Q I find Turkish rugs appealing, but I'd like to know more before I start collecting.
WHAT THE EXPERT SAYS
'A beautiful carpet is like a fine painting,' says Cihangir Orman, director of Mega Carpet Galeria. 'It pleases the eye. It's also an investment that will retain its value as the years pass.'
Orman, who sources rare and antique carpets from Iran, Russia, Morocco and India, says sheep's wool rugs were used to construct and decorate tents. The Turks played a seminal role in carpet production and distribution.
'According to historians, Afanasyevo carpet culture first emerged in a region of the same name in Altay [now central Russia],' Orman says.
'The people who lived there are said to have been the Turkish Huns. Being nomads, they needed to be mobile, and carried their tents and decorative carpets with them.'
The oldest known carpet in the world, dated to the 5th century BC, was found at Pazyryk Fortress in the Altay region, he says.
The Turks at Pazyryk weaved with a Ghordes knot, also known as the Turkish knot. According to Orman, there are three main types of knot used in carpet weaving: Turkish knots (Ghordes), which are symmetrical; Iranian knots (Senneh), which are asymmetrical; and Spanish single-warp knots.
'Carpet weaving originally started out of necessity - only then did it turn into art,' he says. 'The artisans were - and still are - mainly women and children. The master weavers tended to be male.'
The distinctive Turkish motifs are particularly evident in rugs from Seljuk, Memluk, Altay and the Ottoman empire. 'There's also a resemblance between Ottoman household fabrics and carpet designs,' Orman says.
Wool and silk were the main materials, and cotton should be found only in the base. 'Carpets are classified as wool pile on wool base, wool pile on cotton base, and wool and silk on cotton base.'
Wool quality varies by region and climate. The best silks come from Bursa, Turkey.
Strictly controlled by the Turkish government, these are reserved for specific areas such as the famous carpet-making village of Hereke. Natural-dye formulas were closely guarded secrets in weavers' families and villages. 'In the past, vegetable dyes were used, made from walnut, hazelnut shells, carrots, pomegranates and different plants,' Orman says. Today, chemical dyes are commonly employed.
The carpets have changed over time, he says. 'Industrialisation has offered better opportunities to weavers, and the art is slowly dying. Recently, Iran increased its carpet prices by as much as 30 per cent because of a strike by carpet weavers.'
TIPS FOR NEW COLLECTORS
Although many Turkish and Iranian carpets have been copied, they shouldn't automatically be deemed fakes. The key is that they're handmade, says Orman.
Of more serious concern are forged works of master weavers, and this is why a reputable dealer who can provide proof of provenance and authenticity is essential.
On pricing, Orman says US$3,000 to US$6,000 will buy a good-quality six-metre-square Persian or Turkish carpet.
Prices of valuable pieces, however, can top US$1 million, he says.
Carpets with Royalty exhibition, 10am-6pm, the Rotunda, Exchange Square, Central. Until Wed. Oriental Carpet and Rugs auction, Sun, 2pm, Salons I, II, II, IV, Grand Hyatt, Wan Chai. Inquiries about both events: Roger Field, 2559 4939.
Oriental Rugs: Turkey by Kurt Zipper et al (about $542, Amazon.com); Oriental Rugs: Caucasian by Ian Bennett (used, about $2,106, Amazon.com); The Hali Magazine (www.hali.co.uk).
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