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  • Persian or Oriental rugs can be classified in many ways. By socioeconomic environments, country, city, region, tribe, designs or even by language.  It becomes more confusing when borders change or entire communities are relocated by choice or force.  The study of origins of rugs is a lifelong endeavor and more complicated than understanding wines.  What I’m illustrating here are some basic characteristics of the roots of rugs in general. This applies primarily to Persian rugs (Iran and surrounding areas). There are four broad classifications we will talk about and remember, nothing is always.
    • Court or Palace Rugs.  These rugs are usually larger than 14 x 24 feet, commissioned by, and made for royalty. They are made to the highest standards of weaving and often incorporate precious metal threads and jewels. As you can see from the photo, these rugs can be huge.

    Palace Rug - Very Large

             
    • City or Workshop Rugs. These are rugs woven for the market place in a factory. There is a division of labor in the productions of these rugs. Someone is responsible for the design and color elements supplied to workers in diagrams called cartoons or samples that show all the components. There is an overseer of the workers and periodically the workers switch places to allow for more consistent uniform construction. The looms are much better built allowing for more consistent tension on the foundation yarns. These are usually made with a higher knot count, which allows for a much more curvilinear design pattern.  Note in the photo that the design border at the corner makes a 45 degree turn for a more polished look to the rug. This is referred to as reconciled corners in the industry.

    City or Workshop Rug. Note the curvilinear pattern and reconciled corner

                   
    • Village or Cottage Rugs.  These rugs are not made in a factory. They are often made in homes or communal settings; they tend to be more geometric in design and are often made without a pattern to go by. In some situations agents of distributors will go to these villages and give the weavers dyed yarn and a cartoon to go by and the weavers are simply paid for their labor. The colors used in these rugs are limited compared to a Workshop Rug but greater than a Tribal piece.  An equivalent of this type of production in American history would be quilting bees where women would get together and make quilts. Note the corners in this photo are not reconciled and the border pattern just keeps going off to the side.  These types of rugs are some of my favorite.
    Village Rug

    Village Rug showing colors and un-reconciled corners

                   
    • Nomadic or Tribal Rugs. compared to the classification of rugs listed above which are made on vertical looms, most of these more primitive rugs are made on a horizontal loom that lays flat on the ground. These rugs are home made from the ground up. Usually made by sheep and goat herders, they are always on the move to find grazing for the sheep. They harvest the wool, dye it and weave it themselves based on traditional design. They are usually not symmetrical in design and have very few colors. Their weavings are much more utilitarian and include saddlebags, tent bags, salt bags and decorations for their tents and animals. Usually the materials they use are what are at hand – primarily wool. The other classifications of rugs use cotton or silk for the foundation yarns but these are not readily available for nomads so the foundation and pile yarns are made from wool. Note the few colors and the wool fringe in the photo.

    Tribal or Nomadic Rug. Note wool fringe and foundation. Few colors and geometric.