Rug collecting is an interesting hobby that comes with the thrill of finding the perfect carpet for your collection.
Choosing antique rugs is more complex than choosing a new rug that fits with your home decor. It requires knowledge of the characteristics of rugs and what makes them unique and valuable.
By definition, antique, when applied to rugs, means a piece that is at least 80 years old.
Once you narrow down the age of the rugs you want to collect, you need to know what to look for in potential investment pieces. The rarity of the rug is key to creating a valuable collection.
The condition is also important. A rug that’s well-preserved is naturally worth more, making your rug collection higher in value.
Keep these five things in mind when looking for the newest antique rug to add to your collection.
1. Execution of Weave
You may not notice if you look from a distance, but the weave of an antique rug can vary significantly and affect its value. Looking at the back of the rug helps you evaluate the weave.
To verify that any rug is handmade, check for a back side that shows the same pattern as the front. Handmade rugs go onto a loom without a rubber backing like you get on some machine-made rugs. They use warps and wefts. They create the foundation for the pile.
The knot density is another indicator of quality. You’ll often see a description of knots per square inch to describe the density of knots on a rug. A higher knot density tends to make a rug more durable.
One way to determine the density of the knots is to push into the base of the pile. You can feel the tightness of the weave this way. Compare several rugs to feel the difference in the density of the weave.
The number of knots in the weave isn’t as important as how well it’s executed. Some larger patterns don’t need a high number of knots to create a quality design.
A higher knot count is more important with intricate patterns. An increased knot count makes it easier to execute small, intricate designs. It produces a crisper design with better defined edges.
2. Rarity of the Pattern
Patterns vary widely on antique rugs, but choosing a pattern isn’t just about what looks good to you. If you’re concerned about the value of the rug, you want a pattern that’s rare.
Rugs with highly detailed, intricate patterns tend to be worth more than simple rug designs. Intricate designs could have taken the artisan years to make due to the complexity. The craftsmanship that goes into that pattern makes the rug more valuable.
Beyond how detailed the design is, look at how well it’s executed. Look for a balanced design with elements that are well-spaced. The design elements should work well together and create a sense of depth.
While the value of the rug is important, the appeal of the pattern to you personally is also important. As a collector, you want to enjoy your purchases.
3. Quality of Materials Used
Antique rugs are made with either all wool, all silk, or wool for the pile and cotton for the foundation. The most valuable rugs tend to be silk followed by all wool.
Ensure the rugs you’re considering are made from real silk, wool, or cotton and not from an artificial material designed to look like the real thing.
Inspect the pile to evaluate the quality of the materials used. Higher-quality materials tend to create a more luxurious pile.
Hand-spun wool creates a softer pile with a more natural look.
The condition of the pile also gives you a clue about the quality of the materials. Higher-quality materials should hold up better over time.
The colors in the pattern and the types of dyes used to create the color affects the value of the rug.
In general, vegetable dyes make a rug more valuable than synthetic dyes, which showed up in the mid to late 1800s.
Plant-based dyes give the rug a more natural, softer look. They’re easier on the eyes than synthetic dyes, which are often harsh and flat-looking.
You might notice some tonal changes in naturally dyed wool. When the wool is dipped into the dye, the saturation can vary slightly, which creates those subtle differences, called abrashes.
Timeless colors tend to hold their value better than trendy colors. Blue, red, green, and brown hues are common in antique rug patterns.
5. Overall Condition
The older the rug, the more wear and tear it tends to have simply because of its age. Some minor damage or wear to older antique rugs may be acceptable to collectors due to the age, which makes the rug rarer. Still, you want a rug that’s in as good of condition as possible to maximize your investment.
Inspect the rug thoroughly. Look for obvious, large-scale damage to start, such as damaged patches, stains, or moth damage. If you can see the foundation through the front side of the rug, the wear might be more than you’re willing to accept.
Some stains are difficult or impossible to remove. If the rug is just a little dirty, it can usually undergo cleaning services to freshen it.
Check for signs of a previous repair. If you can easily spot a patch job, it devalues the rug overall.
Follow along the edges of the rug to see how durable they are. If they’re unraveling or frayed, the rug might be fragile overall, and it’ll likely continue unraveling. Edges are often challenging and expensive to have repaired.
You’ll also want to check for overall durability. Older rugs can sometimes be brittle. That increases the chances of more damage happening to the rug once you get it into your collection.
When you start rug collecting, you might now know what to look for in a purchase. With these key factors in mind, you can weed out the lower value rugs to ensure your rug collection has the highest value possible.
If you’re ready to grow your antique rug collection, use our carpet search tool to find a unique rug that fits your preferences. We specialize in finding rare and valuable carpets in all sizes.