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Persian carpet


Harmony of colours

Much depends on personal taste but it is important to pick colours that match, blend and complement each other. For example, red and green are complementary, but white and green are less so. Judge the colour scheme for something you like and that is likely to blend into your environment. Persian carpets feature strong and light colours, and colour schemes can have several shades of many colours.


The design is a personal, and perhaps private, endeavour of the designer. The most frequently seen style is the medallion, which features a prominent motif at the centre around which are other motifs and patterns enclosed by the border. Floral and geometric motifs are popular.

Persian designers placed human and animal figures on carpets until the advent of Islam when they began to use geometric designs. In recent times, these have reappeared, especially animal figures. Only well-known designers place their signatures in the design.

Persian carpet designs can be "read" from one side - like a painting - and thus looks great on the wall, or from all sides like a typical carpet. The Iranians use both for floor and wall.


Persian carpets are not woven, they are knotted. The more knots a carpet has, the finer the workmanship. Traditionally, Persian carpetmakers measured the number of knots over the length of a matchstick. So, a trader may say a carpet has "50 knots per matchstick". These days, international metric standards are used although the word "matchstick" is still heard at carpet markets.

Good Persian silk carpets have as many as 100 knots per "matchstick"; some are even finer with 120 or 150 knots. More knots simply means the finest silk yarns were used by an artisan who tied the knots so skilfully, he or she "packed them in" tightly. That level of skill is acquired after many years of experience. Similarly, knotting techniques vary from maker to maker.

To judge the number of knots, examine the underside. The higher the number of knots, the tinier the "bumps" seem to be. Also, the design of the carpet is clearly visible in what appears to be a high-resolution image of the patterns, motifs and colours.


Silk and wool are the two materials used in Persian carpets. Both are processed and coloured with natural dyes in methods held secret by families of traditional carpetmakers.

Silk is generally the more precious, more desired material. Silk reflects light, and thus different intensities of light seem to change the colours. Persian silks glow, hence the description "light in the carpet". In modern times, Iranian carpetmakers import raw silk from Brazil, Peru and Korea just to meet the demand for carpets.

Wool has a matte appearance. It is often assumed that wool is cheaper but some wool carpets are made so finely that they fetch a higher price than silk.

Some designers combine silk and wool. Silk yarns are used in the motifs to make the pattern stand out against the matte wool background.


The older the carpet, the higher its value. Antiquity is evidence of the carpet's quality. The more the carpet is used, the more it is "polished". That is not the equivalent of damage.

The oldest known Persian carpet is in the Leningrad Museum. Only seven square metres of the original 200 square metres remains of this 2,500- year-old wool carpet. Historians believe it was created during the Pasariq Dynasty and used in a palace in Persepolis. No one knows how it reached Siberia, from where it was rescued to Leningrad.


It is the combination of all the above factors which determines the preciousness of a carpet and its price. It is imperative to buy from a reputable dealer.

Source: New Straits Times - Wed, May 25, 1994 - By Theresa Manavalan 
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