If you are interested in antique rugs, you might encounter some terms that are unfamiliar or confusing. To help you understand the history, style, and quality of these rugs, we have compiled a glossary of some common and important antique rug terms. Here are the definitions of these terms, organized by category:
Types, Regions and Origins of Rugs
A type of rug that originates from the city of Agra in India, which was a major center of carpet production during the Mughal Empire in the 16th and 17th centuries. Agra rugs are known for their fine quality, intricate designs, and rich colors.
A type of rug that is woven in Afghanistan, usually by nomadic or tribal groups. Afghan rugs are known for their geometric patterns, vibrant colors, and coarse texture.
A type of rug that is woven in the south of Spain, near Granada, that has a thick pile and a shaggy texture. Alpujarra rugs often feature animal motifs, such as goats, birds, or dogs, and sometimes have inscriptions or dates.
A term that refers to the rugs that are woven in the Anatolian peninsula, which is now part of Turkey. Anatolian rugs are among the oldest and most diverse in the world, and can have various styles, techniques, and motifs.
A style of art and design that emerged in the 1920s and 1930s, and was influenced by the industrial, geometric, and exotic trends of the time. Art Deco rugs are often characterized by bold colors, angular shapes, and abstract patterns, and can be seen in European and American rugs, especially from France and the United States.
A type of rug or carpet that has a looped pile and is usually made of wool, cotton, or synthetic fibers. Berber rugs are often associated with the Berber people of North Africa, who have a long tradition of weaving rugs with geometric patterns and natural colors.
A term that refers to the rugs that are woven in China, especially in the eastern and central regions. Chinese rugs are influenced by the Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian traditions, and often feature motifs such as dragons, phoenixes, lotuses, clouds, and medallions. Chinese rugs are usually symmetrical, harmonious, and elegant, and use colors such as blue, yellow, red, and green.
A term that refers to the rug or carpet that is woven by the urban or professional weavers, who work in workshops or factories. City rugs are usually fine, intricate, and sophisticated, and are woven with a high knot density and a low pile. City rugs have floral, medallion, or pictorial patterns, and use a variety of colors, often dyed with synthetic dyes. City rugs are often made with high-quality wool, silk, or cotton, and are woven on large and complex looms.
A term that refers to the flat-woven rugs that are made in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nepal. Dhurries are usually made of cotton, wool, silk, or jute, and have simple or geometric patterns. Dhurries are durable, reversible, and easy to clean, and can be used as floor coverings, wall hangings, or bedspreads.
A term that refers to the shaggy rugs that are made in Greece, usually from sheep's wool. Flokatis are thick, soft, and fluffy, and have a natural white or cream color. Flokatis are traditionally used as blankets, mattresses, or rugs, and are often dyed in bright colors.
A term that refers to the coarse and primitive rugs that are woven by the nomadic tribes of Iran, especially the Qashqai. Gabbehs are usually made of wool, and have a high pile and a low knot density. Gabbehs have abstract or geometric designs, often depicting animals, people, or landscapes, and use natural or vibrant colors.
A term that refers to the rugs that are woven in the town of Heriz and its surrounding villages in northwest Iran. Heriz rugs are known for their bold and geometric designs, often featuring a large central medallion and a serrated leaf border. Heriz rugs use a variety of colors, such as red, blue, green, yellow, and ivory, and are made of durable and coarse wool.
A term that refers to the dyeing technique that creates patterns by binding and resist-dyeing the yarns before weaving. Ikat rugs have a blurred or fuzzy appearance, and can have various motifs, such as stripes, diamonds, flowers, or animals. Ikat rugs are made in various regions, such as India, Indonesia, Turkey, and Central Asia.
A term that refers to the rug or carpet that is made in India but has a Persian design or influence. Indo-Persian rugs are often cheaper and more available than authentic Persian rugs, and may have variations in color, quality, and style. Indo-Persian rugs may also be overdyed, distressed, or patchwork to create a different look.
A term that refers to the flat-woven rugs that are made in various regions, such as Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Morocco. Kilims are usually made of wool, cotton, or silk, and have no pile or backing. The flatweaves have geometric or floral patterns, and use bright or muted colors. Kilims (AKA Kelims or Gelims) are versatile, lightweight, and durable, and can be used as rugs, wall hangings, or furniture covers.
