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Antique Rug Symbols: Gol / Gul

Antique Rug Motifs: Gol / Gul

Meanings of Gol or Gul Motifs in Antique Rugs and Carpets

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The word “Gol”, sometimes spelled “gul”, actually means flower in Farsi (the language spoken in Persia / the modern day country of Iran). The term Gol is also indicative of a floral medallion or rosette. When seen in carpets, the more round gols tend to symbolize celestial bodies such as the sun, moon or stars. Other geometric rendered design shapes of the gol motif, include diamonds and four-sided gols and may have different meanings and cultural significance.

The interior of the gol motif patterns are often intricately woven with hooks, geometric shapes, leaves and buds of flowers or ram’s horns.

Naturalistic designed rosette medallions are most often seen in Persian rugs while the Azerbaijani and Caucasian rugs have an extensive design vocabulary for gols and their patterns are therefore more varied.

The Gol: An Emblem that Tells Many Stories

The gol, a small individual or repeated emblem, tells the story of the Persian, Turkish, or oriental rug into which is is woven. It provides the potential buyer with clues about the source, age, construction, and value of the item. Just a cursory understanding of the many types and styles of gol emblems can help purchasers find the best quality item for the most reasonable price.

Gol Motif Haji Jalili Nazmiyal

The gol motif on a Haji Jalili rug.

The Gol: Definition and Etymology

The gol (also rendered gul, göl, or gül in English) is a symbol traditional to woven fabrics from west and central Asia, especially from Iran, Iraq, and Turkmenistan (areas that were once part of the Persian Empire). The gol symbol is a type of fabric piece called a medallion. It may be employed as a repeated pattern (a motif), as the main symbol in one area of the rug, or as the central image in the whole rug. The gol usually symbolizes a flower, and is frequently stylized as a symmetrical, semi-symmetrical, octagonal, or rhomboid shape. While the gol design often symbolizes a rosette, western art historians posit it may also represent an elephant footprint, a bird, a star, a leaf, or another non-flowering plant. In other words, the gol can represent many different things across the different cultures of the Near and Middle East.

History of the Gol

In antiquity, the gol emblem probably evolved from the Islamic woven star design (called the yildiz). Whatever its ancient origins, most textile experts agree that gol emblems became stylized early on as representations of local plants and flowers. Among the Turkic tribes of eastern Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa, the gol was part of the tamgha (brand or pattern) meant to exemplify individual tribes.

Over time, the gol became so ubiquitous that it evolved into a characteristic part of modern Persian rug fabric. Today, the more generic the gol, the likelier the rug is machine produced. The more individualized the gol, the greater the likelihood it is an authentic, handmade piece originating in a specific tribe or region of the Near East.

In addition to rugs, the gol now also appears on bags, purses, upholstery, drapery, and ceremonial vestments. Today, the gol is a desired and indispensable feature of quality oriental rugs.

Turkish Rug Gol Motif Nazmiyal

The gol motif on a Turkish rug.

Aesthetic Qualities of the Gol

When found in any type of fabric, the gol emblem is referred to as a medallion. When it is of a more rounded variation, it tends to depict stars, suns, or other celestial bodies. When it retains its more traditional octagonal or diamond shape, it more likely represents a lake or a kind of plant. More minute variations indicate its origin in an individual tribe, such as the Ersari, Salor, Tekke, or Yomut. Each of these tribal emblems have specific variations, though cross-cultural overlaps and similarities have developed over the centuries. Today, the gol has became so popular that it is now used by non-Turkic peoples. However, it remains that the more intricate and stylized the gol, the more likely it is an ancient, authentic tribal design.

Why the Gol is Sought After Today

In the rugs of the near east, the gol is both an aesthetic requisite and a sign of authenticity. The intricacy of the medallion helps determine the rug’s age, provenance, quality, and value. It also helps determine the rug’s initial price and resale value.

How Does the Gol Help Determine a Rug’s Value?

As shown above, there are many factors to be considered when assessing an oriental rug’s value. The age of the wool at the time of weaving influences color, since dead wool hues are more subdued. The care a past owner has taken to maintain the rug also affects the resale value. As for the gol itself, the more rounded the emblems or motif, the likelier the rug was machine woven. Such machine made rugs are far less valuable than their hand-woven counterparts.

It is important for potential buyers to familiarize themselves with the gol and its many variations. This small medallion can help determine many things, from age and provenance to quality and value. The vast variety of gol emblems also allows buyers to choose what is most aesthetically pleasing for them as they match overall home decor.

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