Some Commonly Used Persian & Oriental Carpet Terms

Here are some of the most commonly used names and words in the field of Persian and Oriental Carepts and Rugs.

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Anatolian

A generic name applied to all rugs/carpets from the Asian part of central Turkey.

Antique

The strict definition of an antique rug, which is still used by the United States & UK Customs, requires that the rug be over a hundred years old. The term “antique wash” refers to a type of chemical washing (often somewhat damaging to the fibre) which gives an antique look to a rug.

Arabesque

A design element consisting of complex, intertwining vines, tendrils, leaves and flowers.

Border

The band or stripe – or group of bands and stripes – around the edge of the rug that forms a frame to enclose the central field. The border stripes, which are almost always present on all four sides of the rug, are worked in various ground colours & in various patterns.

Broken border

A border that’s extended into the field rather than separated from it by straight lines. This border is usually much more closely related to the pattern in the field of the rug than other borders are.

Carpet

A rug with a surface area of 4.4 m² or more (around 2.6 x 1.7m or more) and whose length is usually around 1½ times its width (a rug, therefore, is anything smaller. Popular rug sizes include approx. 2.1 x 1.4m; 1.8 x 1.2; 1.5 x 1.0m and smaller).

Caucasian

A generic name that refers to geometric, boldly-coloured designs that were originally produced in the Caucasus Mountain region, north of Persia.

Density

A measure of the quality of the rug’s construction that is determined by two factors: (1) the number of knots and (2) the height of the pile in a given area of the rug.

Double prayer rug

A technique used in finishing carpets in which feathered incisions are made in the pile where the different colours meet.

Embossing

A technique used in finishing carpets in which feathered incisions are made in the pile where the different colours meet.

Feraghan

The largest area of a carpet with the main design; the central portion that is enclosed by borders.

Field

The largest area of a carpet with the main design; the central portion that is enclosed by borders.

Foundation

The warps and wefts of a pile rug, usually of cotton, wool, or more rarely, silk, onto which are tied the knots forming the pile or nap.n

Gold washing

An old process used between the ’60s and ‘80s of the 20th century, usually seen in rugs from Afghanistan, in which the original red colour of the pile is bleached out to shades of gold, coral, and amber after the weaving process has been completed.

Hali

A quality designation given to Romanian rugs that are woven on woolen foundations and contain 200 000 knots per square metre.

Harmon

A quality designation given to Romanian rugs that are woven on woolen foundations and contain 200 000 knots per square metre.

Herati

Possibly the most common repeating pattern in Persian rugs. Formed by a rosette surrounded by a diamond with small palmettes at its points, and curving, tapered, serrated leaves that resemble fish along its sides.

Indo-

A prefix used in combination with the name of a traditional Persian rug type to identify India as the rug’s country of origin. E.g., Indo-Tabriz, i.e., in the style of Tabriz.

Jufti

A knot that is woven over more than the normal two warps. This reduces weaving time but yields a rug of inferior quality. Jufti knotting is usually done where the design of the rug incorporates large areas of a single colour.

Kashmir

A rug-weaving district in N India and the western Himalayas. Fine rugs/carpets in silk and wool have been made there, but in the 21st century, production has been steadily declining.

Line

A unit for measuring the quality of a rug, based on the number of pairs of warp threads in a given area of a carpet, usually one linear foot. The term “line” is also used to describe a border stripe that consists of a single row of knots.

Mat

A small rug that measures about 1½m square (4-5 feet square).

Medallion

A single, large design, or a series of large designs, that appears in, and dominates, the middle of a rug’s field.

Namazlik

The Turkish name for a prayer rug.

Olt

A design element composed of a cross section of large, leafy, fan-shaped flowers. Usually multi-coloured.

Palmette

A design element composed of a cross section of large, leafy, fan-shaped flowers. Usually multi-coloured.

Persian knot

A knotting technique in which one end of the yarn is drawn up between two adjacent warp threads and the other end is drawn up on the outside of the pair. Also called an asymmetrical knot, or a Senneh knot.

Pile

The surface of a carpet, formed by the cut ends of the knots that are tied into the foundation. Also sometimes called the nap.

Pushti

A Turkish term used for a mat or rug measuring approximately 3 by 2 feet (0.90 x 0.60m).

Qali

See hali.

Rosette

A design element composed of the symmetrical, head-on view of a flower. Usually round, with radiating petals.

Runner

The ruling dynasty in Persia during the golden age of rug-making from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Most notably Shah Abbas the Great.

Safavid

A rug that’s neither antique nor modern. Approx over 50, but under 100, years of age.

Semi-antique

A knotting technique; see Persian knot. Also the former name of a town in Iran where fine, single-wefted rugs were woven.

Senneh

A knotting technique; see Persian knot. Also the former name of a town in Iran where fine, single-wefted rugs were woven.

Tree of life

A design featuring a tree that dominates or divides the field of the rug in half, or that appears as an incidental or repeated motif.

Turkibaff

A rug made with Turkish knots.

Turkish knot

A knotting technique in which the pile yarn is looped around two adjacent warp threads and then brought up between them. Also called a Ghiordes knot.

Tufting

A process in which the pattern-forming pile yarns are inserted into the foundation of the rug with the use of a handheld machine.

Verneh

The foundation threads of a rug that are strung from the top to the bottom of a loom. In Oriental rugs, the knots are tied on the warp threads, which also form the fringes at the ends of the finished rug.

Warp

The foundation threads of a rug that are strung across the width of a loom. These threads are passed through alternate warp threads after each row of knots is tied. They serve to secure the knots in place and also form part of the sides (selvedges) of the rug.

Weft

The foundation threads of a rug that are strung across the width of a loom. These threads are passed through alternate warp threads after each row of knots is tied. They serve to secure the knots in place and also form part of the sides (selvedges) of the rug.

Yastik

The Turkish term for a very small rug or pillow cover, measuring approximately 3¼ by 1½ feet.

Zel-i-Sultan

A style of rug that was once made in the Feraghan-Sarouk area of the Arak district of Iran. The term now refers to a repeating design made up of small vases of roses or red flowers.