The Complete Guide to Buying an Antique Oriental Carpet

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The Complete Guide to Buying an Antique Oriental Carpet

Though the term Oriental carpet is often used with Persian, or at best Persian and Turkish carpets, Oriental antique carpets encapsulate a larger selection of Asian carpets. An issue that consumers have when trying to purchase antique Oriental carpets is having the necessary information available to them to make an informed purchase. The following buying guide aims to provide this information. The following topics will be covered as fully and completely as possible. A brief history of Oriental carpets, discovering Oriental carpets as a contemporary purchasing category, the components of Oriental carpets, the types of antique Oriental carpets available, common motifs used in Oriental antique carpets, the connotations of colours and images used on Oriental antique carpets, the different types of weaving techniques used to produce antique Oriental carpets, and factors to consider when buying antique Oriental carpets. When these items have been completed consumers will be able to assess the quality of carpets while having more knowledge about different styles and designs of carpets available.  

History of Oriental Carpets

When considering the history of Oriental carpets two dominant traditions stand above the others: the Persian carpet and the Turkish carpet. Oriental antique carpets have enjoyed a rich history. The first evidence of rugs being displayed came from the Achaemenid Empire in Persia (550-330 BCE). Archaeologists have exhumed lavish carpets from Cyrus the Great’s tomb; he was one of the great leaders of the Achaemenid Empire. The carpets found there had narrative motifs and imagery that told the story of his reign as king.

The true golden era of antique carpets occurred during the Safavid Dynasty (1492-1722). At that time, Persia had control of much of the Middle East after having dominated modern day Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Afghanistan and large parts of Iraq, while also having a large influence over Turkey. Carpet making flourished inside this empire with new techniques of flat weaving (weaving using a loom) helping to increase the speed at which rugs could be woven.

A lucrative trade network of carpets developed between Persia, Turkey and Europe. The combined traditions of artistic carpets created a huge demand in Europe. Carpets became a coveted item by European nobility and aristocracy. Not until the rise of the Industrial Revolution, and the corresponding growth of the European and American middle classes, would carpets become a consumer item enjoyed by the masses.

Discover Antique Oriental Carpets

This category of consumer item offers a wide selection in terms of style, size and decoration. By combining the world’s two dominant types of carpets – Turkish and Persian – into one category it means that consumers are given a wide enough choice to suit all tastes, budgets and space concerns.

Components of Antique Oriental Carpets

The following chart displays some of the common design components that appear on many Oriental antique carpets. To be noted, there also were carpets that used an all over design, in particular those created in Tibet. These carpets did not have a main or guard border, instead they had one single field that encompassed the entire carpet.



Main Border

The widest border and decorative design found on the outside of the carpet.

Guard Border

The narrower decorative designs located just inside the main border.


The largest decorated area of the carpet, found inside both of the borders.


The round, or oval element that often occupies the centre of the field.

Corner Brackets

Designs that appear often in the corners of fields.


A decorative boarder of loose thread that often hangs at the ends of antique rugs.

Types of Common Motifs Found on Antique Oriental Carpets 

Below is a list of some of the most common motifs that appear on antique Oriental carpets.





A design that is made up of repeated motifs that resemble a vase of roses.

A design that comes from Qum and Abadeh in Iran.


Repeated daisies interlinked by diamonds and circular lines.

Found in older Bijars, Hamadan carpets.


Repeated design of flowers within a diamond, surrounded by curved leaves that are parallel to each other.

Comes in either in geometric or curvilinear designs.

Shah Abbassi

A grouping of palmettes

in medallion designs.

A design that is used in the borders and field of designs.


A circular design radiating from the centre medallion that suggests a petal of roses.

Sometimes used in the decorations of military awards.


Repeated octagonal pattern that has a floral theme.

The Persian word for flower

Guli Henna

A diamond shaped bouquet medallion with plant like motifs with flowers and leaves surrounding it.

Guli Henna refers to the Henna Flower.

Turkman Patterns

Incorporate geometric shapes with broken lines.

 An older design that came from nomadic tribes.

Weaving Techniques Used to Create Antique Oriental Rugs

The following list shows a few of the most common flat weaving techniques. Flat weaving used a loom as opposed to previous hand knotting methods. This method greatly increased efficiency and consistency in Oriental rug production.




Kilim, the oldest variety of flat weave, literally means “double faced.”  When completed, both sides of the carpet have the same design on it. The most common weaving process used for Oriental carpets.


Dhurry is a flat weave made in India and Afghanistan. A tightly woven weave usually made of cotton or wool. This weaving technique was tightly controlled by guilds that catered to local authorities and people of influence.


Sumakhs only have decoration on one side of the carpet. Contrary to the Kilim weave, only loose ends appear on the bottom side of the carpet.

Imagery Used on Antique Oriental Rugs

The following list is of some common images that are often represented on Oriental rugs.




Escaping danger, Protection


Youth, Spring, Newly weds


Purity, Spirituality


Rebirth, Immortality


Religious liberty






Signifies woman, Two diamonds attached signifies man and woman.


Spirituality, good luck


Protection from evil



Colours Used on Antique Oriental Carpets

Colours used on Oriental antique carpetsoften had specific connotations. The following list will describe the meaning of different colours on Oriental carpets.




Beauty, Wealth, Courage, Luck, Faith, Joy


Humility, Piety


The Sun, Joy of Life


Hope, Renewal, Life


Solitude, Truth, Power


Mourning, Destruction




Purity, Cleanliness


Power, Wealth


Protection from evil

Common Shapes and Types of Antique Oriental Carpets

  • Rectangular Carpets – The majority of antique rugs are rectangular. Different dimensions are used from 2/1 to 4/3 length to width.
  • Round Carpets – A circular antique rug.
  • Runners – This type of rug essentially is a long rectangle. The length of the rug is much longer than the width. Often used to decorate hallways.
  • Square Carpets – Instead of a rectangle, a square rug has even width and length.
  • Area Rugs – Large rectangular rugs that designed to take up a majority of the circumference of a room and have furnishings placed on them.
  • Irregular shaped Carpets – This outlier category includes hexagonal, octagonal and triangle shaped rugs. 

Factors to Consider When Buying Antique Oriental Carpets

  • A rug or carpet?

The words carpet and rug are often used interchangeably. However, there are differences between the two. A rug is much smaller; it is 3.2 square meters or less. A carpet is 3.2 square meters or larger. Be aware of this semantic difference when considering rugs and carpets.   

  • The knots per square inch count.

The best method to test the craftsmanship of an antique carpet is by completing a knots per square inch test. (KPSI) To do this test, flip over an antique carpet and use a tape measure to measure out one inch. (2.5 cm). Count the number of knots that occur within that distance. As a rule, a higher quality carpet will have a larger number of knots. Lower quality wool will have a KPSI of 35 – 50, while carpets made of high quality silk could have a KPSI as high as 300 or more. Good quality, handmade antique Oriental carpets should be expected to have KPSI counts between 150- 250. Enquire with sellers about the KPSI count before purchasing an antique carpet.

  • Colouring of the Carpet.

When buying an antique carpet assess its colour. Historically, carpets were coloured with natural vegetable dyes. These dyes did not possess the vibrant quality of more contemporary artificial dyes. The more worn, natural looking vegetable dye colour adds additional value to a carpet. Be wary of extremely bright, vivid colour on an antique rug. These brighter colours can be evidence that the rug was manufactured more recently.

Accessories for Antique Oriental carpets

Certain pieces of furniture can act as good accessories for an antique Oriental Carpet. Here is a brief list.

  • Chairs
  • Sofas
  • Desks
  • Tables
  • Lamps  

Finding Antique Oriental Carpet on eBay

Once you determine the type of antique Oriental carpet you want to purchase, visit the Antiques Portal on eBay, click on 'Carpets/ Rugs'and start searching item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching for Antique Oriental Carpets on eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for antique Oriental carpets, to find antique Turkish area carpets, type ‘antique Turkish area carpets’ into the search box, and then click the Advanced search button to customise the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tipspage for more advice on searching for antique Oriental carpets with keywords. If you can’t find the antique Oriental carpet you want, try shopping eBay Stores.


Finding an antique Oriental carpet can be a daunting task without the proper consumer information. This consumer guide hopes to have provided some useful tips in finding the right carpet for you and your space. Remember the tips in regards to assessing quality and avoiding reproductions and fakes. From there, use the motif listings and information about colour and imagery to best select out a rug that meets your own aesthetic taste. Once you have collected this information, you can buy an antique Oriental carpet safely and securely on eBay.

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