By Victor Lidchi, South Africa’s leading connoisseur and dealer with many decades of international experience. The Lidchi family has been in the business since the late 19th century.

 

Here follows the advice I would give a close friend on choosing and buying Persian or other Oriental carpets and rugs.

Persian carpets and rugs are, and have been for centuries, loved and prized as the ultimate in beauty, luxury and decorative art for the floor. The better examples are in the world’s finest interiors and homes — even the offices, reception areas, and board rooms of leading professional and business firms. The best examples, as with other art forms, are in valuable private collections and as priceless works of art in the world’s leading art museums.

But, to many people, there are certain key questions and uncertainties, including: What to buy? How to choose? Who to buy from? What to ask? And more…

Basics:

What is a genuine Persian carpet (meaning over 2.5 x 1.6 m in size) or rug (meaning smaller than 2.5 x 1.6 m)? Simply put, it is hand-crafted in Persia (since 1935 named Iran). Made of environmentally-friendly natural fibres — mainly wool, or less often silk for the pile or nap, and mainly cotton, or less often wool or silk for the foundation — on a loom. NOTE: The term is also often loosely used to include other Oriental carpets and rugs made in much the same way in regions of the Orient around, or close to, Persia, such as Turkey, India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to name a few.

TIP # 1.

Whatever you decide or however you go about it, as with any other object of art or beauty, buy what you love—what “speaks to you”. Art such as music or movies, and decorative art such as paintings or sculpture, is for enriching your life and living; for giving you pleasure and joy; for enhancing your interiors! This is true regardless of the opinions or tastes of your “expert” aunt or a friend. With art, there is no right or wrong taste. Yes, there are objective things like quality, workmanship, rarity and value, but taste is personal!

TIP # 2.

Decide for what room or area you want to choose. Measure the approximate dimensions of the area to be covered; determine the volume of traffic it must withstand: light, medium or heavy? It is also useful — but not vital because an open mind is best — to decide roughly what effect you want to achieve with the colouring and design: e.g. restful and unobtrusive? Vibrant and bold? Rich and warm? Cool and calm? But be prepared to fall in love with something quite different!



TIP # 3.

Now choose your supplier/dealer with care. This is likely to be a fairly substantial outlay. Persian/Oriental rugs or carpets will range from around R3, 000 – R5, 000 per sq. m for average qualities. Better qualities or grades will be double or more. And of course the best can be 10 times, or more than that!
Most dealers are fine people who love this chosen field, and will mean well and try to make a friend and customer of you. (Some, as in any field, are more interested in just making a sale).

What are your best guidelines?

  • How long have they stood the test of time? The longer established, the more seriously they are to be considered.
  • What sort of reputation do they have? Ask around amongst friends and associates.
  • Do they ask you questions that show professionalism in helping you solve your problem or meet your exact needs? Are they patient and interested in you and in answering questions? Will they be willing to come to your home with a selection if needed before you decide? Will they allow you to do an exchange, value for value, within a reasonable period if you feel you made a wrong choice? Will they give you a certificate of authenticity and value? Do you feel comfortable with them?
  • Beware of buying only based on “UNBELIEVABLE SALE!” offers or “amazing bargains!” If the quality and worth is there, why cut prices so much? Be willing to pay that extra for the priceless ingredients: knowledge, service and integrity. Of course, even the leading firms will have occasional special seasonal or special offers now and then to move excess or slow moving stock. If so, that is fine.
  • Make sure they have an important after-sales service: Expert cleaning and repairs. With periodic proper cleaning, your beloved investment will give decades more use and joy.


TIP # 4.

Buy the best quality or grade you can afford! Realise that, as with any hand-made product, whether wines, paintings or pottery, there are grades or levels of quality for each region or range. From mediocre to good, to superior, to excellent – the better the grade you buy, the longer it will last with proper use and care. And the better it will look with age, the more it will likely hold or even increase in value. As history has shown, it could become a growing “hard asset” to hand down to your loved ones.

The lesson: do not sacrifice quality for quantity! Rather buy a smaller, better example than a large inferior one. And believe it or not, good examples can be as affordable as R3, 000 – R5, 000 per sq. m.

(Of course the best can cost five to ten times that! And collectibles or museum pieces have sold for millions of US dollars!)

Potential investment?

Also remember this important fact: in this increasingly changing world of the machine, and digital age of social media, the internet, and industrialisation, the skills and dedication, art and patience to create even an average example of Persian and Oriental hand-made rugs and carpets takes months…and is fast dying out. And the better and best ones, even years!

Production in most of these regions has been dropping steadily for the last 3-4 decades. Many active and famous villages or towns of Persia, till late 20th century for example, have stopped production completely! I personally believe that, within one or two generations at current trends, the industry will have all but disappeared and will be replaced by soulless, mass produced machine-made imitations.

So what? Well, this means that, with supply dwindling and demand stable—or increasing as I believe will be the case—prices will probably rise and even soar, for the better and best examples. But, and it is a big one, there are no sure thing investments. The real investment is years and decades of personal joy, beauty and style for your interiors.

Summary:

  • Choose your dealer with care. Value the full package of services and competence. Develop a relationship of trust and friendship as you would with any professional. Don’t be tempted by less than credible “bargains” or huge reduction offers.
  • Think through your personal, specific needs and wants before shopping
  • Buy only what really speaks to you, for your taste and lifestyle.
  • Buy the best you can afford—while you can!

We invite you to contact us for much more. Or email victor@vctorlidchi.co.za; or call +27 11 341 0367 for ANY questions or advice. Best of all, come visit and meet us over coffee. We are eager to be of service!