How to Identify Genuine Oriental Hand Knotted Area Rugs

How to Identify Genuine Oriental Hand Knotted Area Rugs

Most people have very little knowledge of the difference between genuine oriental hand knotted area rugs versus machine made rugs.  Hand knotted, handmade, hand tied or handwoven rugs can also be known as Oriental rugs or Persian rugs and considered collectible due to their quality. 

There is an actual distinction between Persian handmade rugs and Oriental area rugs, as Persian denotes a rug made in Iran, whereas “Oriental” is a universal term for any handmade rug with a pile made anywhere in the world.

The quality of the rug depends considerably on the quality of the yarns, the dyes used and the knot count as well as other factors.

Hand knotted area rugs are made on a loom which is specially designed and knotted.  These handwoven masterpieces have been made for centuries and still considered as a fascinating, ancient and highly admired form of art.

The size of the loom depends on the rug size.  All weaving is carried out starting on the bottom of the loom and moving up toward the top.  The weaver interleaves the knots into the foundation which is “hand tied” which makes the rug “pile”.  This highly detailed operation is particularly time consuming and tedious.

The Back of Hand Knotted Area Rugs

When you turn the rug over to see its back, you will see foundation threads which are usually white, blue or red.  The foundation threads are called weft.  In handmade floor rugs, they usually go horizontally with the rug fringes.

hand knotted area rugs

Sometimes you will see partial weft threads aligning horizontally along the rugs back for only an inch or so and then disappear.  Due to their handmade quality, oriental area rugs do not have perfectly horizontal weft threads.

If you look at the underside of the rug, you will see colored knots for unevenness where many areas will appear thicker.  This indicates that the rug is handmade.  Machine made rugs look too perfect in the back.  Although there are some machine made rugs that imitate handmade rugs very well, this is not the norm.  

Handmade oriental wool rugs do not have perfectly straight horizontal weft threads because of their handmade quality. Furthermore, on the back of the rug look at the colored knots for unevenness where a number of areas will appear a little thicker, this indicating that the rug is handmade and not machine made as well. However, nowadays there are many machine-made rug imitations which do a great job at imitating hand-made rugs, so just because a rug is not perfectly even doesn’t mean that it is hand-made. See the photo below on for a visual of a handmade area rug and a machine-made imitation.

The Front of the Hand Knotted Area Rugs

With handmade luxury area rugs, the design will never be the same shape and size from one end to the other.  Additionally, the design pattern will often be imperfect.  This variation is due to the fact that it is handmade and a sign of authenticity.  Sometimes imperfections are “intentionally” added to handmade oriental wool rugs as the weaver likes to leave his or her own mark.

Whereas a machine made rug usually contains the same pattern sizes throughout and variations are not visible.

Handmade Oriental Area Rug Color

Another interesting note about handmade wool rugs is that they usually have variations in color that shows up like thin or thick striping.  This striping is known as “abrash”.  This is usually due to handspun wool and how the twisting of the wool causes the dyes to adhere differently to the wool.  In older rugs, this can be seen due to atmosphere, light and washing.

Abrashes made by machines are not very good by comparison and thus this is another way to identify a handmade wool rug.

In poorly made rugs, there have been issues such as bleeding which causes the dye to run throughout the rug, especially after it has been washed.

Getting your quality rug professionally cleaned from a rug dealer will ensure that dyes do not bleed.  (Never get your rug steam cleaned or dry cleaned as this will strip the lanolins from the wool and usually cause permanent damage to the rug)

The Visual Differences of Hand Knotted Area Rugs

Visually speaking, there is usually a big difference between hand knotted area rugs and machine made rugs.  It is mostly seen on the back which has a very distinct appearance.

Usually the design on the back is not as colorful as the back of a handmade wool rug.  The front and back of a machine made rug are very different in terms of color.  

A machine made rug has overstitched edges and a fringe applied and has overstitch patterns running across the back.  Handmade floor rugs  are made with an “overcast” edge and you can clearly see individual knots on the back.

machine made rug vs hand knotted area rug

The major difference here is that the fringe of handmade oriental area rugs are part of the warp strings, whereas the fringes are sewn on after the rug is made on machine made rugs.

Materials used to make hand knotted area rugs

The majority of handmade rugs use real wool, silk or art silks.  Whereas a machine made rug is often made with polyester or nylon.  

Power Loomed Rugs

What is power loomed?  These are rugs made on very large machines which is automated and computer controlled.  These rugs are made very fast and usually made with synthetic fibers like polyester, acrylic and polypropylene.  These rugs look perfect to the eye and have no handmade type imperfections.

Rugs To Avoid If You Are Seeking Handmade

Oriental area rugs that are made in Italy, Belgium or other part of western Europe are more likely to be machine made.  This is largely due to the fact that there is little labor pool that has the skill to do it.

Identifying genuine hand knotted area rugs that are made in Egypt, Bulgaria, Albania and Romania can be difficult.  This is due to the fact that they have become good at making imitations with machines for about 50 years.  Thus, it is best not to purchase from these countries as it is difficult to know the difference.

Rug Cost                                

Please note that the price of a hand knotted area rug and a machine made one differ dramatically and rightly so!  How can you compare something that looks perfect, but a synthetic perfect versus a handmade item?  You can learn a lot more by reading the 7 Reasons To Purchase A Fine Handmade Oriental Rug.

Rug Durability

Machine made rugs are not built to last and will vary in how long they will look good.  It all depends on the quality of the fibers used.  No matter how long they last, there is no value in collecting machine made rugs.

Hand knotted area rugs are typically made with natural materials such as New Zealand wool, silk, bamboo silk, viscose and cotton.  Frequently silk is used as an accent in rugs to highlight certain areas.  However, in a lot of contemporary modern area rugs, you will see a lot of silk used.  In these cases, most of these rugs use bamboo silk or art silk with is a cellulose fiber.

Hand knotted area rugs are very durable and can last for centuries (quite literally) if they are well maintained and high quality to begin with.

These tips are here to help you identify hand knotted area rugs.  There are many oriental rugs in San Francisco and if you choose to purchase an handmade area rug, please visit Artsy Rugs in Palo Alto to have a proper evaluation of your rug.