How Do I Determine the Age of a Rug?
Rug Age - The age of a rug is critical in determining its value, but determining age is also one of the most difficult skills to acquire for the rug enthusiast. Older rugs will show some evidence of wear. The pile may be low or worn away exposing foundation, but relatively new rugs can get worn quickly, and very old rugs can sometimes survive in good condition if they have been in the possession of thoughtful owners. The back of the rug offers a better opportunity to determine age.
Newer rugs will feel fuzzy on the back since their yarns still possess their fibrous surface. As a rug ages, even if walked on carefully, the underside will become polished or abraded through pressure and friction, diminishing the fuzzy or hairy texture. Very old rugs will feel gritty, sandy, or even smooth on the back. A rug that looks tightly woven, but that still feels somewhat floppy or supple, is old, since even tightly woven rugs become supple with time.
Color or dye quality also helps. If a rug has pale color, fold it to spread the pile open. This will reveal if the color is the same all the way down into the pile. If it gets darker inside the pile, the dye has faded on exposure to light and is probably synthetic. Such dyes became more common from the late nineteenth century on. If a rug has considerable amounts of faded dye it is made well after the 19th century.
On the other hand, rugs with color that is completely uniform, lacking abrash or variegation in color, are made with later, light-fast synthetic dyes post-dating the 1920's. In the case of Nomadic and many village rugs, a cotton foundation will also indicate a relatively late date since after about 1930, the new availability of inexpensive machine-spun cotton largely eliminated the use of wool warps and wefts.