Posted by R. John Howe on 06-04-2005 07:44 AM:

"Suspicious Colors" Now Sometimes Being Replaced

Dear folks -

I've chanced onto an off-board conversation with Marla Mallett who has read some of our discussion of dyes here and has licensed me to put up this observation:

"...One thing that could be pointed out in the dye discussions is the current practice of removing and re-knotting areas in rugs that are too obviously synthetic--primarily small areas with brilliant oranges, purples or pinks, or with some pieces, even fuchsine or mauvine. Most people would be shocked to know that had been done to their rugs! But this practice has become very common in Turkey..."


So it may well be that a number of us either will or do own pieces that had synthetic dyes, but in which there is/will be no visual evidence that this was the case.

The market responding to demand by many collectors that all dyes be "natural," coupled with the continued reliance on visual testing.

Thanks, Marla,

R. John Howe

Posted by Vincent Keers on 06-04-2005 03:59 PM:

So John, (Marla)

This is an ugly synthetic replaced with a better synthetic. Or better...a natural color green that didn't show the obvious yellow/blue mix with a synthetic green that shows the yellow/blue mix.

Best regards,

Posted by R. John Howe on 06-06-2005 09:42 PM:

Hi Vincent -

Yes, I think that's what Marla is describing.

"En passant," we are alluding to something those of us who have antique pieces repaired do not usually very self-consciously acknowledge (even to ourselves).

This is that nearly all repair (as I have encountered it) is concerned to match closely the original dye shades in a piece assumed to be naturally dyed BUT is being done with synthetically dyed materials (chrome dyes mostly likely).

There are some folks who use old unraveled kilim wools and who redye with natural dyes, if that is needed, but that I think is the exception.

So most of the repaired pieces, that we are proud of in part because of their nice "natural" colors, are in fact now partly exhibiting synthetic ones.

An adjunct point about this is frequently made by Harold Keshishian at TM rug mornings. It is that the colors in repaired areas often change over time (say 10-15 years but maybe sooner) and will spottable, sometimes easily so. Harold has sometimes said that this is so certain that he has on occasion recommended patching with an old piece rather than restoring. Similarly, he also sometimes advises against removing of an "old patch" in a rug.


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 06-07-2005 03:44 AM:

Hi John,

Good point, the restoration with synthetic dyes.

About “colors in repaired areas often change over time”, it happens in painting restoration too. No matter how close you match your restored color to the original, it will change over time, and it will change in a different way and more quickly then the original. And isn’t a matter of natural vs. synthetic.

I’ll try to explain it better. Think of a piece (painting or rug) that is over one hundred years old: original color X (natural or not, it doesn’t matter) has changed to a certain level. Even if we have exactly the same pigment, we cannot use it because it’s new and it will look slightly different from the old one. To make it look older, we’ll have to mix it with other pigments. Once applied, the new mix of colors will start to change - in a way that will never match the original.



Posted by James Blanchard on 06-07-2005 06:00 AM:

Case in point...

Hi all,

Here is an "oldish" Shirvan in which the entire outer floral border is rewoven (all the way around, actually). The "wine glass and leaf" border and everything within is original.

Although I doubt that he knows for sure, the dealer surmised that the new border was woven using wool from pieces of similar age so that the colours would match and stay matched. As you can see, the repairer didn't even try to match the old "gold" colour. At this point the colour match is pretty good for most of the colours, and most of the visual difference is due to higher pile in the newer parts. I guess only time will tell....


Posted by Steve Price on 06-07-2005 07:58 AM:

Hi Filiberto

It's even a little more complicated than that with dyed rugs. Color change is most rapid early on, becomes much slower with time. For the mathematically inclined, it's a slow, but exponential change. So, dye colors are pretty stable after, say, 100 years. This is why wool taken from antique kilims is often used for repair of antique rugs. If it matches at the time the repair is done, it will not be conspicuous until many years have passed, maybe never.


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 06-07-2005 09:45 AM:

Steve -

I assume you mean old kilim wool the colors of which match the colors of the piece being restored. Does this point hold even if redyeing of the old kilim threads with natural dyes is necessary?

On another tack, one reason I've heard sometimes for why the problem Harold points to may be less problematic nowadays is the claim that chrome dyes are very stable and "the chrome dye colors you have now are what you will have for the indefinite future." I don't know whether this is so.


R. John Howe

Posted by Steve Price on 06-07-2005 10:29 AM:

Hi John

If the wool is from old kilims and the dyes in it are original and match the pice being repaired, it will continue to match for the foreseeable future. If new natural dyes are put into it to make it match, those dyes will be in the rapidly changing phase of their lifetime.

Chrome dyes are very stable, and if they match the antique colors at the time of a repair, they will probably continue to match it for a long time. The trick is to make them match to begin with. My impression is that this is not a trivial problem, although there may be computer matching systems similar to those used in mixing paint for interior decorating that make it easy nowadays.


Steve Price

Posted by Vincent Keers on 06-07-2005 07:57 PM:


It all depends. How old is the rug and how old is the kilim? The kilim is as old as the rug, but the rug has to be restored? The kilim has the same age, but it's a rag? So we destroy the kilim to save a rug? And if the kilim is as old, the wool is in perfect condition? But the rug that has the same age, has not? And if the rug shows wear, don't we think the kilim should show wear? And if the kilim has been used, what do the wool threads show? And if we think that a kilim, that must have been hanging at a wall for say hundred years, can be thorn to pieces, think we've lost it somewere.

I once tried to restore with old kilim wool.
It was terrible because the wool broke halfway making the knot. Making a knot in an old rug can be hard on the wool. Even without a hook!
So I gave up after 36 knots. Got myself a perfectly matching new wool, and got on with it. In the end I had to reknot the old kilim wool part. It didn't look as good as the new wool part.

And of a fairy tale.

Best regards,

Posted by Richard Farber on 06-09-2005 01:20 AM:

djadjims and not kilims

dear all . . .

a common current source of old and antique wool for repair is djadjims.