Exquisitely woven Iranian silk carpet

Iran (IP) - Whenever it comes to Iranian culture and identity, the carpet is undoubtedly one of the prominent symbols that represent this rich culture.

Iran PressIran News: The history of the Iranian (Persian) Carpet a culmination of artistic magnificence- dates back to 2,500 years ago. The Iranians were among the pioneer carpet weavers of the ancient civilizations, having achieved a superlative degree of perfection through centuries of creativity and ingenuity. The skill of carpet weaving has been handed down to each generation, who built upon those skills and craftsmanship. To trace the history of the Persian carpet is to follow a path of cultural growth of one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever seen.

Persian silk carpet woven in Qom
Iranian silk carpet woven in Qom

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Iranian carpet is a heavy textile made for a wide variety of utilitarian and symbolic purposes, for home use, local sale, and export. Carpet weaving is an essential part of Persian culture and Iranian art. Within the group of Oriental rugs produced by the countries of the "rug belt", the Persian carpet stands out by the variety and intricate details of its manifold designs.

Iranian woman weaving carpet
Iranian woman practicing ancient art of carpet weaving

A traditional Persian rug is handwoven on a loom, and one of the most important features to look out for is the knot count. A quality rug will have at least 120 knots per square inch (6sqcm). To appear a carpet connoisseur in front of the seller, flip the rug over and look at the knots from the underside. You’re not expected to count them, but the back of a carpet has a lot to say. A handmade rug will have a soft backing with a few bigger knots, while a machine-made one will raise an eyebrow due to the knot uniformity. Even in the city of Tabriz, one of the oldest Persian carpet weaving centers in Iran, the knot count will vary from rug to rug.

Traditional Persian rugs are highly popular and well known. It is no wonder, and certainly no secret, that this is due to their outstanding quality. The traditional hand-knotting, natural colors and fine woolen yarns are characteristics of the valuable Persian rugs, which have been produced in Persia (today: Iran) for centuries. In the traditional patterns and designs, they are back in demand to bring warmth and coziness to your own home.

Carpet bazzar in Tabriz, Iran.
Carpet bazzar in Tabriz, Iran.

For centuries Persian carpets have been appreciated for their fine craftsmanship and high quality. These beautiful and unique handmade Persian rugs can be found in numerous shapes and sizes depending on where and who manufactured them. 

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Handwoven Persian carpets are typically made of wool, silk or a wool-silk blend. Generally, 100 percent pure silk rugs are quite fine and have a shiny finish. Wool is the most commonly used material. The quality depends on the breed of sheep, the climate, the pasture and the time of shearing. Don’t mistake these two quality flame-resistant materials for the synthetic fibers of machine-made carpets, which are highly flammable and tend to give off lint.

Iranian carpet exhibition in Qazvin
Iranian carpet exhibition in Qazvin

Iranian Carpet through history

The first documented evidence of the existence of carpets came from Chinese texts dating back to the Sassanid Dynasty (224 - 641 CE). Spring of Khosrow Carpet, also called Winter of Khosrow Carpet, ancient Persian carpet, possibly the most costly and magnificent of all time, made for the Ctesiphon palace of the Sāsānian king Khosrow I (reigned AD 531–579). Described in the historical annals of the Muslim scholar al-Ṭabari, it became the model for subsequent garden carpets. The carpet was called the Spring of Khosrow because it represented, in silk, gold, silver, and jewels, the splendor of flowering spring. It was also called the Winter carpet because it was used in bad weather when real gardens were unavailable. As such, it symbolized the king’s power to command the return of the seasons. 

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After the period of domination by the Arab Caliphates, a Turkish tribe, named after their founder, Seljok conquered Persia. Their domination (1038 - 1194 CE) was of great importance in the history of Persian carpets. The Seljuk women were skillful carpet makers using Turkish knots. In the provinces of Azerbaijan and Hamadan where Seljuk influence was strongest and longest-lasting, the Turkish knot is used to this day.

Iranian carpets, rugs exhibited in a local market
Iranian carpets, rugs exhibited in a local market

In the Turkish (or Ghiordes) knot the yarn is taken twice around two adjacent warp threads and the ends are drawn out between these two threads.

In the Persian (or Sinneh) Knot, the wool thread forms a single turn about the warp thread. One end comes out over this thread and the other over the next warp thread.

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The Persian carpet reached its zenith during the reign of the Safavid Dynasty in the 16th century. Indeed the first concrete proofs of this craft date back to this period. Approximately 1500 examples are preserved in various museums and in private collections worldwide. During the reign of Shah Abbas (1587 - 1629), commerce and crafts prospered in Persia. Shah Abbas encouraged contacts and trade with Europe and transformed his new capital Esfahan, into one of the most glorious cities of Persia. He also created a court workshop for carpets where skilled designers and craftsmen set to work to create splendid specimens. Most of these carpets were made of silk, with gold and silver threads adding even more embellishment. Two of the best know carpets of the Safavid period; dated 1539 come from the mosque of Ardebil.

The Ardabil Carpet is the world's oldest dated carpet and one of the largest, most beautiful and historically important.
The Ardabil Carpet is the world's oldest dated carpet and one of the largest, most beautiful and historically important.

In the last quarter of the 19th Century and during the reign of the Qajar rulers trade and craftsmanship regained their importance. Carpet-making flourished once more with Tabriz merchants exporting carpets to Europe through Istanbul. At the end of the 19th Century, some European and American companies even set up businesses in Persia and organized craft production destined for western markets.

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Today, Carpet-weaving is by far the most widespread handicraft in Iran. Persian carpets are renowned for their richness of color, variety of spectacular artistic patterns and quality of design. In palaces, famous buildings, mansions and museums the world over, a Persian carpet is amongst the most treasured possession.

Today major Weaving Centers are located in these cities: Arak, Ardebil,    Bijar, Hamadan, Esfahan, Kashan, Kerman, Mashhad, Nain, Qom,  Sanandaj, Shiraz, Tabriz, Tehran, Yazd, Zanjan.

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Exquisitely woven  Iranian silk carpet
Exquisitely woven  Iranian silk carpet
Exquisitely woven  Iranian silk carpet
Persian silk carpet