A term used to describe rugs and carpets woven in or around Kashan, a historic city in central Iran and one of the oldest and most prestigious rug-producing centers. Kashan rugs are known for their elegant and refined designs, featuring a central medallion surrounded by intricate floral motifs on a richly colored field. Kashan rugs are usually made of wool, cotton, or silk, and use natural or synthetic dyes. Kashan rugs are often considered antique rugs, as they date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. Kashan rugs are highly sought-after by collectors and rug enthusiasts.
A term used to describe a type of rug or carpet consisting of two identical pouches or compartments attached by a shared back. Saddlebags are often used to store and transport goods on the backs of pack animals, such as horses, camels, or donkeys. Khorjins (Saddlebags) are usually made of wool or cotton, and feature flat-woven or pile-woven designs. Saddlebags are often decorated with pile strips, selvedges, loops, or tassels. Saddlebags are considered one of the most common and practical types of tribal rugs.
A term used to describe rugs and carpets woven by the Kurdish people, a large ethnic group inhabiting parts of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. Kurdish rugs are known for their vibrant colors, bold patterns, and expressive motifs, often featuring animals, birds, or mythical creatures. Kurdish rugs are usually made of wool or cotton, and use natural or synthetic dyes. Kurdish rugs use symmetrical or asymmetrical knots, depending on the region and tribe. Kurdish rugs are considered one of the most unique and artistic types of Oriental rugs.
A term that refers to the rugs that are woven in Morocco, especially by the Berber tribes. Moroccan rugs are usually made of wool, and have a high or low pile. Moroccan rugs have diverse styles, ranging from simple and minimalist to colorful and complex. Moroccan rugs often feature geometric, tribal, or abstract motifs, and use natural or dyed colors.
A term that refers to the rug or carpet that is woven by the nomadic people, who move from place to place with their animals and belongings. Nomadic rugs are usually small, portable, and versatile, and can be used as floor coverings, tents, bags, or saddles. Nomadic rugs have simple or geometric patterns, and use natural or dyed colors. Nomadic rugs are often made with the wool of their own sheep or goats, and are woven on horizontal looms.
A term that refers to the rug or carpet that is made in Pakistan but has a Persian design or influence. Pako-Persian rugs are similar to Indo-Persian rugs, but may have a higher knot density and a finer quality of wool. Pako-Persian rugs may also have a more muted color palette and a softer texture.
A term used to describe rugs and carpets originating from Iran or the former Persian Empire. Persian rugs are known for their high quality, diverse designs, and rich history. Persian rugs are often classified by their region of production, such as Tabriz, Kashan, Mashad, or Bidjar.
A term used to describe a small rug or carpet featuring a prayer niche or mihrab in the field design. Prayer rugs are often used by Muslims to perform their daily prayers, as they indicate the direction of Mecca and provide a clean and comfortable surface. Prayer rugs are usually made of wool, cotton, or silk, and feature various patterns and motifs, often related to religious or spiritual themes. Prayer rugs are considered one of the most sacred and personal types of Oriental rugs.
A term used to describe a type of rug or carpet consisting of a single pouch or compartment with a slit opening at the top. Saltbags are often used to store and carry salt, a valuable commodity in many regions. Saltbags are usually made of wool or cotton, and feature flat-woven or pile-woven designs. Saltbags are often decorated with pile strips, selvedges, loops, or tassels. Saltbags are considered one of the most distinctive and symbolic types of tribal rugs.
A term that refers to the rug or carpet that is made in China but has a Persian design or influence. Sino-Persian rugs are often made with silk or a blend of silk and wool, and have a smooth and shiny appearance. Sino-Persian rugs may feature floral, medallion, or animal motifs, and may have bright or pastel colors.
A type of Persian rug or carpet that originates from the city of Tabriz in northwest Iran. Tabriz rugs are known for their diverse and intricate designs, ranging from medallions, floral motifs, animal scenes, hunting scenes, and pictorial rugs. Tabriz rugs are usually woven with a high knot density and a variety of colors.
A term that refers to the rug or carpet that is woven by the nomadic or tribal groups, usually in the Middle East, Central Asia, or Africa. Tribal rugs are usually made of wool, and have a low pile and a coarse texture. Tribal rugs have geometric or abstract patterns, and use natural or vibrant colors. Tribal rugs are often unique, expressive, and authentic, and reflect the culture and identity of the weaver.
A term that refers to the rug or carpet that is woven by the villagers, who live in rural areas and practice farming or herding. Village rugs are usually larger, thicker, and more durable than nomadic rugs, and are woven on vertical looms. Village rugs have geometric or floral patterns, and use natural or synthetic colors. Village rugs are often influenced by the regional or tribal styles, and may have variations in quality and design.
