Over 35 years ago David Wilkins turned his passion into a business; supported by his wife Alice he began the voyage of discovery through London’s wholesale Oriental rug importers.
Over the years David acquired an in-depth knowledge and with this he was able to guide his clients safely through the Labyrinth of London’s Oriental rug and carpet selection.
In 1991 David was joined by his son Alexander who now runs the business with the wisdom of his father, making it a truly family concern. Alexander has travelled to many of the rug producing country’s including Iran/Persia and will be happy to impart his knowledge to help you find that special oriental carpet.
A Note from David
A thing of beauty is a joy forever, and so it is for Oriental rugs. Weaving is one of the most ancient crafts in the world. Who can forget Cleopatra’s famous encounter with Caesar, when she arrived at his feet rolled up in an Oriental carpet.
To this day, rugs woven in the same way grace our houses with their beauty. The term “Oriental rug” simply means a hand-made carpet or rug woven in a wide area stretching from Eastern Europe to China. There are two main groups of rugs woven today, Town rugs and Nomadic or Village rugs.
Town rugs are woven in great detail from weaving patterns, which have been transposed on to a type of graph paper from the original artist’s drawing. Each small square then represents a knot.
Village rugs are also made from predesigned patterns, but Nomadic rugs are often made without the help of a pattern. It is for this reason that they are almost all geometric or stylised in design as the weaver finds it impossible to create a circle freehand.
Rugs can also be classified by their place of origin and can be placed in the following main groups:
- The Iranian / Persian Group (possibly the most important)
- The Turkoman Group (Turkoman, Afghan and Balouch rugs)
- Caucasian (Russian, west of Caspian Sea)
- The Turkish / Anatolian (production on the decline)
- The Indian, Pakistan (very large numbers woven).
The Chinese (production on the decline)
Oriental rugs come in many styles and sizes and often the hardest part is deciding what it is you want, should the rug be an elegant town rug, or a less fine village one. Both can be very hard wearing and rewarding in the right room.
The most natural mistake people make is to buy a rug too large for their room. Like a precious painting a rug should be surrounded by a frame; we recommend about two feet around the room. Also, hand-woven rugs are rarely completely straight and the walls in older houses are certainly not. Rugs may be placed on almost any surface with the proper underlay, which is obligatory for long life and safety.
A lot has been said and written about the merits of vegetable dyes versus modern chromatic dyes. Both types have their attractions. We know that vegetable dyed rugs mature to attractive soft colours but can be very bright when new but modern dyes are now more colourfast than their vegetable counter-parts. Well over three-quarters of the rugs made today use modern dyes and this is perfectly acceptable.
It is possible today to obtain modern ‘abstract designs’ in hand-made rugs. Companies specialise in these, both here and in the United States. This creates an ‘off-the-peg’ situation where most sizes are available.
The oldest surviving rug is the Pazyryck rug circa 530BC, at present in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Antique rugs must be over 100 years old; there is no such thing as a “semi-antique” rug. The following descriptions are commonly used in the wholesale rug trade:
- Antique - 100 years or more
- Old - 40-99 years
- Semi-old - 20-39 years
- New - 0-19 years.
It is a complex subject deciding whether a rug is old or antique, and a trustworthy expert should be asked for peace of mind. However, if you wish to try your hand, the following points may be helpful:
- The range of colours in vegetable dyes is limited.
- The pile of an old rug where time has softened the dyes has a smooth gradation of colour from the base of the knot. If the colour changes half way up the tuft and is clearly delineated, the rug is probably new and has been chemically surface washed to fade the colours.
- The knots on the back of an old well-used rug will be slightly flat and these could be compared with the rounded knots of a new one.
Other points to consider: was the design discontinued at a certain date?
Is the size not made today?
Has the rug a woven date (true or false)?
Buying a Rug or Carpet
There are several options when wanting to purchase an Oriental rug, each have their own merits. However, it is important that you build up a good relationship with the dealer, in order for him to find exactly what you are looking for.
- Specialist rug stores and shops should have been in existence for many years, and should come recommended.
- Interior designers will look on your behalf and as they probably know your home, this could be an easy option. However, you will have to pay for their services.
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- A rug broker, which should be a well-established business. He will be able to take you to a wholesale warehouse complex where you will see more rugs than in most of the shops put together. Your broker will advise you on choice and value and give you a complete personal service at no extra cost to you. It may even be possible for you to see your rugs in-situ. Allow at least 2 hours for your visit such is the abundance of rugs. Do not buy the first one you see, you never know what is hiding under the pile.