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Oriental Rugs: Understanding Patterns and Design

When the average person thinks about purchasing an Oriental rug, they usually have a color palette in mind and not much else. However, there are a lot of things to consider when you decide to purchase an Oriental rug. One aspect of your Oriental rug purchase needs to be deciding what pattern or design you want.

A Little History about Oriental Rugs

Because traditional Oriental rugs are handmade of natural fibers such as wool (most common), silk (most expensive) or cotton and woven with unique character and designs, it is important to understand a little bit of their history.

While historically Oriental rugs were woven in Mesopotamia (now part of Iraq), they were shipped through Chinese ports and hence the name Oriental rugs. Today many Oriental rugs come from places such as India, Turkey and China. On the other hand, you will frequently see rug aficionados differentiate Oriental rugs from Persian rugs which are woven in Persia (now known as Iran).

Most patterns and designs in Oriental rugs come from ancient patterns derived from the city, village, or tribe where the pattern was first woven or traded. There are probably thousands of different designs from regions all over the world.

The Four Oriental Rug Patterns

Typically Oriental rugs are classified into four design categories: geometric, floral, pictorial and decorative. Geometric designs are considered the most ancient and originally came from nomadic tribes and small villages where the looms were primitive, so the pattern was simple and bold. Stars, crosses, triangles, squares and other polygons were typically used.

Floral designs began in large cities where artisans used a fine weave of small knots to make more rounded shapes. Identified heavily with Persian rugs, many floral designs also have Egyptian, Assyrian and Greek influence. Floral motifs usually involve flowers, blossoms, and vines with an overall pattern or a central medallion like this thick hand-tufted beauty made of top quality New Zealand wool.

Pictorial patterns are paintings in tapestry form. While they may depict any number of different pictures or settings, many times you will find gardens, architecture and mythological scenes as their primary focus. Very often these Oriental rugs are utilized as wall art.

Decorative designs tend to look more contemporary because they have more symmetry and movement in their patterns. They are generally more informal and can sport unusual color palettes though they may be reproductions of classic design. Check out this hand-knotted oriental rug made from the finest Gazani and imported New Zealand wool.

Other Design Factors of Oriental Rugs

Besides the overall pattern of each Oriental rug many have border patterns that can identify the region where the rug was made; lotus flowers tend to be Iranian symbols while leafy vines which form arches are more Islamic. In addition, different designs tend to have different piles, such as thicker piles for geometric patterns and shorter piles for floral Oriental rugs.

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