Evaluating The Age Of Tribal Rugs

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Posted by Sam Gorden on June 23, 1999 at 00:02:38:

A rug's age is probably the most difficult and abstruse characteristic, for neophyte as well as veteran collector, to determine. However, there are some clues which may help them in their quest. The self-appointed expert who affirms his ultra-positive judgement with what the Germans' call "The Chesttone Of Conviction" should be ignored. At best most of these estimates should be regarded as "guesstimates".
(1) Let us consider the work-shop carpet which is made to sell. Its producers naturely will use designs and colors which are currently popular. This applies to so-called tribal rugs made for foreign sale. It may be axiomatic that over an extended period styles will change with that that in decor. If this information is available, a fairly accurate judgement can be made.
to sell. The producers naturally will use designs
and colors which are currently popular. It may be
considered axiomatic that over an extended period
styles change with that in decor. If the this is
known, a fairly accurate dateing can be made.
(2) There are dyes, not necessarily synthetic, which
fade with age and others which erode the pile. In
the latter, the rug may develope a bas-relief effect
which affirms its age and adds to its beauty.
(3) New wool usually is soft to the touch and has some
elasticity. This is due to an intrinsic moisture
content. With age, this tends to evaporate and the
foundation becomes hard and rough to the touch.
With fine wool, the pile, with gentle use, devolopes
a patina that the English call "icy". This enhances
the aesthtic worth and which is much prized by
(4) If its colors fall outside the spectrum usually
associated with organic dyes, it may be assumed that
these are synthetic and the piece not older than the
late 19th century.
(5) Another clue may be the type and extent of normal
wear. In this connection, it should be noted that
the center usually encounters greater wear than the
edges and the pile there consequently is shorter.
(6) In the case of tribal rugs, made by the weaver for
her own use, styles do change. What women would
dare to ignore this and cling to those which are
obsolete! What would the other women say?
The foregoing are only some the signs which may help
the collector.
As for myself, I find that there has developed a sort
of "intuition" in this regard. At a subconscious level
I seem to take stock from what I have assimulated via
my experience and based on the above-mentioned clues
arrive at a "Guesstimate" Above all, gentle reader,do
not consider my judgement is beyond fault. Believe me,
my alleged wisdom has betrayed me in the past and I am
certain it will do so in the future.

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