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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Oriental Rugs: Semi-Antique Rugs

By Charles W. Jacobsen

( Orginally published 1951 )

[Rug Designs]  [Rug Materials]  [Rug Dyes]  [Semi-Antique Rugs] 

Many beginners are astonished when I tell them that most new Oriental rugs have very bright, raw colors and that soft colors can be had only in a rug that has been used in the Oriental's home or in a rug that has been artificially softened with chemicals. Many people buying their first rug quickly say "You mean they are used rugs ".

The semi antique rug refers to the rug that has been used in the Oriental's home (where the shoes are taken off before entering) and it is usually in excellent condition. In most cases it will be a better rug than the new rug of the same type made since War II. While the semi antique has been used in the Orient, it is no more correct to refer to it as a "used" rug than it is to refer to a piece of antique furniture as used furniture.

What about the antique, semi antique or new rug that has been used in this country? Aren't they used rugs? The answer is Yes and No. Of course any rug used in this country is a used rug and actually any rug used in Iran might be called used. My own idea is that an antique rug used in this country is still an antique rug and, if the dealer wishes to be technically correct he will tell the customer that the rug is an antique and has been bought from some home or estate after years of use in this country. The fact that it has been used does not detract from its value. THE MAIN POINT TO CONSIDER IS ITS CONDITION. UNLESS IT IS AN EXTREMELY RARE RUG, the condition is the important thing.If it is worn, it is worth considerable less and perhaps only a fraction of its original value.

The same rule should be applied to semi antique rugs.

Rugs that were bought new in this country a number of years ago should be divided into two classes: Rugs that were treated and rugs that were untreated (in natural colors - just as they were made).

In the latter type - untreated new rugs that have been used in this country from a few to a great many years - if they have seventy-five percent or more of their original thickness, they should be just as good as the semi antique rug in the same condition in which it is imported from Iran. The colors will be softer than when new and the rug will have developed some natural sheen from having been used - depending on the quality of the wool in the rug (the better the wool, the nicer natural glossy patina). It is actually a more desirable rug than the brand new rug of the same type with brighter colors.

The exception to the above statement is where a great deal of bright colors are required and where the room is not too bright, as the new colors in a rug come out much brighter in the daylight, while the colorful designs of a semi antique are even more refined in the daylight than under artificial light. So, you can call this used rug both a used rug and a semi antique rug. The reliable dealer will quickly tell you that the rug has been used in this country. All rugs eventually wear out but most natural colored Orien tal rugs will not show any wear for a good many years. Hence the slightly used rug is, to all appearances (also from careful examination), in just as good condition as the same rug when new. And always there is the liklihood that most the rugs made prior to War II are better made than the same type made since the War. There are many exceptions to this rule but it is still a good general rule. Any used rug that is even slightly worn should be worth less than if it had its full nap.

The above opinion can be applied, to the rugs that are river washed or lightly washed it; Iran and to most the rugs that have only the lightest lime wash after they arrive in New York. This slight wash which takes away the stiffness, slightly bleaches the colors and gives the rug a slight - sheen, soon dulls to look more like the natural sheen. Usually after several years use it is difficult to tell that the rug was ever lightly washed.

In the case of those we call treated rugs, we refer to those that have been bleached --- usually with chlorine or other strong chemicals --- then painted up to give them dark, rich colors and then waxed and run through hot irons to give them the high artificial sheen. In my opinion, one of this type used is always worth much less even with only a few years use. Today the only rugs that are being painted are the Sarouks (perhaps a few Dargazines which are a type of Hamadan). But one should remember that prior to War II many Lillihans, Hamadans and even Kirmans were painted. The chemicals will make the rug wear down much quicker than will the natural colored rug and the paint also becomes duller and somewhat blurred to terribly blurred with use.

Many owners of Sarouks after a period of twenty-five years will tell you that their Sarouk, even though treated and painted as are ninety nine out of a hundred are, it is just as good today as when they bought it. While it is true that the treated Sarouk stands up better than any pther type of treated rug and many of those that are twenty five years old are still apparently in good condition, a close examination of these treated Sarouks will show thin spots and still more objectionable will be the blurred effect from the paint having faded. The same Sarouk, if it was bought in natural colors, will be in far better condition and will have improved in colors. In the case of the Harrsadans that were heavily treated and painted (as well as Kirmans and other types) they will be pretty worn cut at the end of twenty five years and, above all, they will be homely affairs.

One should be overcautious in buying rugs from advertised "used" sales. I cannot speak for all cities but most of the sales on used rugs by the large stores in New York, Boston and the East are actually rugs somewhat worn to rugs completely worn out. The so called store used rugs is generally a deception. There are many small dealers in New York City who continually buy auction rugs --- many of them are salt water damaged rugs which the importers have collected on and which the Insurance Companies put up at auctions. Also, these small dealers buy from estates and hones and the vast majority of these rugs are worn and badly worn. Let them obtain a used rug in good condition and they want more for it than the importers want for the perfect rug of the same type that has just been imported from Iran. I have seen thousands of these rugs that were practically down to the warp painted up with cheap dyes to cover the worn spots and see some buyer (yes, from a number of the best known stores) come in and take these rugs from these small dealers on consignment and then the stores advertise them as exceptional bargains. It is amazing how these advertisements attract so many people. The customer may buy a worn out 9 x 12 feet rug for $100.00 and think they have a wonderful bargain. But, unless they are looking for "something for nothing" for just a few years, they have no bargain. They would have done better to have paid $195. 00 for one of the cheapest grade new or semi antique Gorevan that would give them thirty to forty years service.