We have a room-sized Persian Hamadan rug 8’ 8” x 12’ 0” in the showroom.  The design and color are unusual for a Hamadan.  The field is a deep sky blue with an all-over repeating pattern in vibrant aqua, golden brown, and orange-red.  The motifs are bold and stylized, residing somewhere between tribal geometrics and classic florals. 

While lacking the uniformity of a city rug, which is woven from the pre-planned design "blueprint" referred to as a cartoon, improvisation created the unique character and unusual beauty of this rug.  With its bold colors and open pattern, the rug is one of a type called "decorative" by interior designers.  Job locally purchased the rug, believed to have been woven in the 1930's.

Due to age and wear, this Persian Hamadan has sustained some damage over the years, and that damage was repaired.  One particular repair was not very good – the color was dusky and poorly executed weaving gave the area a shrunken appearance.  Our weaver removed this previously repaired area and made a small loom upon which to reweave the missing section.  He used the intact border as a pattern to duplicate the proper design and color placement in the new weaving.  

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The bad repair can be seen along the right side of the rug.  This repair's color does not match the surrounding area, and the edge is curved, not straight.  Below is a close up of the section that the weaver removed from the rug.  A second area requiring repair is also circled.

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Several steps in the process of weaving a new repair:

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The weaver uses a tool, which combines a small hook with a blade, to pull two warp threads forward on the loom.  He will tie his knot of wool to these threads.

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The weaver pulls a strand of matching blue wool behind the warp threads.  He will then use the hook end of his tool to assist with tying the knot.

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The small hook is used to help tie the knot.  This process happens so quickly it is difficult to photograph.  Using the tool requires dexterity; it allows small knots to be tied by relatively large hands.

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You can see in this photo where the weaver has tied some blue knots and some orange-red colored knots.  He has left an area open between two blue knots in this row, so he can change colors again.

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In this photo, the weaver uses the blade to cut the blue wool strand after completing a knot.

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After an area of weaving is completed, the hanging yarn is trimmed with scissors.

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Once a row of knots has been tied, a horizontal weft thread is pulled between the vertical warp threads.  The weaver pushes down the weft thread and the row of knots with a special metal comb.

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Once the entire repair is completed, this special blade is used to shear the surface of that area, so it will be level with the surrounding rug.  An electric clipper is also sometimes used for this purpose.

After the weaver has properly repaired the missing section of the rug's border, he shears away the ends of the roughly cut yarn, resulting in a smooth, level surface.  The edge of the newly woven section is overcasted (sewn over and around) with blue wool to give it a finish that matches the rest of the rug.


Below is the finished woven repair.  This area is now practically a perfect match to the rest of the border, unlike the original repair, which was too small and too light in color.

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The completed repairs are circled.  One can see how both areas are now virtually seamless with the original rug.

In February 18, 2009, Forbes magazine wrote that the rug could set a new record at auction, “[fetching] as much as $20 million.”  The quote was attributed to Sotheby’s Henry Howard-Sneyd, Deputy Chairman for Europe and Asia and International Director of New Markets. 

This lavish rug, “The Pearl Carpet of Baroda,” would be a featured item in one of four inaugural auctions held in Doha, Qatar starting March 18, 2009.close_up_pearl_carpet_of_baroda_2

The Pearl Carpet of Baroda is seeded with over a million small Basra pearls and almost a million other beads and gems, including emeralds, sapphires, and rubies set in gold foil.  There are three rosettes down the center of the rug filled with roughly 400 carats in table and rose cut diamonds.  A rug of extraordinary opulence created in the mid 1860’s by commission from the Maharaja of Baroda, The Pearl Carpet is believed to have been intended as a gift for bestowal upon the tomb of the Prophet Mohamad.  The 5’8” x 8’8” rug was never brought to the tomb, likely because the Maharaja turned to Islam late in life; instead the rug stayed in the Maharaja’s family until 1988.  Flamboyant Maharani Sita Devi is believed to have inherited the rug in the 1950’s, and it remained in her private collection for two years following her death in 1986.  Most recently the rug was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from September 14, 1985 to January 5, 1986.
pearl_carpet_of_barodaBidding for the rug started at $5 million on March 19, 2009 and ended with a hammer price of $5,458,500.00, which included the buyer’s premium.  The Pearl Carpet of Baroda set a new record for “the most expensive carpet,” a title previously held by a silk Isfahan rug, circa 1600, from the personal collection of Doris Duke that sold at Christie’s for $4.45 million in June, 2008.  That rug, which incorporated fourteen colors and shades of color, was 5’7” x 7’7”, which means that it sold for roughly $731.00 per inch. 

