Your Guide to Buying Antique Area Rugs

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Your Guide to Buying Antique Area Rugs

An area rug can cover the majority of the floor in a room. When combined with an antique style, area rugs can bring character to a room. As with other antique items, consumer information can often be lacking for antique area rugs. This buying guide aspires to arm consumers with as much information as possible so that they can make an informed purchase. Considerations when buying antique rugs include: the authenticity of the item as an antique and the quality of the item. These issues will be addressed in greater detail through the following topics: The history of antique rugs, discovering the antique area rug as a contemporary consumer item, the general appearance of an antique rug, the most common motifs of antique rugs, factors to consider when buying an antique area rug, and best maintenance practices for an antique area rug. At the conclusion of this guide consumers will be better equipped to make a purchase.

History of Antique Rugs

Today, as in the past, the epicentre of rug production is in Iran. Historically, the Persians were the first to have created ornate rugs as decorative pieces. Dating back to 500 years BC there were rugs that decorated the kingdom of Cyrus the Great when he led the Achaemenid Empire, (550-330 BC). Archaeologists excavated lavish rugs from Cyrus’ tomb that told the story of his reign with narrative motifs infused into the rugs. This Middle Eastern culture of rug creation would continue to expand in terms of methods of rug making and new styles of decorating them over the next 2000 years.

The true golden era of antique Rugs occurred during the Safavid Dynasty (1492-1722). At that time, Persia had control of much of the Middle East after their domination of modern day Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Afghanistan and large parts of Iraq. Rug making flourished inside this empire with new techniques of flat weaving (weaving using a loom) helped to increase the speed at which rugs could be produced.

Modern day Iran still creates 30 percent of the world’s antique rugs. Many of these rugs use modern machinery and factory methods to create them. Rug experts and rug appraisers still look to the rugs of the Safavid period as the highest echelon of rugs created. Some contemporary rugs may have the issue of patents for rug motifs not being filed to protect the right to produce them, the outright extinction of many motifs, and cheap competition by factories challenging the traditional loom weaved rugs.

Discover Antique Area Rugs

This variety of antique is more functional than most other antique rugs. The size of an area rug, and the fact that it has the potential to take up a lot of room space, means that it will be used and walked upon.

Parts of an Antique Area Rug

The following chart details the general elements of an antique rug. These component parts were then filled in with varying designs or motifs.



Main Border

The widest decorative design on the perimeter of the rug.

Guard Border

The narrower decorative designs flanking the main border.


The background of the rug inside the borders.


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

Corner Brackets

Designs that often fill in the corners of fields.

Common Types of Motifs Found on Antique Area Rugs

Below is a list of some of the most common motifs that appear on antique area rugs.





Repeated octagonal patterns often with a floral theme.

Common in carpets originating from Turkman, Gorgan, and Khal 

Gul is Farsi for flower.

Shah Abbassi

A grouping of palmettes

in medallion design.

Used in the centre of designs as well as on bordering.

Boteh  (paisley)

This design is of droplet shaped vegetables.

Originated in 221 BC as a pattern out of Persia.

In modern nomenclature often called a paisley design.

Sometimes referred to as ‘Persian Pickles’ or ‘Welsh Pairs’.


This pattern is made up of repeated daisies interlinked by diamonds and circular lines.

An exclusive design for certain weaving guilds. Most notable were those creating Varamin Rugs.


A circular design radiating from the central medallion that suggests the look of rose petals.

Originated in the Middle East.

Sometimes used in the decoration of military awards.

Common in Nain rugs.


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

Comes in various forms, usually geometric or curvilinear designs.

Factors to Consider when Buying an Antique Area Rug

The size of the room

The most important factor when buying an area rug, antique or not, is making sure the rug purchased will fit into the room it is intended for. An area rug is intended to have the furnishings of the room sitting upon it. Measure the intended room with a tape measure and only consider area rugs that will fill a good portion of the space, approximately 65-70 percent of the room.

The knots per square inch count  

The best method to test the craftsmanship of an antique rug is to do a knots per square inch test (KPSI). This test is done by turning an antique rug over, so that its bottom side is facing up, and measuring out one inch, (2.5 cm), then counting the number of knots that occur within that distance. As a rule, the more knots counted means the carpet is of higher quality. Lower quality wool will have a KPSI of 35 – 50 while rugs made of high quality silk could have a KPSI as high as 300 or more. One should inquire about the KPSI count before purchasing an antique area rug. 

Patterns, motifs, and signatures woven into the antique area rug

It is advised that buyers look at pictures of rugs that they are interested in purchasing in the effort of trying to match the motif on that rug to classic motifs. Certain motifs have been used historically and help authenticate the age of a rug. Pictures of the motifs mentioned in this consumer guide can easily be found online. Furthermore, antique rug manufacturers often placed their initials on the boarders of rugs that they created. These signifying marks can also help to authenticate the rug and can also increase its value.

Colouring of the antique area rug

A buyer should always assess the colour of the antique rug that they are buying. Historically, carpets were coloured with natural vegetable dyes. These dyes did not have the vibrant quality of more contemporary artificial dyes. Be wary of extremely bright, vivid colours on an antique rug.

How to Care for Antique Area Rugs

  1. In order to best maintain the quality and value of an antique area rug the following procedures are advised.
  2. First vacuum both sides of the rug to clear away dust and debris.
  3. Create a cleaning solution of water and liquid soap. The mixture should be ½ teaspoon of soap per ½ cup of water.
  4. Use a soft, long bristled scrub brush. Work the brush over the carpet in small sections using straight linear motions. Do not rub too vigorously as this may cause damage to the rug. 
  5. Use a laundry brush to gently clean the fringe of the rug.
  6. Apply small amounts of clean water to rinse away any soap residue.
  7. Use a clean window squeegee to remove any excess water.
  8. Place the rug on a flat surface to dry.

Complementary Items for Antique Area Rugs

Area rugs often become the focal point of a room; furnishings that complement its aesthetic may be considered good additions.  There are also items available to help one take care of their antique area rug.

  • Chairs
  • Sofa
  • Lamps
  • Tables
  • Soft brush
  • Rug pad  

Finding Antique Area Rugs on eBay

Once you determine the type of antique area rug you want to purchase, visit the Antiques  portal on eBay, click on ‘Carpets/ Rugs’ and search item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching for Antique Area Rugs on eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for Antique area rugs. For example, to find an antique Turkish area rug, type ‘antique Turkish area rug’ 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 area rugs with keywords. If you can’t find the exact Antique area rug that you want, try shopping eBay Stores.


Purchasing an antique area rug is a good way of reinvigorating a room or space. Armed with tips provided in this buying guide, a consumer should now be ready to connect with eBay sellers and other antique merchants. Familiarize yourself with the tips that were given, these will help you in assessing the quality of a rug and authenticating it as a genuine antique.

Once you have collected this information, you can guide for purchasing antique rugs buy an antique area rug safely and securely on eBay.

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