Antique rugs are defined as rugs produced at any point in time before the 1940s, while any carpets produced during or after the 1940s are typically characterized as "vintage." Many traditional antique rugs have jewel-toned colors, predominantly shades of red and blue, in brilliant tones and more saturated color palettes. As rugs age their colors often become softer, which results in more variation in their tones, typically referred to as Abrash. This is primarily caused by different densities of dyes throughout different batches of wool.
While the art of decorative rug making as we know it today began in the late 19th Century, rugs were produced for centuries before. Prior to the 19th Century, the primary purpose of fine rugs were to beautify the palaces and castles of royal families and aristocrats. In the early part of the 16th Century, Europeans became familiar with the art of rug making through the importation of hand-knotted rugs, in particular those that came from Persia. During the rise of Persia's Safavid Dynasty, rug designers were commissioned to create new and very intricate designs for Safavid rulers. Decorative rug designers began using new curvilinear motifs, which inspired the creation of the many magnificent masterpieces for which the dynasty is known.
During what is known as the Ottoman Empire, elaborate decorative carpets featuring more Islamic figures were produced, with some of the most famous being the medallion Oushak carpets of the 16th and 17th Centuries. Since then, Oushak has remained the epicenter of rug-making in Turkey. Both Antique Oushak carpets and Antique reproduction Oushaks have maintained their popularity among designers.
In the 17th Century, the Mughal Empire of India took an interest in Persian rug-making and commissioned Persian designers to create magnificent carpets with all-over designs. Many of these rugs can be traced to the city of Agra, and some of the greatest "Antique Agra" carpets originated from this period.
This tradition of antique rug-making became the model for centuries to come. What we recognize today as Traditional Persian rugs, Antique Persian rugs, Turkish Rugs, Antique Turkish Rugs, and Antique Oushak carpets pre-19th Century were all created during the 16th and 17th Centuries.
In the later part of the 19th Century some European companies took further interest in the Persian and Turkish rugs. They sought to adapt this beautiful art form to the European market and production of these carpets increased. One of these companies was Ziegler & Co., a multi-national company that was involved in exporting chemicals and other commodities into Persia. Ziegler & Co., like many other companies, set up looms in central Persia, drew new designs from old ones, and altered the color palettes.
This point in time is thought of as the beginning of Decorative rug-making, and it specifically influenced Persian rugs, Turkish rugs, and Indian rugs. Areas in Persia, such as Heris, in the northwestern region of Azerbaijan, produced Bakshaiesh, Heriz-Serapi, and Serapi carpets. These three types of carpets were all produced in villages within 50 km of Heriz, such as Mehraban, or in Heriz itself. Also Sultanabad, the capital city, produced Decorative Persian rugs such as Antique Ziegler, Antique Mahal, and Antique Sultanabad. Production in the city of Kashan included Antique Mohtasham Kashan, and the village of Ravar near the city of Kerman produced Raver Kerman, also known as Antique Lavar Kerman. Other types of carpets produced in Iran include: Bidjar, Gabbeh, Isfahan, Tabriz (another city in northwest Azerbaijan), Kashqayi, Malayer and Khorasan, and Sarouk-Ferahan. Because Oushak was already an established center for rug-making was located in closer proximity to Europe, Decorative Oushak rugs also became extremely popular.