One Thousand and One Night Dream: Colorful Persian Carpets

Persky koberec

Persian carpets are generously decorated and handwoven gems that we always associate with the distant Orient, royal palaces, and even fairy tales, such as the one about the Magic Carpet or Aladdin.

Persian carpets originate in the Orient; they are often decorated with ornamental or floral motifs made of colorful wool. When the Persian carpet is part of the interior, it’s a dominant element. It reveals that the owner likes unique items, likes the smell of distance, or the unconventional way of saving money. Persian carpets are also a popular investment opportunity.

Persian carpets
Persian carpets are typically made of sheep wool; the other most common material is silk.

The Oldest Existing Persian Carpet

The oldest existing colorful carpet dates back to the 5th century BC, but Persian production’s history goes back much further, probably as far back as 10,000 years ago. The oldest carpet was discovered in the Altai Mountains, adorned with a combination of bold colors: green, red, and yellow. It depicts the bird Noh, grazing moose and horses with riders. The carpet was placed in the tomb belonging to the Prince of the Turkish tribes, which proves that it was perceived as precious work. It used to be placed in the grave together with the prominent deceased person. The carpet was preserved because of water that flowed into the tomb, froze, and the frozen piece of ice did not break the fabric. The oldest carpet is part of the collections of the St. Petersburg Museum.

Persian carpets
Persian carpets’ most common patterns are flowers, animals, and geometric motifs, all in bright and bold colors.

The First Carpets Served Practical Purposes

Historically, carpets have been associated with Asian nomads, who created them for practical purposes: protection from the cold while wandering, building dwellings, or replacing the saddles. Their religious function is also very important, carpets defined space for prayer, and believers often carried them to the temple. In short, the carpet accompanied the family at every step and was part of many activities. In countries such as Persia, China, Nepal, Turkey, and Egypt, they were hand-knotted. The center of Persian carpet production later moved mainly to Iran. The carpets’ patterns resemble Persian gardens; they are full of flowers, animals, birds with colorful feathers, flowering trees – the more colorful, the better.

Persian carpets
The history of Persian carpet production dates centuries back. Nowadays the carpets are produced in the traditional way, but also in factories.

Each handwoven carpet is original, and thanks to the arrangement and ornaments, it is possible to recognize which area it comes from. Due to increasing demand, individual production was replaced by carpet production centers. Later, more and more elaborate decorative ornaments were created. Carpets were brought to another level and considered work of art and sought-after item in Europe and America. The first Persian carpets arrived in Europe on Marco Polo’s ships and immediately became a presentation of luxury and a symbol of wealth. Carpets have been exported to countries worldwide since the 16th century and have become very popular. From the 16th to 18th centuries, carpets used to be considered the most valuable and are in the collections of many museums and private collectors.

The Genuine Persian Carpet Is Made of Sheep Wool.

At the end of the 19th century, some European and American companies even set up businesses in Persia and organized handicraft production for Western markets. New development brought new designs that suit Western tastes. Ziegler & Co from Germany moved to Iran to develop new carpets for export. The Ziegler carpet is one of the most famous ones and is currently one of the most popular carpets in production. Today, carpet weaving is by far the most widespread craft in Iran. Persian carpets are famous for their rich colors, variety of magnificent artistic patterns, and excellent design. They belong to the most valuable items in palaces, famous buildings, mansions, and museums worldwide.

Persian carpets
Persian carpets are a sought-after investment item that interests not only collectors.

The Genuine Persian Carpet Is Made of Sheep Wool

Persian carpets are made of wool, silk, viscose, or polyester. The genuine Persian carpet is made of sheep wool. The wool is further processed and dyed and is often soaked in tea before weaving. Lanolin, the fat obtained during sheep’s wool processing, is used in the final treatment of carpets. It prevents them from getting dirty.

Text: Linda Vojancová, photo: