Antique silk rugs combine amazing softness and rich colour with fascinating designs and quality workmanship. Yet there are many reasons why a seller might not know what a rug really is. To buy an antique rug, it helps to be able to recognize a genuine article as well as being able to assess quality and condition.
Antique generally means that an item is at least 100 years old, although some dealers define the term differently. While estimating the age reliably requires an expert, a beginner can look for some obvious signs. For example, bright, synthetic dyes did not exist before the 20th century, so an antique should look a little faded. The pile might be more faded at the surface than at the bottom, but the transition should be gradual. A two-tone pile means the antique rug is modern and artificially aged.
Antique rugs come in several materials besides silk, such as cotton or wool, and modern rugs have even more variety. Buyers who want silk specifically should look for a soft, smooth feel, very distinct from cotton or wool. A well-made rug is also more likely to be silk. Be careful, as some modern synthetics like faux silk look and feel very much like silk. The only foolproof tests involve removing samples from the rug and dissolving or burning them, something that obviously cannot be allowed too often.
Some wear is almost inevitable on an antique rug. Make sure it is not noticeably uneven and nowhere near exposing the backing. Keep in mind some antique rugs have had worn edges cut away. However, to be worth buying, a rug has to be intact. Moreover, pale patches on the underside could signal the beginning of rot. If gently folding or twisting the rug produces popping sounds, then its structure is already breaking down.
Obviously, a very large antique rug might be a poor choice for the floor of a very small apartment. Even more seriously, buyers who plan to display their antique rugs on the wall rather than on the floor might need a small rug that can fit in limited wall space.
A high-quality antique silk rug is a serious investment, but it is also a richly coloured object that might well dominate any room. Beauty, in this case, takes into account the room decor so that the chosen antique rug complements it.