Numerous news outlets have speculated that the selling price of the Pearl Carpet of Baroda fell significantly short of expectations due to the impact of the waning world economy.  This is certainly a reasonable explanation when “luxury” retailers, like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, have weathered a 25% decline in sales this year.  In April 2008, Sotheby’s held an Islamic art sale in London that grossed $31.1 million.  A similar sale held by Sotheby’s in October, only 6 months later, after the fall of Lehman Brothers and a huge drop in crude oil prices netted less than half of the April total.

Curiously, both the seller of the Pearl Carpet of Baroda and the buyer have chosen to remain anonymous.  The seller has been acknowledged as a private entity, and the buyer placed the winning bid via telephone.

Photos courtesy of Sotheby's

Home décor, like fashion, has its trends. And the current trend toward rugs and carpets made from renewable fibers like bamboo and hemp has blown up on the pages of trade magazines. If you Google the term “renewable resource,” you may find the following definition: “A resource that can renew or replace itself, and, therefore, with proper management, can be harvested indefinitely.”

Unshorn_Sheep_editHome décor, like fashion, has its trends.  And the current trend toward rugs and carpets made from renewable fibers like bamboo and hemp has blown up on the pages of trade magazines.  If you Google the term “renewable resource,” you may find the following definition:  “A resource that can renew or replace itself, and, therefore, with proper management, can be harvested indefinitely.”

With the rug market placing much focus on plant-based renewable materials, you may be surprised to read that the traditional fiber used to weave handmade rugs, wool, is indeed a renewable resource.  The wool shorn from domesticated sheep grows back each season to be harvested again as it has for thousands of years.  And the remnants of wool production, being protein based and nitrogen rich, are a natural fertilizer.

 

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Wool is made of keratin protein, which is also present in human hair.  Keratin’s helical mollecular structure gives wool its natural crimp, making it a highly resilient fiber that resists crushing and flattening.

Lanolin, the naturally occurring fatty wax coating sheep's wool, gives it a slightly antibacterial quality.  As a result, under normal use conditions, wool rugs will resist odors and bacterial growth.  Lanolin also provides the fiber with some soil and moisture repellancy.

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However, when wool does become saturated with water, it pulls the moisture to its core, a property sometimes referred to as “wicking.”  This unique way of managing moisture means that wool can help regulate humidity in rooms where it is used as a floor covering.  This same property of wool helps it to accept dyes, resulting in the deep, rich colors found in Oriental rugs.

Wool is also elastic and may be stretched up to 50% when wet and as much as 30% when dry.  This quality of wool is employed when a rug is blocked; a process of stretching and starching that is used to bring a rug closer to its intended shape.  Due to the elasticity of wool, it is best to dry a wool rug (or garment) flat, at room temperature so that the item will retain its shape.

Axminster_Carpet_2_editUnlike synthetic rugs made from petroleum based fibers that are highly flammable, wool is difficult to ignite and slow to burn.  Its high moisture content also makes it less likely to conduct static electricity, reducing the occurrence of those uncomfortable little shocks.  Wool-blend Axminster carpets are commonly installed in hotels, casinos, and banquet halls for these very reasons along with their durability and ease of cleaning.

The synthetic fibers used to make some rugs may contain toxic substances like formaldehyde, benzene, and toluene, which are also found in pesticides, lacquers, and paint thinners.  Wool rugs contain none of these potentially dangerous chemicals and are 100% biodegradable.

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Providing insulation from heat, cold, and sound due to air pockets formed between the fibers, rugs made from wool are the ultimate floor coverings for longevity, appearance, and comfort, while being gentle on our environment.  The list of wool's benefits seems almost endless...