Silk carpets are perhaps the most sought after varieties of Oriental rugs when it comes to sprucing up a home, mainly due to the glowing graceful touch they can add to any space. Silk carpets are cherished for their fine, smooth texture and colorful patterns. Contrary to belief, silk carpets are not as delicate as one would think; rather, they are very durable. Maintaining the fine texture of a silk rug without the help of a professional can be quite a feat: because of their fine, silk material, they can be damaged. To ensure the safety of your silk rug, it’s best to first learn about what silk carpets actually are (including what they are made of), how many varieties exist and how to assess the care your rug needs.
Silk Carpets: What They Are Made Of
The silk used to create your carpet consists of natural protein fibers obtained from caterpillar cocoons of the mulberry silkworm.
Why is silk so expensive? Because extracting silk from those little critters is a long, delicate process that requires hard, tedious work. The result is priceless! Silk is a strong, durable fiber which when dyed emits vibrant color & shine that can appear almost translucent. Flatter areas of silk fibers are even known to reflect light at various angles, highlighting its shine & smooth, glossy texture.
Know your Silk Rug
The quality of materials used, the techniques employed and the workmanship along with the harmony of colors & patterns are important factors to take in account when one determines a fine silk rug.
Carpets are often named after the region where they are created.
Turkish Silk Rugs: When buying a Turkish silk area rug, look for dealers who describe these rugs as Ipek Kayseri, Ipek Hereke or Ipek Bursa. Ipek means silk in Turkish. Kayseri, Hereke and Bursa are the only three regions in Turkey where 100% pure silk rugs are woven.
Bursa is the only place in turkey which pure silk is produced. If your dealer is knowledgeable about this referring to Turkish silk, you are getting what you’re in the market for: a genuine, Turkish silk rug.
Persian Silk Rugs: Qum and Kashan are cities in Iran where Persian silk rugs are made. Pure Persian silk rugs are named Qum Kashans.
Uzbek Silk Rugs: For pure silk carpets that were made in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, look for the term "Shovi". This refers to carpets that are made purely out of silk.
Chinese Silk Rugs: Nan Yang Chinese silk carpets are famous for their high quality, lustrous shine, and knot density. Nan Yang is a region in China where close to 80% of handmade Chinese silk rugs are made. Shanghai is also famous for its silk carpets. Again, this is knowledge your dealer should know – and school you about - prior to selling you a Chinese silk rug!
Silk Rugs Layout
Oriental Silk Rugs have three main layouts (although this is a lot of info to take in, a quick glance may give you a better idea of what you are looking for and what will best complement your home):
Allover: An allover design consists of one or several designs which are repeated throughout the whole carpet, without a design central.
Medallion: Unlike an allover design, a medallion layout consists of symmetrical designs which are oval, octagonal, hexagonal or star like. That design is used as a central focal point on the rug. Another word for the medallion layout is the book cover or Koran layout as these patterns have been inspired by the intricate designs on the cover of the Koran.
One sided: The unique layout of a one-sided design consists of patterns that are woven in a single direction. This type of rug is best viewed from one angle. Most one sided rugs portray scenes of people and/or animals, making it feel more like a precious artifact than just any old rug. These silk carpets can not only be used as elegant floor coverings, but as wall decor tapestries.
Varieties of Silk Rugs
You have probably already figured out by now that silk rugs are in such high demand due to their complex details and vibrant threading. Here’s a guide to the most spectacular varieties:
Hereke Turkish: This type of rug is often dense, short piled and designed with floral motifs such as roses, tulips, spring blossoms, pine cones and stars.
Kayseri Turkish: While this variety is dense, too, it is, unlike the Hereke, long piled. Similar to the Hereke rugs, they are adorned with natural cultural motifs, religious symbols, 1001 nights, and the tree of life.
Qum Kashan Persian: This Qum Kashan comes in classical medallion designs. Kashan refers to a medallion layout weaved a top a Shah Abbas field. What does that mean? That the design will woo you with curvilinear forms throughout the entire background of the rug. The colors used in Persian silk rugs are red, yellow, ivory and orange tones.
Chinese silk rugs: Everybody loves a beautiful Chinese silk rug. But not a lot of people are sure about what makes them so intriguing. Here may be why: In most Chinese area rugs, Buddhist and Taoist religions are the star of the show. Symbols like the “Yin and Yang” and the “Shou” represent health and longevity. Peony and plum flowers symbolize prosperity and wealth. Bamboo designs represent durability. Dragons symbolize power and Phoenix motifs represent immortality. While this may seem far fetched from Middle Eastern tradition inspired rugs, Iranian and Turkish designs have become quite popular in the Chinese silk rug industry.
Making Sense of a Silk Rug’s Structure
Knot Density: The quality of an Oriental rug – and all silk rugs in general, is determined by a most important factor: the rug’s knot density. As a rule of thumb: a high knot count equals higher durability, stronger strength and therefore the ability to maintain its intricate design. The best way to determine a rug’s knot density is to figure out the rug’s KPSI (Knots Per Square Inch), or the KPSC (Knots Per Square Centimeter).
How to Figure Out Your Rug’s KPSC? Simply use a measuring tape and multiply the number of knots along 1-inch, width wise with the number of knots along 1-inch lengthwise. That will determine the number of knots per square inch.
CAVEAT: you should not use this formula as the ONLY criteria to determine whether a rug merits your investment!!! Knot density can change from one rug or material to another, but this is a starter for any novice rug buyer. You should also take into consideration the different knot techniques that can go into composing a rug. For instance, some knots can look as though they are two knots. Meaning you will end up paying twice as much as you bargained for. A rule of thumb: a good silk rug should have more than 600 KPSI or 100 KPSC.
Pile: pure silk rugs are close clipped, low piled, dense and thinner than wool rugs.
Fringes: Look at the fringes. Silk rugs must have silk extensions as the structure of the rug is made out of silk. In hand woven silk rugs, fringes are part of the rug's structure.
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