Modern Vintage Silk Persian Rugs – However they may be woven, rugs and carpets are most commonly made of wool. If they are pile carpets, their pile consists mostly of wool even if their foundation is cotton. The same is true of the weft face of tapestry or kilim rugs. But as luxury items Persian carpets came at some point to be made in the far more precious material of silk. If this began already in the Mongol or Timurid periods, it would hardly be surprising given the close ties between Persia and China at that time, for it was in China that silk production or seri-culture first began.
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But seri-culture had already been established in Persia since the Sassanian period (3rd to 7th centuries) when its secret of production along with a supply of silkworms was presumably smuggled out of China. In due course Persia became a center of silk textile production. It was therefore inevitable that the weavers of the Silk Road would eventually hit upon the idea of making carpets in silk.
But whenever or wherever this first began, it was in the Safavid period that silk became an established component of rug weaving. Given the superior strength of silk fibers and their finer proportions, silk came to used in the foundation of Persian carpets, as warps or wefts, or both. In due course smaller amounts of silk knots were used amidst the wool pile as highlights, then as the pile of larger details within the design, and finally to produce the pile in its entirety. Similarly, the weft face of kilims was at times produced in silk as well. Given the greater fineness of silk fibers, this material naturally lent itself to the extreme delicacy that Persian rug weaving sought to achieve.
Since silk naturally has a more reflective, lustrous quality and softer texture than even the finest wool, it offered the possibility to achieve a more luminous, glowing, and luxurious carpet. And so today silk continues to be used in foundations, as highlights amidst wool pile, or as the primary material for the pile in the very finest Persian carpets as it has for centuries, an enduring testament to Persia’s continued status as a leader in oriental rug production.