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Is That a Machine-made Rug?

This page is intended to help you tell the difference between a handmade Oriental rug and a machine-made imitation.

This discussion concerns only rugs made with 100% wool as the pile material:

  • If a rug has a nap of polypropolene, polyolefin, or a nap made of a blend of synthetic polymers and wool, it is all but certainly a machine-made rug.
  • If a rug is identified as "a Belgium Oriental," or as having been made in Belgium, Italy, or elsewhere in western Europe, it is all but certainly a machine-made rug.
  • If a rug has a tag like this:

    It's a machine-made rug!

The situation gets more complicated with wool pile rugs made in Turkey, or Egypt, or in central European countries like Romania, Albania, and Bulgaria. All of these countries have produced at least some completely handmade Oriental rugs in the last 50 years, but all have also made large quantities of machine-made Oriental rug imitations.

This comparison picture shows, at the same scale and resolution, a brand-name 3' x 5' machine-made rug next to a 3' x 5' handwoven Kashan from India with a weave of about 140 knots per sq. in.:

Note the strong visual differences between the machine-made and handmade rugs. In particular, the back of the machine-made rug is very different in appearance from the back of the handmade rug. The design is not nearly as colorful on the back of the machine-made rug as it is on the face. Closer examination of the machine-made rug shows why this is so:

The construction of the machine-made rug is very different from the handmade Oriental. There is an overstitch pattern across the whole back of the machine-made rug. You cannot easily distinguish individual knots on the back of the machine-made rug because there aren't any--the overstich construction is what holds the pile material in place. The fringe is clearly applied to the end of the machine-made rug after it's complete, whereas the fringe of the handmade rug is actually made up of the warp strings that come out of the end of the handmade rug.

What Difference Does It Make?

Our only business is genuine Oriental rugs--we don't buy, sell, take in trade, service, or spend mental energy thinking about machine-made rugs. Our biggest complaint is the ongoing effort by machine-made manufacurers and retailers to blur the difference between their product and genuine Oriental rugs. Over the years we've talked with lots and lots of people confused about what they bought or were given. Machine-made rugs may have their place, but learn to identify them so you can be sure about what you are examining or being offered.

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