Things to think about when buying an oriental rug

Oriental rugs have not only been valued for their artistry and durability, but also their association with taste and gentility, although now a days you don't have to be a Brahmin to buy one. Now there is a glut of affordable oriental rugs on the market and now thanks to an end in 2000 of the 20-year ban on Iranian textiles there is now an expanding range of other floor covering options to be held.

Determining quality can be tricky due to the many subtleties in materials, design and craftsmanship. But if you use your wits, you can find a rug that not only suits you and your style but can also become a sound investment.

But before you let a dealer unroll a single rug for you, keep some basic guidelines in mind. For example decide how much you want to spend and where you want to put the rug. If it is going to be in the dining room, you will probably want it bigger than the table, possibly a dark colour to camouflages nasty spills. And just so you don't come across as a rug noob, call the rug a "carpet" when it is more than 6 ft in length.

Your next decision is whether to buy a modern or an antique rug. Though there are exceptions, the best-quality rugs are either very old or very new but will also be made in the old traditional way, to the opinion of most dealers and collectors- "There has been an effort in the last few years to return to the way rugs were made a century ago," said Mark Hopkins, president of the New England Rug Society, but that happened to be before the widespread use of chemically treated wool, synthetic dyes and mass production techniques which discouraged weavers' creativity. "Some of the new rugs are like the antiques in that they are unique, one of a kind, works of art," said Mr. Hopkins, a retired advertising executive who has a large collection of Oriental rugs.

Prices will vary according to design, provenance and condition, but you can get comparable antique, and new, room-size Oriental rugs for  around £2,000 to £10,000. Rare collector's rugs, like a 12-by-14-foot Sultanabad, circa 1870, may go for a large sum of around £100,000 to £200,000.

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