and patience levels from the weavers. Additionally, the high-quality materials used, such as silk or fine wool, also contribute to the cost.

Moreover, the intricate designs, which can take several months or even years to complete, add to their value.

How should I clean my Oriental Rug?

Cleaning Oriental rugs should be done with care due to their delicate nature. Regular vacuuming on a low setting can remove everyday dust and dirt.

For deeper cleaning, it’s recommended to hire professional rug cleaners who specialize in Oriental rugs. They have specific knowledge about different rug types and know the best cleaning methods for each.

Remember, harsh chemicals or excessive water can damage the rug fibers and cause colors to bleed.

How long does an Oriental Rug last?

With proper care and maintenance, Oriental rugs can last for decades and can even become valuable heirlooms passed down through generations. Their lifespan greatly depends on factors such as the rug’s material, the quality of the craftsmanship, and how well it is maintained.

How can I tell where my Oriental Rug is from?

The design, color scheme, materials used, and weaving techniques can often indicate where an Oriental rug is from. For instance, Persian rugs are known for their intricate floral and vine patterns, while Turkish rugs often have more geometric designs.

It can be complex to determine the origin with precision, as rug-making techniques and designs have traveled through different regions over centuries, creating overlaps in styles.

Can Oriental Rugs be repaired?

Yes, Oriental rugs can be repaired. Repairing and restoring Oriental rugs is a specialized skill offered by certain professional rug cleaners and restorers. They can often reweave damaged areas, restore color, and re-fringe the edges of the rugs, extending the life of your rug and maintaining its beauty and value.