Oriental Rug Buying Guide

Before we can discuss buying an Oriental rug, we have to clarify the meaning of the term. The first question to ascertain with any floor covering being sold as an Oriental rug is what the name Oriental means. In the narrow meaning of the term, it refers to a rug with these characteristics:

  • the place of origin: the Middle East or Far East.
  • the construction technique: rugs made by hand, whether woven or knotted.
  • the fibers: primarily wool.
  • the face: has a raised pile.
  • the design: local to the area or region or tribe in which the rug was made.

There is a general and looser terminology as well to designate an Oriental rug, in which an Oriental rug may be:

  • made anywhere.
  • made by hand or machine-made.
  • made with a variety of natural or synthetic fibers.
  • any design, as long as it is recognizable as appropriate to the genre.

Devious Practices

Buying an Oriental rug should involve a lot of shopping around. There are a number of approaches being used to market rugs at inflated prices and sell rugs that are not authentic. Here are some hints to help determine authenticity and value when buying an Oriental rug:

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  • Be wary of huge markdowns that serve merely to mask huge markups. These can masquerade as a wide variety of sales.

  • Watch out for fake Customs auctions. View the United States Customs web site for particulars, such as whether carpets are currently available.


If you are considering an buying an Oriental rug as an investment, your approach will be different than if you want a specific size rug for a specific place in your home. In the latter case, you will want to shop with exact measurements and samples from relevant fabrics, upholstery, paint, or wallpaper, and any other color elements that will interact with the rug.

The placement in your home may also steer you towards the durability of fiber you require, and the type of pattern and edge you would like to see.

What Increases a Rug’s Value?

There are several factors to look for in valuing a rug.

  • Knot Density
  • Higher knot density increases the quality and price of the handmade carpet.

    For Persian rugs,

    • KPSI Knots per square Inch RAJ (knots in 7 centimeters)

    • To convert RAJ to KPSI, use this formula: [(RAJ/7) • 2.54]2 = KPSI

    • Chinese rugs are given a line count which is knots/horizontal foot.

    • Pakistani rugs are rated with a ratio, the numerator representing the knots in a horizontal inch, the denominator representing the knots in a vertical inch.

    • The density of machine-made rugs is figured in points/square meter or tufts/square inch.

  • Consistent Weave

    • Along with the density, look at the evenness of the weave. While not entirely uniform, it should be consistent.

  • Age

    • Greater age often increases the rug’s value. But an "antiqued" rug (one that has been subjected to a chemical wash to make it appear to be aged) must be carefully distinguished from an actual antique rug.

  • Fiber

    • Rugs made of wool are valued more highly per square yard than rugs made of other fibers. Many contemporary rugs—made anywhere in the world—rely on wool from New Zealand for quality.

    • Silk rugs are expensive, but delicate and require special cleaning.

    • Rayon is used as an Oriental rug fiber masquerading under the following pseudonyms:

      • art. silk (short for “artificial silk”)
      • A. silk
      • faux soie

  • Technique

    • The best handmade rug is better than the best machine-made rug, although there are very well-made rugs from both techniques at this point in time.

Other Tips

  • A Certificate of Authentication should be offered with any carpet.

  • Because you will probably be making a large investment when buying an Oriental rug, find a reputable dealer. With an excellent quality rug, a dealer should allow you (with or without a deposit) to take the rug home for a short period, time which you may use to see it in situ and to get the opinion of a certified and independent appraiser. Expect to pay a large hourly sum for this service.

  • With an honest dealer, antique should mean “made before 1915.” Semiantique should mean “made between 1915 and 1950.”

Written by Mary Elizabeth

Related Home Institute Articles

  • Introduction to Rugs
  • Introduction to Carpets
  • Organizing an Entryway
  • Carpet Cleaner Buying Guide
  • Wall-to-Wall Carpeting Buying Guide