Persian carpet or Persian rug, also known as Iranian carpet, is a heavy textile made for a wide variety of utilitarian and symbolic purposes and produced in Iran, for home use, local sale, and export. Carpet weaving is an inseparable part of Persian culture and Iranian art.
Iranians were among the pioneer carpet weavers of the ancient civilizations, having achieved a superlative degree of perfection through centuries of creativity and ingenuity. The skill of carpet weaving has been handed down by fathers to their offspring as a closely guarded family secret. To trace the history of Persian carpet is to follow a path of cultural growth of one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever seen.
The carpets from Tabriz and one of the oldest rug weaving centers in the region are of high quality and come in a great variety of sizes. The pattern could be floral, trees, vases, teardrop medallions or hunting scenes. The most famous design is called Mahi (fish). The pile is of wool or wool/silk, while the warp is only cotton or silk. Antique carpets from Tabriz are extremely precious and can be found only in museums or in exclusive private collections.
Kashan is a well-known industrial town of Iran with the carpets produced bearing the name. There are two kinds of Kashan carpets; the first is made of unbleached cotton warps and double wefts of cotton using the Persian knot technique and the second kind uses pure silk wefts and double silk wraps, employing the same Turkish known method. The Mehrab and medallion are common patterns of Kashan carpets. The medallion and corner pattern on an ornately patterned floral field is a trademark of Kashan rugs. The colors used in the designing is usually a combination of rich reds, deep blues, and ivory with occasional splotches of yellow, green and burnt orange.
Bright vibrant colors and characteristic bold patterns make Heriz rugs easy to identify. These rugs will always feature an oversized medallion in the center, with a double or triple outline and large corner pieces. These rugs are very durable and will last for generations.
Woven by Qashqai and Luri weavers in the Zagros Mountains, the tribal influence is very evident in Gabbeh rugs. Made of local handspun wool, these rugs are thick and coarse and the designs are simple and woven on a plain lush field of color. Only natural dyes are used and typical colors of these rugs are orange, yellow, rust or red. Qashqai is a tribal city of Iran. Qashqai weave is finer with a tight ridged back construction and shorter pile. Genuine old Qashqai, are miracles of weaving and colouring skills. But it is a great pity since the Qashqai, the most important of the Turkish tribe in Iran, use only the Turkish knot.
Isfahan carpets come from the Old Persian capital and were probably the first to be recognized abroad especially in the west. During the reign of Shah Abbas, many carpets were sent as gifts to the rulers of western countries. The Isfahan carpets – as well as those from Nain – have patterns of flowers and intertwined branches, often with a medallion, but one can also find hunting scenes and the tree of life. In Najafabad, close to Isfahan, they produce similar carpets, but then the warp is of cotton. The design silk and wool of Isfahan rugs is very balanced and symmetrical. Typically it will consist of a single indigo, rose or blue medallion surrounded by vines and woven on an ivory background.
Nain rugs are high quality with very fine quality wool and a knot count of about 300 kpsi to 700 kpsi. The patterns are very intricate and usually consist of blue or green intertwined branches with tiny flowers woven on a white or light ivory background. Nain has always had a reputation of producing high quality wool. Similar to those of Isfahan, the carpets from Nain are also known for their fine patterns. Many carpets have patterns of plants and animals, but most of them have intertwined branches with small flowers. The colors are typical of the region, light ivory or white with branches in blue or green. The knots of wool and threads of silk are often seen to emphasize the pattern.
Mashad rugs typically feature a lone, oversized Shah Abbasi medallion in the center on an elaborate background filled with floral motifs in a curvilinear design. These rugs are usually large with a wool pile and a cotton foundation.
Qum, located 150 km south of Tehran, hosts the tomb of Shah Abbas (1586-1628), the great patron of carpet weaving. These carpets are very tightly knotted and the pile is mostly of silk. One can even find extremely fine carpets where both pile warp and weft are of silk. If the pile is of wool there is often silk decor in the details. Qum has a great variation of patterns, flowers, vases, birds, medallions, cypresses, gardens and hunting scene. The colours are often dark blue, reddish brown, orange or pink, but somewhere in the Qum carpet you almost always find turquoise.
There are two kinds of Hereke carpets, one has a wool pile and cotton warp and the other is pure silk with silk pile with silk warp, which makes it a very elegant carpet.
There is a Turkoman carpet produced by the Tekke tribe and is known in the west as Bokhara. The town of Bokhara being the main trading center of the area. The typical Tekke has a broad border and the center field is decorated with octagon-shaped guls. The pattern is always geometric and the colors are often dark red with the pattern in blue and white.
The Bakhtiari nomads live in the south west of Iran between Isfahan and Malyar. The three main carpet-weaving areas being Chahar Kurd, Chahar Shutur and Shalem Zar. Many have now abandoned their nomadic life, which explains why some Bakhtiari carpets can be quite large. The wool is thick on sturdy warp of cotton. This makes the carpets heavy but very hard wearing. Many Bakhtiaris, particularly those from Shalem Zar, have the garden motif with a pattern is squares with animals, trees, and flowers.
Warm natural shades and strong designs are the common features of Caucasian rugs. Used with either modern or antique furniture, they will give a new dimension of luxury to homes. The majority of Caucasian pile rugs have woolen warps and wefts. There are many kinds of Caucasian pile rugs relating to the places like Baku, Koba, Shirvan, Karabakh, Kazak and Azerbaijan.
Baluchi nomads in the Khorsan area (from the town of Meshed, Afghanistan) use horizontal primitive looms and mostly weave small carpets. The pile is often sheep wool dyed into a dark red or blue color but they also use camel hair in brown and beige and goat hair for the edges. The warp is often woolen, except in the Meshed-Baluh where they use cotton. The pattern is geometric.