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A Brief history of Persian Carpets - Explained by a passionate carpet merchant

Updated: Nov 2, 2022

When working with, or exhibiting with the Persian Carpets, we get to interact with many different kinds of people. Some know the carpets and exactly what they are looking for, some already have interest and passion for the carpets and come readily armed with exactly what they need. Others come with no knowledge, simply being attracted by the beauty of the carpets and their lusciousness.

We also often experience that people are scared to talk to Persian carpet merchants, maybe because of the regular pushy sales techniques and being bombarded, maybe because they have no knowledge about the product and are just looking at the price tags and not understanding why they would pay that amount of money for the same kind of thing they could buy for a fraction of the price at any regular home décor store.

As for us, we love to communicate and share our passion and knowledge about them! We try to make these first interactions a bit easier by approaching casually and trying to break the ice with a cheesy joke, those of you who have experienced these kinds of interactions with us will know exactly what I am talking about…

We try to start off by explaining that each piece is hand knotted and that we do not mix in machine made pieces like many other merchants do. We believe in our product and their quality and the process of how they’re made and strongly and truly believe that the two types of products cannot be compared.

Now, my favorite reply to this statement is when people ask what it means when I say ”hand knotted”, or asks more about a specific carpet. A lot of times, this is the step in the process where I ask whether they are looking for something specific or just looking around.

When they know what they want, it’s great, because we get to help you find and fall in love with a beautiful carpet that is suited perfectly to your needs! We also get to share interesting facts about that specific carpet and how it was made.

When people are not clear on what they need or even if they do not know anything about Persian Carpets, it may just be even more fun, because we get to share the most amazing, interesting stories about an art and tradition that was passed down through generations, spread to many places and has so many stories that needs to be told so much more often.

This is really the part that I , personally, love!

I love the look on people’s faces when I start explaining a bit more about these pieces, especially when they’ve had no previous knowledge about them. I usually start off with a bit of explaining about the difference between the woven Kellims and the knotted carpets. Then I explain about the difference between “Oriental” carpets, that were made with a single knot technique and that the pieces we stock come from areas like Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, Whereas the pieces that classify as “Persian” that are made with the double knot technique come mainly from Iran.

After this, I usually start explaining a bit more about the Kellims and then about the Afghan Bokhara Carpets and how they are made by nomadic tribes, as I personally love the Afghans and their story. There is a whole article on our Blog on our Website about their History and Origin if you would like to read up a bit more about them too.

There are even more stories about more tribes and towns that make these pieces, but some of the most interesting information we know and get to share is - How it all started.

Did you know that carpet weaving in Iran started more than 2500 years ago?

It is said that the oldest carpet dates back to the 5th Century B.C. It was found in the Pazyryk Valley on the Altai Mountains of Siberia.

They were first woven by nomadic tribesmen as necessities to cover the floors for protection from the cold and damp, from there on the skills and craft thereof was passed down from generation to generation, through periods of peace, war and invasion. Through time, they evolved and knots were made between the weft.

When Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon in 539 B.C., he was struck by their splendor. It is said that the tomb of Cyrus was covered with precious carpets. Many great historians gave him credit for introducing carpet making to Persia.

Between the years of 1038 – 1194 A.D was a time of great importance in the history of Persian Carpet making. This was when Seljuk women started using Turkish knots, also known as Persian/ double knots. In some areas, where the influence was the strongest, like Iran, these knots are still being used.

Carpet making reached its zenith during the 16th century.

After Isfahan encouraged trade with Europe, it was transformed into one of the most glorious cities in Persia. In time, workshops were built where skilled craftsmen and designers set to create the most amazing carpets. Many pieces were made with gold, silver and silk threads for more embellishments. There are amazing stories about the skill and amazing methods that were used in these workshops…

Between the years of 1722 – 1747, during the invasion and destruction of Isfahan, and some years after, no carpets of great value were made. Only the nomads and craftsmen in small villages continued the tradition of their craft.

Then, finally in the last quarter of the 19th century Persian carpets regained their importance! They flourished when the Tabriz merchants started exporting to Europe. International trade was established at the end of the 19th century. Through this development, new designs and motifs were created with Western tastes and culture in mind.

As time progresses, there are so many changes happening in the world of Persian carpet making, there are constant changes in trends and carpets are being made to keep up with them. There are new colours and designs being introduced regularly. There are also times where we as merchants experience shortages in certain types of carpets or that some pieces sell out quicker at certain times.

Even though there are carpets made regularly and constantly to keep up with the demand and more often the more modern pieces, the classic carpets are still being produced. There are still nomads and craftsmen in small villages that are using traditional knotting methods.

Lately, we have also seen that classic, antique style Persian carpets, with the double knot technique are being produced less often because of the circumstances in some of their native areas and that oriental versions are being produced of them more commonly now.

We are lucky enough to be able to find stunning pre-owned Persian pieces in amazing condition and that our trusted importer has been bringing only the best and most unique quality and kind of carpets for many, many years now so that we are able to offer our clients the kind of variety that not many merchants have the opportunity to get their hands on.

There are so many facts that I can share about carpets, so many more facts and info to share about carpet making in general and about specific pieces.

These are some of the most interesting points that we love to brush over and share with clients when they approach us with open minds and are eager to learn more about them, that we thought we’d share with you, the eager reader that clicked on this article today, ready to learn more about this stunning craft.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, we hope you enjoyed these facts as much as we do!

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