Are Rugs Really Expensive?
The most common question that people ask is why are rugs so expensive. To even ask that question is to reduce these historically significant works of art to their most basic and utilitarian function. It is to ignore the artistic value of these masterpieces entirely.
Fine hand knotted rugs, especially the antique rugs, are much more than just pieces of furniture. They are the combination of many hours of hard work, masterful artistry and the culmination of thousands of years of tradition.
Let us take a look at some of the factors that influence the price of rugs and see “why are rugs so expensive”.
What Determines the Value of A Rug?
The first point that needs to be made when tackling the issue of why are rugs so expensive, is that hand knotted and finely woven rugs differ significantly from machine made rugs. Each one is an individual work of art, even if the rug weaver used time honored designs and techniques. Human hands tied every single knot in the rug. Human hands also dyed and spun the wool, silk and cotton that went into it. Each knot was a conscious decision on the part of the weaver. This makes the carpet much more than a simple piece of fabric. It makes it an extension of the personality of the designer and weaver.
The value of the rug is determined by several different factors. One of the most common that people think of is the knot density. This refers to the number of knots per square inch, or other unit of measure. While knot count is important, it is not important for the reason that most people think. Those with a higher knot count took longer to make.
However, the knot count is also important for another reason. It allows the designer to make a rug that has a higher level of detail than one with a lower knot count. This can be compared to looking at a high definition graphic with a higher number of pixels per inch as compared to a lower pixel density composition. A high knot count allows the rug artist a considerably higher range of artistic expression, shading and detail. It allows them to create designs that are not possible with lower knot counts.
Beyond knot count, the pattern of the rug, the rarity of the design, the colors used and if the rug designer is well-known all go into valuing the worth of a rug. In addition, one has to consider the antique value. While not always the case, the older and earlier rugs, tend to be more rare and as a result, more valuable. Although a fine rug that will last for hundreds of years, wool, silk, the rug dyestuffs and materials are still organic and will eventually break down. This means that as time goes on many of these beautiful historical antique rugs will inevitably disappear.
In June of 2013, a 17th century rug with a sickle-leaf design brought $33.7 million at Sotheby’s Auction House and became the most expensive rug ever sold at auction.The factors that went into this decision included the condition of the rug for its age, its actual age, the design, the historically significant provenance and the overall artistic appeal of the carpet. This was indeed a rare piece and carpets such as these are considered world treasures that are as valuable as any other artifact that is still around from the 1600’s and the time of the Golden Age of the Safavid Empire. It is difficult to even put a price on an antique such as this.
Learn more about the values of antique rugs.
What Goes Into Making A Rug, and Why are Rugs So Expensive?
The artistic value of the more expensive rugs plays a role in their value, as does their age and condition. However, even if one only considers the utilitarian nature of the rug, many of them are still under priced. If it is fine, even a small 3′ x 5′ carpet can take several months to weave. This means a minimum of 7 to 8 hour day goes into just tying the knots. This does not include the effort that went into caring for the sheep, growing the cotton, or waiting for the silk worms to work their magic and produce a cocoon.
Next, there is the laborious process of spinning the wool or other fibers and dying them. Only recently has this process been mechanized, but in many traditional tribal cultures, it is still done using a hand spindle. Using this method, it takes approximately 7 to 8 hours of spinning to do one hour of weaving.
A large size carpet takes even longer to produce, with some of the palace oversized rugs taking one to two years if not longer to complete. In many cases, especially with antique rugs, there were no weekends off, and weaving these carpets was an all day, every day and sometimes an around the clock affair.
The fastest rug weavers can produce about 6 knots a minute, which is 360 knots an hour, but weavers of such skill are rare. On average, a 9’x12′ room size rug at 500 knots per square inch (which is not especially fine but not commercial or coarse weave quality) takes 4-5 weavers working 6 hours a day for 6 days a week about 14 months to complete. That is over 12,000 working hours to produce the average quality carpet.
Let’s say that the artisans are only paid US minimum wage to produce these magnificent works of art. That comes to about $103,420 dollars just for the labor alone. Keep in mind that at this point, only the weavers have been paid, not the farmers, spinners and dyers. Some fine carpets can have well over 1,000 knots per square inch. You can easily see how this adds up for a 19′ X 22′ masterpiece rug by Ustad Mohtashem who produced extremely fine Persian Kashan rugs in the late 18th century. Typically, the price does not even cover the labor and materials involved to create the carpet.
By comparison, the modern rug making machine has 1,200 needles across and can do about 3,600 tufts per minute. Modern carpet manufacturers can crank out several hundreds of square yards of carpet per day. This is one reason why modern manufactured synthetic machine made carpets are much cheaper than hand knotted ones, but they lack something that only a hand knotted carpet can bring. They lack the human factor and the individual artistry that goes into a hand-knotted carpet.
Each Rug Is A Masterpiece
People who ask why are rugs so expensive do not stop to think about what goes into making a hand knotted carpet. However, the value does not stop there. It has already been mentioned that antique carpets are bound to be more expensive than new ones, but that is not say that many new carpets are any less of a work of art.
A beautiful carpet can be compared to a work of art by famous artists. Carpets by historical master weavers such as Ustad Mohtashem, Haji Jalili, Aboul Ghasem Kermani are as important as the works of famous painters such as Matisse, Picasso, and van Gogh.
People think nothing of paying millions of dollars for a Picasso, but they still scoff at a couple thousand for a fine art rug. Weaving is a deliberate art. That is not to say that painting is not, but weaving a carpet means the artist must set an intention and remain committed to the design for a long period of time, sometimes years. In addition, many of them must go through years of formal schooling and apprenticeship to learn their art.
The World of Fine Art
Compared to other art pieces for the home, carpets are relatively inexpensive, and as one can see, they hardly even cover the effort that it takes to produce them. The world of fine art is a fickle place to say the least. In 2013, a three-foot tall stainless steel rabbit made to look like a child’s toy balloon sold at Christie’s for $90.3 million. This was applauded by the art world. What is even more, artist Jeff Koons does not create the sculptures himself, he has a team do it for him and just oversees the process and adds his signature when they are done.
Yet, a 16th century rug sells at auction for 34 million and the art world proclaims it to be outrageous. You can easily spend close to $1,000,000 on an ornate antique frame for a painting, which makes $50,000 for a one-of-a-kind masterpiece rug seem cheap, especially when you consider the rarity and the effort that went into producing it.
A carpet is the one of the most important items that you will purchase for your home. The perfect rug sets the tone of the interior design and transforms it into a restful sanctuary. Buying a rug is buying a piece artwork. When one compares the price of a hand-knotted carpet, it is not expensive at all in the world of fine art.
Now that you can appreciate the effort that goes into these works of art and where they fit into the world of find art, you may want to reevaluate your original question of why are rugs so expensive.
Browse our rugs online and take a look at the wonderful masterpieces that we have in our collection. A hand-knotted carpet is an investment that will last for a lifetime and beyond. You just might find the perfect piece of art that you have been searching for to complete your room.