J.R. Azizollahoff, article, “Oriental Rugs as Investment:
The Unknown Ideal”, December, 2010
There is a conspiracy
of silence in the media about carpets in general and rugs as
investment in particular. No one has yet been able to break through
the iron curtain of ignorance that surrounds the subject of oriental
is also no consensus in the carpet trade about whether rugs can be a
hedge against inflation, hold some value, or increase in value over
the incredible beauty of carpets, and the long time it takes to make
them, investment, art and antique, as well as decorating magazines
have almost no interest in them. It is as if the editors of these
journals are as ignorant of rugs as the lay public. This sad state of
carpet neglect is as unfathomable as it is absurd, and has not helped
the rug trade in this recession.
that margins have been reduced because of the recession, consumers
are able to buy rugs at mark ups that are lower than ever before.
This opens a greater possibility that rugs may become better
investments comparable to paintings, ceramics, coins, furniture, and
myriad art objects that have demanded more of the public’s
attention. For rugs to be good investments, they should be purchased
at about 25% above wholesale value up to a few thousand dollars and
at a 15% mark up for rugs whose wholesale value exceeds $5000. In
this recession, many rugs are now routinely sold for up to 20% below
normal wholesale, and retail has largely merged into wholesale in
many rug venues. Mom and Pop stores, while sometimes slightly less
reliable than larger retail stores, are more likely to sell at
investment level mark ups.
popularity of the internet has also mitigated toward lower mark ups
which might be a boon for the future perception of carpets as
possible investments. The internet has severely chastened brick and
mortar retail outlets, but demand should increase through word of
mouth, if rugs are sold more cheaply. The great popularity of coins
in the United States is largely the result of the small mark ups at
retail for these charming collectibles. Coins are a good, albeit
impossible, model for carpet retailers, but the benchmark or keystone
of 100 plus 10% profit over cost has got to go, if it has not already
been rendered obsolete in most stores by the recession. Regardless of
their degree of success, retailers should not charge the keystone
rate of 100 plus 10% for rugs at higher price points. The current rug
recession may be more the result of overcharging for carpets than
underperformance of stock portfolios.
is collectible if it is not bought right. Successful collectors
cherry pick, or get selection on better rugs, without premiums, that
are prorated with mediocre carpets. This is the secret of buying
right. Even if the bottom line is unknown, haggling, even for small
discounts, is also essential.
have the beauty and rarity that surpasses most of our most cherished,
collectible crafts, as they take many months to make, in most cases.
Any rug that takes many months to weave is a rarity because of the
finite number of a particular type that is extant in the world, in
good condition, at any given point in time.
of intuition or common sense, the only way for the layperson to infer
approximate wholesale value is through comparison shopping. By
visiting several stores in search of the same or similar rug, the
bottom line may be discovered, if one is fairly sensitive, rational,
and intelligent. Check wool shedding by rubbing the surface of the
pile, and select a rug with soft, shiny wool and the highest knot
count per square inch one can afford. In order to maintain good
customer relations, most stores will allow returns or exchanges for
excess shedding within the first few months of use. If possible, one
should get the non-shed guarantee in writing, particularly when
buying from smaller rug or furniture retailers. Some shedding is
normal, but excuses should not be made by reputable retailers for
continuous shedding, which is a great inconvenience for consumers.
better the hand-knotted carpet, the better the materials and
workmanship, and the finer the weave. The public has opted for less
expensive rugs in this recession. While this is understandable, it is
risky, because the best quality rugs, with the highest number of
knots per square inch, are at price levels that are greater than most
will spend at this time. Durability is sacrificed because it is
unknown or unappreciated.
of rug aesthetics is durability. Consumers are not as interested in
durability today as they were many years ago, and this is unfortunate
since durability is one of the chief aspects of the mystique of the
oriental rug. What is more magical than walking on a rug for 100
years and still having an object of beauty and value underfoot? At a
good rug sale, a $3500 hand knotted 8x10 foot rug, with about 150
knots per inch, can be purchased for the floor, which may be passed
on to one’s children. It is not only in the beauty, but also in
the durability, that the workmanship, and ultimate power of the
oriental rug, is finally known to the consumer.
beautiful luster or color clarity of a good traditional floor rug
should last from generation to generation. This is yet another aspect
of the mystique of the carpet: eternal color brilliance or vibrancy
of jewel toned colors. The depth of colors that are maintained in
traditional carpets, such as Kashan, Isfahan, Tabriz, and Kerman are
similar to precious gems such as rubies, emeralds, and sapphires.
a hand-knotted city rug might be considered the impossible dream come
true. From designing, drafting, drawing, painting, shearing, teasing,
connecting, spinning, twisting, plying, dyeing, drying, knotting,
wefting, tapping, wefting, trimming, disconnecting, brushing,
washing, scrubbing, shearing, combing, untangling, trimming, sunning,
stretching, and inspecting, a hand-knotted carpet is a miracle of
unfathomable complexity. Besides the weavers, about one hundred other
people are involved in ancillary activities, before and after
knotting, who assist in the process of making a city carpet. If only
more consumers could see how hard it is to create a carpet, sales
would increase dramatically.