Patterns, Motifs and Characteristic of Rugs
A term that refers to the variations in color or tone in the pile of a rug, caused by different dye lots or changes in the wool quality. Abrash can be intentional or accidental, and can add to the charm and character of an antique rug.
Allover pattern: A type of design that covers the entire field of a rug, without a central medallion or border. Allover patterns can be geometric, floral, or abstract, and can be arranged in grids, diagonals, or randomly.
A term that refers to the rug or carpet that has been treated with acid or bleach to create a faded or distressed look. Acid-washed rugs may have a metallic or shiny finish, and may have a variety of colors or patterns. Acid-washed rugs may be made from cowhide, leather, wool, or synthetic materials.
A Persian term that means "bush" or "shrub", and refers to a teardrop-shaped motif that resembles a paisley. Boteh is one of the most common motifs in Persian rugs, and can symbolize life, fertility, or fire.
A type of animal motif that is often found in rugs from the Middle East and Central Asia. Camels can represent wealth, strength, or endurance, and are sometimes depicted with riders or saddles.
A Turkish term that means "auspicious jewel", and refers to a motif that consists of three balls arranged in a triangle, surrounded by wavy lines. Chintamani is a symbol of power, protection, and prosperity, and is often seen in Ottoman rugs.
A mythical creature that is a symbol of imperial authority, wisdom, and good fortune in Chinese culture. Chinese dragons are often depicted as serpentine, with scales, claws, horns, and whiskers, and can have different colors and attributes. Chinese dragons are common motifs in Chinese rugs, especially in the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Coats of arms:
A type of heraldic emblem that represents a family, a clan, a city, or a country. Coats of arms usually consist of a shield, a helmet, a crest, and a motto, and can have various symbols and colors. Coats of arms are sometimes seen in European rugs, especially in the Renaissance and Baroque periods.
A type of evergreen tree that is native to Asia, Europe, and Africa. Cypress trees are often associated with immortality, mourning, or paradise, and are frequently used in Persian and Turkish rugs, especially in garden designs or medallions.
Evil eye: A type of amulet that is believed to ward off the harmful effects of the envious or malicious gaze of others. Evil eye motifs are usually circular, with concentric rings of blue, white, and black, and can be found in rugs from Turkey, Iran, and Central Asia.
A term that refers to the rug or carpet that has been intentionally aged or worn to create a vintage or antique look. Distressed rugs may have faded colors, frayed edges, holes, or patches, and may be made from natural or synthetic materials. Distressed rugs may be cheaper or more fashionable than original rugs, but may also lack the quality and durability of antique rugs.
A term that refers to the substance or process that is used to color the yarn or the rug. Dyes can be natural or synthetic, and can have different shades, tones, and intensities. Dyes can be applied before or after weaving, and can be fixed or unfixed. Dyes can affect the beauty, quality, and value of the rug.
A term that refers to the design or motif that depicts flowers, plants, leaves, or vines. Floral designs are often curvilinear, symmetrical, and detailed, and can be seen in various styles and regions of rugs. Floral designs can have different meanings, such as beauty, love, or paradise, and can be combined with other elements, such as animals, medallions, or borders.
The term that refers to the decorative or functional extension of the warp threads at the ends of the rug or carpet. The fringe can be knotted, braided, twisted, or left loose, and can have different lengths, colors, and styles. The fringe can add charm, character, or protection to the rug.
A type of design that depicts a stylized or realistic representation of a garden, with flowers, trees, water, and animals. Garden designs are often inspired by the Persian concept of paradise, and can have different layouts, such as four quadrants, panels, or medallions.
A term that refers to the design or motif that consists of geometric shapes, such as squares, triangles, circles, or stars. Geometric designs are often angular, asymmetrical, and simple, and can be seen in various styles and regions of rugs. Geometric designs can have different meanings, such as protection, order, or harmony, and can be arranged in grids, diagonals, or randomly.
A Turkmen term that means "flower" or "rose", and refers to the octagonal or roundel motifs that are characteristic of Turkmen rugs. Gols can have different patterns, colors, and sizes, and can identify the tribe or sub-tribe of the weaver.
A Persian term that means "European flower", and refers to the floral motifs that were influenced by the European designs in the 19th and 20th centuries. Golfarang motifs are often stylized, colorful, and curvilinear, and can be seen in Persian rugs, especially from Kashan, Tabriz, and Isfahan.
