Saturday, 10 November 2012

Turkey's Sarabi Rugs Fill In For Banned Persians From Iran

November 10, 2012 – Is it time to begin looking for alternatives to Persian rugs woven in Iran?

If you live in the United States, the answer is probably yes. The US ban on importing rugs from Iran has now been in place for two years.

And as long as political tension between Washington and Tehran stays high, the ban isn’t likely to end soon.

Meanwhile, the stockpiles of new Iranian rugs that dealers can sell – those rugs they had in inventory before the ban started in September 2010 – is running out.

So, finding any particular style you want can be difficult, if not impossible.

Fortunately, however, there are ways around the problem.

One is to look for substitutes among the many excellent Persian rugs that are woven outside of Iran itself. That is, rugs from countries with a long tradition of weaving Persian styles or incorporating Persian design elements into their own weaving heritage.

Among those countries is Turkey, which, along with Iran, is one of the world's two highest quality rug producers.

At the top of this page and on the right are two examples of Persian Heriz-style rugs woven in Turkey.

Both, known as Turkish Sarabi Rugs, are available from ecarpetgallery, a leading North American on-line store based in Montreal.

The classic Heriz style shown in these two rugs has always been one of most popular types of Persian carpets in North American homes.

For many rug lovers, the geometric, four-lobed medallion in their centers is an iconic symbol that instantly conjures up images of stately Victorian homes with luxurious carpets on the floor.

Historically, Heriz rugs are woven by the Azeri-speaking Turkic inhabitants of the northwestern Iranian city of Heriz and its surrounding towns.

A particularly famous subgroup of the rugs were those woven at the turn-of-the-last-century in the town of Serabi and known on the rug market as Serapi.

 Since then, Serapi – also spelled Sarabi – has become a term for describing the finest Heriz rugs in general. And it is that name that Turkish producers use for their Heriz carpets, too.

Turkish-produced Persian carpets can be very expensive, just as are their Iranian counterparts. Indeed, Turkish and Iranian-produced carpets command the highest prices in today's global rug trade, followed at some distance by those produced in India and China.

But some major distributors are able to sell the Turkish-produced Persians at highly affordable prices. They do so by dealing in enormous volumes, which allows them to cut out middlemen and, increasingly, by operating on-line to keep showroom costs to a minimum.

For those looking for still more affordable Persian style rugs, one can move from Turkey to India, which produces many hand-tufted versions of Persian designs.Here is an example, again from ecarpetgallery:

In hand tufting, the weaver pushes wool or a man-made yarn through a matrix material using a hand-held pneumatic gun.

The technique is faster than hand-knotting, so the rugs are less expensive. Yet the tufting method still creates a durable rug which, when produced by a skilled craftsmen, can accurately depict even intricate designs.

No-one today can predict how long the US ban on Persian carpets produced in Iran will stay in place. But it is useful to look back at a similar, earlier ban to get some perspective.

 In October 1987, at height of Iran-Iraq war, then president Ronald Reagan prohibited the importation and exportation of any goods or services to and from Iran, including carpets.

The embargo lasted a full 13 years, until 2000. That embargo did what the current ban is doing again now: causing both rug producers and buyers to think about alternatives.

The last ban stimulated producers in many countries to make Persian-design rugs for the US market. In the process, some beautiful pieces were produced.

And that helped convince many rug buyers that how a rug looks on the floor can be just as important as where it was woven.