India, from start to finish, including extensive pre and post weaving
activities, a 9x12 foot rug with 150 knots per inch takes about six
months for five people to weave, and a 225 knot per inch rug takes
roughly nine months for five weavers to complete. It is no wonder
that more countries in the East are reducing carpet production. Why
bother making such complex and difficult crafts that may be ruined by
a single mistake? Solid proof that a hand knotted rug is a good
investment for consumers is the fact that many Eastern manufacturers
would rather make easier and less risky products for export.
for the wall or floor, rugs are one of the best long-term
investments. More small rugs should be placed on the wall, as that is
the best way to address and preserve them. Few are aware of this
those with higher budgets, the real bargains are in the extra fine
rugs that are well bought. In general, small extra fine rugs of 300
knots per inch or more should be hung, with a cotton sleeve for the
hang rod professionally attached along the side or end. If hung, fine
small rugs are not perishable. There are many fabulous extra fine
rugs that are very small, or around 1x2 feet. Because of the
diminishing number of highly skilled weavers capable of making these
gems, they should, at the very least, be a hedge against the
increase in worldwide inflation. Their value is more obvious than
gold or silver and more easily verified by the senses.
crack without sufficient humidity, books dry out fairly rapidly or
buckle in damp environments, rare coins develop carbon spots,
pottery, ceramics, and crystal may break, but nothing will happen to
a rug on the wall. Although improperly folded and rolled, with the
pile incorrectly facing inwards by dealers, almost all antique rugs
from 1900 and earlier, until today, are not dry rotted! This
astonishing fact should allay the public’s anxiety about the
so-called “perishable” nature of carpets. Rugs should be
rolled in a cylinder, without folding, for conservatory storage.
floor rugs are also good investments, particularly with high knot
counts that assure high quality materials and workmanship. A
double-wefted rug with a high knot count of tightly twisted and plied
wool is insulated against the exigencies of time, because dirt cannot
penetrate the structure, and damage the condensed looped knots and
packed foundation threads. The scarcity of dry rot to the cotton
foundation in antique rugs is the result of the insulation of the
cotton warp and weft that is tightly tucked between and within the
wool knots; rug investment is the result of the cotton insulation by
the woolen knots. The further benefit of a finer rug with a higher
knot count is that not only the cotton warp, but also the cotton weft
is protected from the exigencies of time by the wool knots. In this
sense, of all rugs woven, the jewel toned fine city carpet, whose
structure fosters longevity, may be the most intriguing rug of all.
better rugs, the wool is sure to be soft and shiny, but in cheaper
carpets, the drier wool is more open to deterioration, and will not
fully protect the cotton foundation that is essential to longevity.
Indian, Chinese, Persian, and Pakistan rugs are being made with high
knot counts that are virtually indestructible on the floor, with
proper care. Periodically check to see that the rug is in good
condition, and pride yourself on how well preserved it remains after
ten or twenty years of hard use. It can eventually be retired, rolled
in a cylinder and not folded, until one wishes to sell it, or leave
it to the family.
care is critical to preserving rug investments. Blot spills out of
the carpet pile, blot with club soda, and blot dry. Rotate rugs 180
degrees every few years, use a good pad that is changed every five
years, and commercially clean every four years. A good carpet
cleaning facility must safely get the dust out of the carpets without
damaging foundation, and the rug should be soap washed on the floor
by hand, if possible. After rinsing, the carpet should be dried or
squeegeed on the floor with a smooth wooden object or flat back of a
brush. The usual process of squeezing the water out of a carpet
through rollers may flatten the rug too much and disturb the knot
rugs may be sponge washed by their owners with mild detergent on a
hot, dry, and sunny day, gently rinsed with buckets of water, blotted
with towels, or squeegeed with a smooth wooden object, and dried in
the sun with objects underneath to facilitate drying. Through an
unknown chemical process, drying a rug in the sun enhances the
slippers in the home to reduce build up of dirt, as dirt is the chief
culprit in reducing carpet longevity. Carpet wear and dry rot to the
essential cotton foundation are primarily caused by impacted dirt.
