Buying an Oriental rug is like buying a diamond. The quality and price varies widely.
However, if you buy a good rug, you can expect it to last about 100 years and it can become a cherished family heirloom, said Houshi Moradi of Rugport, 23 S. Northwest Highway, Palatine.
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The things to look for when judging a rug's quality include the intricacy of the pattern, the quality of the wool or silk used, the tightness of the weave and whether or not it is an antique, he said.
The biggest mistake a buyer can make is not knowing the difference between a handmade rug and a machine-made rug. You also need to learn the difference between hand-hooked, hand-tufted and hand-knotted. So, do your research beforehand.
"And just because you are buying a Persian Tabriz-design rug does not mean that you are buying a Persian Tabriz rug. They are different. Some of the most expensive oriental rugs in the world are the antique Tabriz, Kashan and Isfahan rugs made in Iran about 110 years ago," Moradi explained.
Today, he went on to say, rug weavers in emerging countries don't want their children to spend their lives creating the gorgeous oriental rugs that cover so many floors around the world. So, particularly in China, India and Pakistan, they are saving their money and doing whatever they can to send their children to college so they may pursue advanced degrees.
In fact, so few handmade rugs are being made in China today that Chinese dealers are traveling to the United States and Europe to buy back antique and contemporary rugs that have already been exported so that their customers in China can have a piece of their heritage on their own floors.
"China used to export many of the world's oriental rugs. But since 2005 or 2006, almost none have come from China," Moradi said. "And because of the embargo on Iran, we can no longer get Persian rugs, which are decreasing in quantity anyway because labor and dyes in Iran are becoming so costly."
So virtually all of the handmade Oriental rugs on the market now come from India, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Turkey. And the number of people involved in the rug industry in India and Pakistan has dropped by 40 percent in recent years.
But Rugport is actually a direct importer and a manufacturer with rug factories in both India and Pakistan. It supplies many rug dealers and furniture stores across the United States.
In addition, the company has been selling handmade Oriental rugs and tapestries from its showroom at 23 S. Northwest Hwy., Palatine, since 1979, so it has long-standing relationships with other manufacturers, as well. Both factors combine to make the business first in the market to get rugs featuring new colors and designs.
"And we have the upper hand in getting the best prices from our Middle East dealers because they want to deal with someone like us who sells both retail and wholesale," Moradi said.
Rugport also carries the best selection of oversized rugs including 12-by-15, 14-by-20 and 24-by-35-foot rugs.
"Many people in this area have large homes with large rooms so they need large rugs and we carry them," he said. "We also order custom rugs in any size or design that a customer wants."
Oriental rugs come in both silk and wool. Silk rugs are more luxurious and high maintenance while wool rugs are more practical for high-traffic areas.
A 9-by-12-foot rug can range in price from $1,500 to $200,000. But if you are looking for a decent rug, you should expect to pay at least $3,000. A rug costing less is probably outdated or of lesser quality, he said.
"When looking at these prices, remember that it takes a weaver between one and four years to create an average, room-sized rug, depending on the weaving density. So you are paying for between one and four years of a person's work," Moradi said.
And tastes in rugs are constantly evolving.
"Today's buyers are looking for rugs in contemporary, simpler patterns instead of the traditional, floral patterns," he said. "The geometric patterns that are currently in high demand are the cultural pieces that are usually made by nomads who have a design in their mind and they make it, like the Navajos make their blankets. You see them in toned down, lighter colors made from vegetable dyes.
"The more traditional pieces are generally made in cities. The weavers are given a design to follow and they follow it," he said.
Those traditional designs are the ones that often involve medallions and floral patterns and are most often copied by the companies that produce machine-made Oriental rugs.
"They still sell, certainly, but just not as much as they have in the past," he continued.
Finally, he cautions, you should have your Oriental rug professionally cleaned at least once every five years. Dirt eats away at the yarn and damages the rug, so you should also vacuum it regularly. If you spill something on the rug, immediate use of a regular carpet cleaner is fine, he added.
Rugport not only sells Oriental rugs but also buys them, appraises them, repairs and restores them and professionally cleans them. For more information, call (847) 202-0600 or visit www.rugportonline.com.