Rare, hand-knotted oriental silk carpets are sought-after treasures that demand some of the highest prices in the world. Intrinsic value is based on the quality of the silk, the intricacy of the motif and the knots per square inch (KPSI). Invest in an authentic silk rug and you’ll have to part with thousands or even hundreds of thousands of rand.
Isfahan silk fetches $4.5m
Not all silk rugs are created equal. You’ll discover a wide selection of full silks from Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, India and China. Full silk rugs of Persian origin were once the most valued of all. In fact, the most expensive carpet ever sold at public auction was a 300-year-old Isfahan silk rug that fetched $4.5 million in New York in 2008. Sanctions against Iran, however, scuppered the market as Western demand dwindled to a trickle.
Turkish silks from Bursa
Today, Turkish silks are reputed to be the finest, and consequently most valuable, carpets on the market. A combination of premium-quality silk sourced from the city of Bursa and remarkably high density weaving techniques that result in silk of over 300 KPSI are responsible for the enormous growth in demand.
Hereke silk rugs
Taking pride of place among carpets are Hereke silk rugs. These rare and beautifully crafted pieces feature floral motifs and bright, lustrous colours. The Turkish art form involved in creating Hereke rugs has been practised for well over 1,600 years. All the rugs were once destined for the palaces of the Ottoman Empire. Every warp, weft and tuft of these extraordinary handmade double-knotted carpets is pure silk.
Hereke silks are defined by over 500 double KPSI, which is equivalent to almost one million knots per square metre. Rich colours such as ivory, cinnamon and midnight blue are used to create a number of popular patterns that feature birds, flowers and the Tree of Life.
The art of weaving hand-knotted silk rugs is comparatively new to China. Patterns and colours are completely different to those found on Middle Eastern silks. Instead they reflect ancient Chinese culture. You’ll discover Buddhist and Taoist motifs primarily crafted from yellow, blue and apricot yarns. Because the average KPSI is 1,000, it takes almost two years to complete a 3 x 5 rug.
Cleaning silk rugs
Priceless silk rugs, whether displayed on the wall or underfoot, attract dirt and grime over time. Because of their value and delicacy, hand-crafted silk carpets should be cleaned only by professional carpet cleaners, who can maintain the natural lustre of the silk. Older, more fragile rugs require particular careful, specialised cleaning.