The cotton foundation is more precious than the pile, and must be
preserved for long-term investment. Repair of dry spots requires
soaking in order to remove impacted dirt that hardens damp areas of
stored in the basement should be rolled and placed on top of plastic
bags, off the damp cement floor, with a dehumidifier running, to
minimize moisturization. Rugs should also be circulated to drier
environments upstairs from time to time.
value of a collectible is largely based upon rarity and demand. The
finer the rug, the rarer it will be, because the long time it takes
to make limits the numbers that can be produced. There are not a lot
of Quom silk rugs of a particular design with 1600 knots per square
inch extant in the world today. There are not many people in the
world with extra fine rugs hanging on their walls.
with all collectibles, there is the problem of finding a buyer, but
quite a spirited trade in fine collectibles is occurring, quietly,
between members of the lay public. Regardless of class, people visit
one another, see what someone might wish to sell, offer a profit on
the owner’s cost, and exchange object for money. Members of the
upper class might exchange rugs of higher knotage, the middle class
rugs of medium-fine knotage, and the lower class rugs of low knotage.
not sold privately, rugs may be consigned to antique stores, carpet
stores, or auctions, but patience is required if one wishes to get a
rugs may be considered collectible, but rarely resell privately, even
in perfect preservation, for more than the purchase price. They
represent the lowest level of rug investment, but should be
purchased, if possible, at department store tent sales, or at deep
reduction from retailers. A 9x12 foot, attractive beige or
traditional red Tabriz design polypropylene machine-made rug, with
good density of about one million points per meter, may be purchased
at a tent sale for as little as $600. This rug may be used for
several years, and sold to a neighbor fairly readily, for $400 to
$500, when a person moves to another residence, if still in a perfect
state of preservation, without stains. A $100 savings is not
insignificant for consumers in need of basic floor covering,
particularly in light of the fact that neither the buyer nor the
seller knows for sure if the rug is machine or hand-made. Rarely, a
machine-made rug is resold for more than the purchase price, but this
usually occurs when the buyer, or both the buyer and seller, imagine
that it might be hand-made.
inability to discern machine from hand-made helps explain the great
popularity of good quality inexpensive machine-made rugs, in good
colors, even in this recession. Clients at the low end know that
they have a fail-safe strategy if they buy an attractive machine-made
rug at a low price because it is fairly easy to flip the piece at a
negligible loss, with a little time, if the occasion arises.
of the truly magnificent hand-knotted rugs, which are well within the
range of the middle class, are to be found in the range of
approximately 150 knots per square inch. The short nap, tiny nubs of
different colors on the back, and brilliant color contrast, that
blossoms upon viewing in the sun light, are signs that one is
addressing the fine city carpet from the Orient. These weavings will
sell at discount for around $5000 for a 9x12 foot carpet.
finer rugs may have a smooth even pile whose knots are not visible,
or the rough texture of the Peshawar, with a visible knot structure
that results from the hard or over twisted wool employed in knotting.
In either case, these rugs may be considered collectible because of
the superb quality and workmanship that must coincide with high
knotage rugs of around 150 knots per square inch.
slightly drier and extensively sheared and finished, many finer pale
Peshawar carpets are investment grade because they are always sought
after by designers seeking to finish their rooms, regardless of
whether the rug is new or used, in full pile or worn. Designers pay
high prices for prosaic semi-antique rugs, around 60 years old, if
the pale colors fit the room puzzle, like the last card in a straight
flush in Poker. While these pale decorative rugs may not be quite as
durable as their higher piled, more traditionally colored cousins,
the glorious soft color combinations, and magnificent texture and
patina, that so closely mimics priceless antiques, compensate for
their slightly greater delicacy. Because of the strength of the
designer market today, it may be easier to find potential buyers for
the soothing, fine Peshawar than the more durable, less extensively
finished, traditional carpet.
hand knotted rugs can be restored and often merit restoration. This
is a major advantage when compared other collectibles, such as
paintings and coins, which cannot be restored. The outsourcing of
restoration to the Near East has made repairing quite reasonable for
those who can wait several months before the rug is finished. Wear is
not a major concern with rugs of higher knotage, which is another
reason to make the greater investment for the long term.
price of antique rugs has never been lower than at present.
Traditional rugs, in red, blue, and ivory, such as Kerman, Bidjar,
Sarouk, Kashan, Heriz, and Mashad are now routinely sold well below
normal wholesale value at both wholesale and retail. Antique rugs in
excellent condition are rare, but limited demand has kept prices
down. Because there are so few extant rugs from 1920 in excellent
condition, and even less from 1900, the slightest increase in demand
should increase the price of old carpets.
expensive, colorful traditional, rather than pale, decorative antique
rugs are the safest investments, as they are almost always bought by
wholesalers, in a normal market, in excellent condition. They will be
more expensive than new rugs of similar knotage that are more
plentiful, but from a collector’s standpoint, for those who can
afford them, the antiques are quite cheap at this time.
traditional antique Iranian rugs from 1920 can be purchased for any
reasonable offer now, and thus these rugs compare favorably with many
new rugs in terms of value for the dollar today. The patina of a
beautiful antique carpet can never quite be replicated in the finish
of the new rug, because of the different rates of patination of the
different dyes in old carpets. Many who are decorating homes in the
manner of old manor estates would be well advised to purchase their
old rug now.
to say, old rug dealers are in dire straits financially at this time.
The vast majority of old rugs would make excellent investments, and
age should not be a deterrent to buying. There is always a slight
risk that an antique rug may have a problem, but that risk is reduced
by careful inspection, front and back. Most reputable dealers would
be glad to allay any anxieties about condition issues, and allow
thorough inspection prior to purchase. Ask the dealer to randomly
fold the rug to assure that no dry spots are present.
the price for an antique rug is now so low, the financial risk of
buying a carpet with a condition problem is correspondingly reduced.
the new rugs of Iran are out of fashion. This is lamentable because
they are among the most solid investments a person can make in
carpets. New Tabriz, Heriz, Kerman, Nain, Quom, Isfahan, Mashad,
Abadeh, Yalemeh, Shiraz, and Hamadan are not household words, but
they should be, considering their beauty and extraordinary
durability. These rugs constitute the most neglected category of
investment carpets, with a long track record of resale in the antique
carpet market. Their durability is derived from excellent materials
and workmanship and minimal stress at the finish. They wear like iron
and begin to show their true colors, or patinate, after about 50
years of use.
the solid wood furniture that often resides beside them, they live on
and on, almost impervious to the ravages of time, as symbols of
middle eastern society, that perfectly exemplify the art of the
carpet at its best. Their neglect is chiefly the result of the
abysmal lack of rug education, particularly in the United States.
rug as investment is predicated upon education to increase demand.
Manufacturers in the East, and importers and retailers in the West
have not done enough to improve Western understanding of the
incredibly complex process of creating a carpet. While they are
useful, a few pamphlets at trade shows are not able to convey the
life- blood of this art form. It is surprising that with all the
wealth of the carpet trade, no one has been able to penetrate
designer, antique, and investing magazines, or the cable networks,
for the sake of the carpet craft.
machine-made rugs at the low end are a new expanded niche that is
probably here to stay, the children of older Gx’ers may develop
a new interest in the exotic world of eastern art under foot, if they
understand the long term value of the oriental carpet. If this
interest can be enhanced through the media, the market share of
hand-knotted relative to machine made rugs will rise. Because many
experts believe globalization and gentrification will cause fewer
hand knotted rugs to be woven, in fewer areas of the world, in the
years to come, it definitely pays to make your carpet investment now.
this era of corruption, it is time to leave Goldman Sachs for sacks
of gold and piles of rugs. Have your wealth where it can be seen,
enjoyed, and managed only by you and your loved ones. Invest your
discretionary, so-called “mad money” in rugs, rather than
commodities with no intrinsic worth. Whether the rug purchased is on
the level of platinum, gold, silver, or copper, it makes sense to
invest in a carpet.
You have come to the right place to ask questions about Oriental Rug Appraisal or to have your Rug Professionally Appraised online by J.R. AZIZOLLAHOFF himself-the author of The Illustrated Buyer's Guide to Oriental Carpets. He is now taking requests for appraisals online. After you fill out this form he will respond and ask you to send photos of your Oriental Rug. He will ask you questions about it and tell you what he would like photos of. After you pay for your appraisal you will receive it by email on official letterhead.
If you are in the Middlesex County New Jersey area you can call Mr. Azizollahoff to make an appointment to bring your carpet for appraisal in person. In person he charges more than for online appraisals because it usually takes at least an hour of his time to explain the appraisal process and how the carpet is evaluated.