How Old Is An Antique Rug?

How Old Does A Rug Need To Be To Be Called Antique?

All the Questions You May Have About Rugs and Carpets

At what age is a rug considered antique / how old is an antique rug?

For a rug or carpet to be called officially “antique” it needs to be at least 80 years old.

What is the difference between antique and vintage rugs?

A “vintage rug” is a rug that is about 40 – 8o years old and as noted above, a rug that is 80 years or older is considered “antique”.

Is something over 20 years old considered vintage?

In the world of area rugs, something that is around 20 years old would be considered “used”. As noted above, a “vintage” rug would be one that is older than that – around 40 – 80 years old.

How are the rug time periods broken down?

  • At the present, rugs considered “antique” are pieces produced up to about the 1940.
  • Rugs made between the 1940’s time and the late 1960’s are “semi-antique rugs
  • Rugs that were made from around the 1940’s through the late 1970’s are considered vintage rugs / mid century modern rugs
  • Rugs that were made in the past 20 to 40 years are usually refereed to as “used rugs” or just “old rugs”.
Persian Khorrasan Antique Rug Nazmiyal

Persian Khorassan rug, circa 1930’s.

What Does The Term “Antique” Mean With Regards To Rugs

When applied to rugs and carpets, the term “antique” implies more than age. It involves a whole series of desirable characteristics pertaining to quality of design, weaving technique and materials. The older rugs also reflected the quality of cultural authenticity. In monetary terms, “antique” is equitable with higher cost owing to the fact that antique rugs, i.e. those made before 1925, are a finite commodity whose number can only diminish; it can never increase. But that is a general statement because in actuality, many of the new rugs might cost more than the antique.

In actuality the years around 1925 mark a point of transformation in rug production. From this time on, natural vegetable dyes were largely replaced by synthetic colors which, even when stable, had none of the depth, warmth, and subtlety of the natural dyestuffs that had been used previously. This was also a time when machine-spun yarns replaced hand-spun wool.

These developments had an enormous impact on the appearance of carpets. Not only were natural vegetable rug dyes warmer and richer in tone, they were variegated in their shading, which created an illusion of space or depth across the surface of the rug. Similarly, the irregular texture of hand-spun wool was more varied in its reflective properties than machine spun yarns.

Antique rugs with hand-spun wool and natural dyes therefore have a more luminous, animated surface with an illusion of deep space, while those made in in the period approaching and following the mid twentieth century have by comparison a duller, flat, monotonous surface. In addition, the design of twentieth century rugs began to change.

As western influence expanded across the Middle East, the native cultures began to lose their autonomy and authenticity, and their ability to maintain traditional patterns diminished along with their ability to preserve traditional craft techniques.

Ultimately then, the divide between Antique Oriental rugs and later pieces concerns far more than age. It is truly a distinction in quality on all levels.

This rug blog in our Rug Q&A’s series about what makes a carpet antique was published by Nazmiyal Antique Rug Gallery in NYC.

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