When It Comes to Selecting Your First – Or Next – Exquisite Antique Rug, The Whole Is Indeed Greater Than The Sum of The Parts.

Adding well-chosen antique carpets to the home underscores an ambiance of graciousness and luxury.

In Oriental rugs, there is, as with most things, a methodology that can simplify and clarify the selection process. While personal taste is paramount; taking a deeper look before delving in is an investment of time that exponentially enhances the process and pleasure of acquiring – and owning – antique Oriental carpets.

“Because most antique rugs were woven as works of art, the first thing to consider,” explains Jan David Winitz, preeminent expert and president/founder of internationally acclaimed Claremont Rug Company, “is whether a particular rug is beautiful in your eyes. Does it resonate with you and grow on you as you look at it?” When that answer is ‘yes’, Winitz offers further insights for evaluation and selection. By guiding buyers to ask the ‘right’ questions, he encourages them to look more deeply; thereby helping to demystify the selection process and affording them a greater sense of confidence–invaluable when choosing rugs that will both enhance their décor and become a part of their art collection.

“Consider the level of artistry,” encourages Winitz. Buyers should recognize a fluidity in the rug’s design, a sense of visual depth – or lack thereof. “The level of harmony in the combination of colors plays a significant role in a rug’s impact,” points out Winitz. “A highly artistic rug will literally encompass you, giving you the sense you could look at it forever.” Also look for uniqueness, a singular, yet balanced treatment in the design and color palette.

Winitz advises to only consider rugs that are naturally dyed. He articulates that natural dyes have “purer, color.” Different dyers had varying levels of expertise. Central is what he calls ‘quality of color’– its radiance and amount of nuance within each hue. Some 19th century rugs will feature exotic colors, such as Tyrian purple, saffron yellow or cochineal rose, not seen in later pieces.

Persian carpets from the Sultanabad style are distinguished by their diverse use of often exotic colors and plurality of designs, as in this high-collectible, 175-year-old example.

Above is a circa 1910 example of the Persian Mahajiran Sarouk style known for their lustrous wool and graceful patterning.

Antique Persian Serapi-Heriz carpets, as this late 19th century piece presents, are popular for their whimsical geometric designs that feature over-scale botanical drawing.

Persian carpets from the Sultanabad style are distinguished by their diverse use of often exotic colors and plurality of designs, as in this high-collectible, 175-year-old example.


In formal rugs woven in city workshops, the articulation of the design is a key factor. Winitz explains: “The best of this genre demonstrate exceptional craftsmanship seen in the sharpness of their motifs and detail work akin to a line drawing.” Conversely, even the best rugs from the smaller villages and tribes have much looser knotting and crispness of design that enhances what he calls, “their signature folkloric aesthetic.”

Wool quality plays a role in the beauty and durability of older rugs. “Many different grades of wool were used,” says Winitz. “The best wool possesses a very high lanolin content; making it extremely elastic and lustrous, and giving the colors great radiance and enhancing the sharpness of the designs.”

Tribal rugs woven in the Caucasus Mountains are authentic pieces of folk art with symbolic, archetypal motifs, as seen in this Bordjalou Kazak, dated 1894.

This Persian Manchester Kashan from the early 20th century, was woven with the finest, light reflective wool, the result of a high lanolin content that also insures greatest durability

From the mountainous region of Azerbaijan, this 19th century Persian Bakshaish carpet exhibits uniqueness in its color combination and stylized overall patterning.

This Persian Laver Kirman, from the 2nd quarter of the 19th century, exemplifies the mesmerizing quality of art-level antique Oriental carpets.


Earlier rugs are often more captivating and innovative than later ones. Yet, for all things - rugs included, it is a fact of life that with age comes wear. One should be more lenient with wear in 19th century rugs. The impact of this on value is often determined by both the amount of wear present and the quality of any restoration. Winitz advises, “Well-preserved 19th century rugs can be used almost everywhere in a home. For an extremely high traffic area, look into heavier early 20th century pieces.”

“I have seen time and time again that certain rug styles are particularly well suited for the new connoisseurs,” continues Winitz. “Persian Mahajiran Sarouks, Herizs, Sultanabads, Serapis and Kashans as well as Caucasian rugs lend themselves well; their characteristics presenting themselves in a way that may make the selection process seem more manageable.”

Irrespective of choice, it is in one’s best interest to work with a dealer not only with a stellar reputation, but also a policy allowing buyers to exchange and upgrade as their expertise grows.