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The History of Rugs
Understanding Rug Names

Rug Names vs. Rug Origins

Each region or city is known for a specific type of rug design that has been handed down for centuries. For instance, Tabriz is a city in Iran that is known for its amazing rugs that feature a border with a curvilinear pattern in the central field and a medallion in the middle of the rug. Because this region is so well known for this style of Iranian rug and because it sells well, rug makers from other regions adapt the design principles of Tabriz rugs and apply them to other hand-tufted or machine-made rugs. A rug named Tabriz can either be an authentic rug made in Tabriz, or it is a rug made somewhere else, but inspired by the Tabriz design.

Tabriz Rug
Tabriz rug

The above example occurs with all regionally named rugs that have been reproduced. A Gabeh rug made in Egypt is not an authentic, hand-knotted rug made in the Gabeh region of Iran. It is just simply an Egyptian rug that is named after that unique style. However, buyers who do not know about style names have unknowingly purchased the wrong rug, buying a hand-tufted reproduction when they thought they were buying a hand-knotted Iranian rug.

Gabeh Rug
Gabeh rug

Historically, a rug’s name indicates where it was made. Throughout centuries, each region has developed its own symbols, designs and color ways and, in turn, became well known for them. The following map shows some of the most popular rug designs and where they originate.

Rug regions of the world

The designs were adopted from various tribal groups who made their summer camps in the area. The most common is that of a red geometric medallion, which expands to fill a large portion of the field. The lozenge-shaped medallion contains a small central geometric rosette, which also is repeated in the four large central corner spandrels. Stylized tree of life motifs emanate from the center rosette and the spandrels. And numerous small geometric motifs are interspersed throughout the field and medallion. The primary colors are red, blue, rust, white, and small amounts of yellow and green for the small motifs in the field.

Country Rugs Vs. City Rugs

Sometimes the best way to categorize a rug is not by which region it is from, but instead if it is made in the country or the city.

Country Rugs

Country rugs have a reputation for using natural dyes and bold and geometric patterns that are unique to each community. Because the dyes are natural, country rug weavers often use less color in each rug. The age-old process started with nomadic tribes in Mongolia and Turkey, and continues today to define the cultural heritage of many countries throughout Asia and the Middle East.

The process may begin in a pasture where men shear the sheep. The wool is then spun and dyed, preferably using natural plants such as indigo, madder, pomegranates or oak.

The wool is then brought into villages where the women of extended families sit together around a loom and weave designs that are integral to their history, religion and way of life. Often children sit along side their aunts and mothers to learn this art. Designs of country rugs are often bold and geometric. When figures are used, they are hieroglyphic in appearance. Curvilinear patterns are not used as often.

City Rugs

Expert rug weavers in large cities make city rugs. Designs are usually made for selling purposes and are not as tied to tradition and community. These weavers are very talented and high-quality wool is used in their production. However, synthetic dyes are more likely to have been used to color the wool, which is a less desirable product for collectors. More colors and sophisticated patterns (often curvilinear) are found in city rugs, which is a desired trait for many other buyers.

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Read aboutParts of a Rug Design next.

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