Antique rugs vs. new rugs, what is the difference?

Why are old rugs more expensive than new ones?

Well it depends how old, as there is a watershed in Oriental rugs that occurred around 1890 to 1920 when there was a huge influence form Europe that affected the design, dyes and wools used in Oriental rugs.

The old rugs particularly form traditional weaving cultures in Turkey, the Caucasus, Persia and Central Asia were woven either for their own use or for sale in local bazaars. Therefore each tribe or village would have a particular design pool from which they drew that had significance to them, and would have been around in their homes and surroundings. Weavers, mostly women, would be creative in combining these elements to produce aesthetically pleasing rugs, pillows, bags of all shapes and sizes. Young women would prepare a full range of weavings to show her skill to prospective husbands. Another element is the choosing of the best quality wools and dyes as these make a tremendous difference to the finish of the rug. natural dyes are vibrant, harmonize together, and do not fade. Therefore rugs hundreds of years old, particularly if made with good quality wools have a beautiful lustrous quality that is not diminished by time.

With the tremendous increase in demand for Oriental rugs at the end of the 19th Century  the stocks of traditional rugs soon ran out and production could not meet the demand. Therefore factories and workshops were set up to meet the demand for a less discriminating market. The designs were also simplified or modified in ways that a  traditional weaver would never do At this time the first chemical dyes became available. These included fucsine, a garish purple that faded to a dull grey over a period of decades. There were also very bright reds and oranges which did not harmonize will with the natural dyes, these also tended to fade over time and also were very prone to bleed when wet. The introduction of chemical dyes destroyed the wonderful harmony of natural dyes and replaced them because they were less effort and the customers did notice the difference. By the mid 20th Century most of the hand woven rugs were dull lifeless objects that bore little resemblance to their magnificent forebears.

In the last 30 years there has been a revival of natural dyes, started by the Dobag project in Turkey, but also in Iran and lately in Afghanistan. These rugs are available now but consist of only a small proportion of rugs available today and are well worth the effort to find and pay the extra for.

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