By: Julie Knight What is an Oriental rug? The Federal Trade Commission describes these as only hand-woven rugs of natural fibers made in the Near East, Middle East, Far East (India and Pakistan) and the Balkan. The hand woven, flat-weave rugs, such as the kilims and dhurries are, technically speaking, Oriental rugs; but, in general, Oriental rugs mean those that are knotted and with a pile. The Oriental rug has been mentioned in such early texts as the Bible and Homer’s Iliad. This dates these many-colored rugs to ancient times. Historians suggest that nomadic tribes wove and knotted the first rugs to add comfort and warmth to their tents. During the Renaissance, European artists were including Oriental rugs in their paintings. And the European nobility, such as King Henry VIII, were collecting fine Oriental rugs. In the 1700s, American colonists imported Oriental rugs to decorate their country home and city townhouses. In the South, Chinese rugs were imported along with blue and white porcelain. And plantation inventories often listed “Turkey carpets” as the Oriental rugs was known as in this age. By late 1800s, the rugs were being made and exported for the growing American market. Today, Oriental rugs are divided into two main groups–floral and geometric. Although true Oriental rugs are hand woven with authentic patterns and colors, they should be labeled with the country of origin. A rug woven in India from a Persian (Iranian) design is properly labeled as an Indo-Hereza or Indo-Hamadan depending on the design that is used. Since place of origin is important in determining a rug’s value, never remove the tag attached to an Oriental rug. Likewise, never purchase a rug without a label. Even with labeling, it is often difficult for a layperson to be sure of a rug’s age and country of origin. The best course is to purchase from a reputable dealer. Be wary of estate auctions and going-out-of-business sales because of the unknown quality of the rugs that are offered. As fine Oriental rugs are a major investment, trust an established dealer. They will send out rugs on approval, as it is hard to judge how colors and pattern will blend with your home.