A Persian term that means "fish", and refers to a motif that consists of a diamond or rosette surrounded by four leaves or flowers, resembling a fish in a pond. Herati is one of the most popular motifs in Persian rugs, and can be used as an allover pattern or a filler.
A type of design that depicts animals, hunters, weapons, and landscapes, often inspired by the Persian miniatures or the royal court. Hunting scenes are usually elaborate, detailed, and colorful, and can be seen in Persian and Indian rugs, especially from the Safavid and Mughal periods.
A Persian term that means "arabesque", and refers to the scrolling vine motifs that are often combined with floral or animal elements. Islimi motifs are usually graceful, elegant, and symmetrical, and can be seen in Persian, Turkish, and Indian rugs, especially from the Islamic art tradition.
A type of religious motif that represents the Jewish faith, culture, or history. Judaic motifs can include symbols, such as the Star of David, the menorah, or the Torah, or scenes, such as the Temple of Jerusalem, the Exodus, or the Holocaust. Judaic motifs are rare in rugs, but can be found in some Jewish communities, such as the Bukharan Jews of Central Asia.
A type of Arabic script that is angular, geometric, and ornamental. Kufic is one of the oldest forms of calligraphy, and can be used to write verses from the Quran, names, dates, or prayers. Kufic motifs are often seen in Persian and Turkish rugs, especially in the borders or medallions.
Lion with sword:
A type of animal motif that depicts a lion holding a sword in its paw, often accompanied by a sun or a crown. Lion with sword is a symbol of the Persian monarchy, and can be seen in Persian rugs, especially from the Qajar dynasty.
Pomegranate: A type of fruit motif that represents a pomegranate, a red, round, and juicy fruit with many seeds. Pomegranate is a symbol of fertility, abundance, or eternal life, and can be seen in rugs from various regions, such as Persia, Turkey, China, and Armenia.
A term that refers to the device or machine that is used to weave the yarns or threads into a rug or carpet. Looms can be horizontal or vertical, and can have different sizes and complexities. Looms can be operated by hand or by power, and can have different mechanisms, such as pedals, levers, or heddles. Looms can affect the quality, size, and shape of the rug.
The term that refers to the surface of the rug or carpet that is made of loops or cut ends of yarn or fiber. The pile can be flat-woven or knotted, and can have different heights, densities, and textures. The pile can affect the appearance, feel, and durability of the rug.
A term that refers to the rug or carpet that is made to imitate the style, design, or quality of an antique or vintage rug. Reproduction rugs may be hand-knotted, hand-tufted, or machine-made, and may use natural or synthetic dyes and fibers. Reproduction rugs may be cheaper or more durable than original rugs, but may also lack the authenticity and character of antique rugs.
A type of geometric motif that consists of a cross with four arms bent at right angles. Swastika is an ancient symbol of good luck, prosperity, or eternity, and can be found in rugs from various cultures, such as India, China, Tibet, and Scandinavia. Swastika should not be confused with the Nazi emblem, which is inverted and tilted.
A type of animal motif that depicts a tiger, a large, striped, and ferocious feline. Tiger is a symbol of power, courage, or royalty, and can be seen in rugs from various regions, such as China, Tibet, India, and Iran.
A type of design that depicts one or more vases, usually containing flowers or plants. Vase designs are often symmetrical, elegant, and colorful, and can be seen in Persian and Indian rugs, especially from the Safavid and Mughal periods.
Materials and Techniques
The term that refers to the vertical or longitudinal threads or yarns that are stretched on the loom and form the foundation of the rug or carpet. The warp can be made of wool, cotton, silk, or synthetic materials, and can have different colors, thicknesses, and twists. The warp can affect the size, shape, and quality of the rug.
The term that refers to the horizontal or transverse threads or yarns that are woven over and under the warp threads to create the fabric of the rug or carpet. The weft can be made of wool, cotton, silk, or synthetic materials, and can have different colors, thicknesses, and twists. The weft can affect the strength, flexibility, and pattern of the rug.
A term that refers to the long and continuous strand of fibers that is used to make the rug or carpet. Yarn can be made of natural or synthetic materials, such as wool, cotton, silk, or nylon. Yarn can be spun, twisted, or plied, and can have different thicknesses, textures, and colors. Yarn can affect the appearance, durability, and feel of the rug.
This is the end of the glossary of antique rug terms. I hope you found it useful and informative. If you have any questions or feedback, please let me know