Read this article in Spanish Esfahan, Iran, August 2012
A Quick Guide to Buy a Persian Rug. This article will serve as a basic guide to know Persian rugs, their value and the material they are made so you can make the best decision when you buy. Iran is famous for its carpets, like many countries in this part of the old world. However Iranian carpets have distinctive attributes that make them unique from the rest. Among them we find the weaving technique, the materials they use and the figures used by the nomads to ornament them. Many of these figures and objects are directly related to one of the oldest religions of the world: Zoroastrianism.
That was how we ended up in the store Flying Carpet, local number 3 right of Imam Mosque in Esfahan. The reason was simple: a nice man called Ehsan spoke fluent English. “Come to my shop for tea, you do not have to buy anything,” he said cheerfully. In fact if it was not for the limited space we have in our bikes we would have succumbed to the charm of the pieces that he had in his store.
Upon entering, the store was covered with all types of rugs. It was difficult to distinguish one from another. Ehsan invited us to sit, while Ali, his assistant served us a cup of tea. For a moment I felt like inside a real nomadic home, surrounded by so much wool. “I really cannot buy this time Ehsan”, I said earnestly, “but please show us what this world is all about.” Without showing any sign of anger or displeasure by our reluctance to buy, he kept smiling and started his small but consistent lecture that opened our eyes to the world of Persian rugs.
The Introduction “For starters you must learn to distinguish between two kinds of rugs, the classic and the nomad”, Ehsan explained. He clarified that the classic is usually woven by machine but can also be of a very high quality. On the other hand he explained that all nomadic mats were handmade. “One of the reasons why a nomad mat may have greater value is precisely the errors that can be identified in the knots”, he said. That is what makes them unique and unrepeatable. The classics are valued upon the material used to craft them as well as the design that can make them very expensive. The value of each mat can be evaluated according to three main characteristics: the material that is used, the number of knots per square centimeter and the person who woves them. The most valuable material is silk for its finesse and delicacy. From there you have the mix of wool and silk, the young sheep wool and finally the less common here in Esfahan the cotton rugs.
I was able to run my hands and feet through all types of carpet that were on the floor and I have to say that the rug silk and wool made my naked feet feel like a sultan for a moment. He explained briefly about the dyeing that is given to the wool and silk. Iran currently promotes the use of natural pigments in order to preserve the tradition that is at least 3,500 years old.
The Nomad Pad While he was showing us examples of nomadic rugs Ehsan highlighted: These rugs are very interesting for their designs. You can identify each clan by the symbols they craft on the rug. He then pointed out one where we could clearly see water pools, water fountains, snakes (a symbol of good health) and the symbol of Ahura Mazda, the name of the God in Zoroastrianism. “In fact all sinology on the mats make references of either the religion or the clan” Ehsan stated. You can also view pictures of their shelters which in turn tell you the number of families that make up the clan. By the way it is very rare to see nomadic rugs made of silk, usually most of them are made of wool. Of course they are all handmade.
Prices After feeding pure honey to our eyes he revealed the reason that separates man from possessions, the value of the mats. There was a classic rug made of 50% silk and 50% wool that I liked. Ehsan offered it for the modest sum of $ 4,000 USD. Smaller ones that also included some silk could be negotiated to about $200. The nomads, although they were handmade, had various values. Their prices depended much on the good understanding that you can achieve with the buyer. It is noteworthy that because the dealer offers the rugs, the price will never alter the amount of money received by the craftsman. The stores such as this one already bought the goods in advance from the clan or the rug makers. It is sad but true: paying more does not mean that the artist himself will earn more. Eventually Ehsan without believing that we could not really carry around a rug in our already heavy bikes offered us as a last resort a couple of nomadic rugs for just $ 100 USD. Painfully we had to give up their offer.