Persian rugs are highly sought after both by interior designers and home décor enthusiasts. Known for their quality, colorful designs, and unparalleled style, Persian rugs are the perfect complement to any space. That said, anyone who's ever bought one will tell you that they don’t come cheap. So, what is it about Persian rugs that makes them so expensive? Well, the answer is many things, actually.
The Persians have been producing rugs since around 400 BCE. The first known mention of a Persian rug was by the Greek poet and philosopher Xenophon in his book Anabasis, where he wrote that Persian carpets were "precious" and "worthy diplomatic gifts." Indeed, Persian rugs have been prized for their splendid and intricate designs since ancient times.
From the Sasanian empire to the advent of Islam, through the Safavid period and right up to modern day, Persian rugs have always been considered the best in the world, but why is that? What is it about Persian rugs that makes them so special? And how are they different from other rugs and carpets?
There are a number of key differences between authentic Persian rugs and other types of rugs and carpets. It’s important to note that ‘Persian rugs’ can refer to rugs made in present-day Iran, but also Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iraq, and Eastern Turkey. Let’s look at the main factors that make Persian rugs so valuable so that you can understand and appreciate why these rugs are worth every penny.
Modern rugs are generally mass-produced by machines using generic cotton or, in many cases, a blend of synthetic textiles, whereas Persian rugs are almost always produced from top-grade Kurk wool or silk which are all considerably more expensive than cotton or synthetics.
The best wool is produced only in spring, and the best of the best wool — known as Kurk wool — only grows around the sheep’s neck and can only be obtained the first time the sheep is shorn. This means that for the best possible wool, the conditions and timing has to be perfect: The very small window is springtime, hopefully coinciding with a sheep’s infancy. You only come by a small amount of Kurk from a baby sheep's neck, only once. This is the intricate process and quality wool used in the finest Persian rugs.
Other Persian rugs are made of silk which is also incredibly rare and expensive. Silk is produced by silkworms, and it takes around 5000 silkworms to produce just one kilogram of silk. Some Persian rugs are woven with more than ten kilograms of silk, so it’s easy to see that the materials alone can make Persian rugs expensive. But there is another factor involved in determining the value of a Persian rug.
Modern rugs are created by machines and can be completed within just a few minutes. However, Persian rugs are woven by hand, and each one takes between two years and several decades to produce. The entire process of obtaining the right wool or silk, dyeing the material, and then weaving the rug by hand takes so long that some master weavers are only able to produce two or three Persian rugs in their entire lives.
In fact, the method used to knot Persian rugs is notoriously difficult to master, and weavers typically spend three or four years as an apprentice just learning how to tie the knots before they ever get to work on producing a rug that they can sell. When you consider the process and the amount of time it takes to produce a single Persian rug, you can begin to understand their value.
Consider also that each Persian rug is unique and is very much a work of art that reflects the personality of the creator. There are no two Persian rugs that are exactly alike, and for that reason, Persian rugs tend to appreciate in value, making them excellent investment pieces. Indeed, the most valuable Persian rugs are antiques that have been around for hundreds of years.
The value of Persian rugs is threefold. First, the materials that go into a genuine Persian rug are of the highest quality — Kurk wool and Silk. The second contributor to Persian rugs’ value is the mastery required to make; The process of learning how to knot a Persian rug takes years, and then creating one takes many more years, possibly decades. Finally, Persian rugs are each one of a kind, with a multi-century history. For all of these reasons, and a sprinkle of ineffable beauty on top, a vintage Persian rug is a major investment piece with the potential to appreciate in value significantly over time.