In case you have wondered who makes the best rugs — and many people ask me this — here is your last chance to find out. But of course I won’t tell you — because there simply is no best rug or rug-producing country.
Here’s what I will say, though: There are no rugs in the world more “decorative” than the best rugs from Egypt. They can look good in a room where no other rugs in the world will do. When my wife and I staged a house to sell, and hundreds of thousands of dollars were at stake, we used Egyptian carpets.
Persian rugs, on the other hand, have an enviable heritage. There is magic in the best Persian rugs, and a hundred years from now collectors are likely to value today’s rugs from Iran above all others.
Turkey’s tradition is hardly less distinguished. Weaving in Turkey goes back at least 800 years. Add to the weavers’ innate sensibilities a spark from the most creative minds of the West, and you have the kind of symbiosis that creates a renaissance. In recent times the most creative work has often been done there.
The weavers of Afghanistan are tribal people who have always made authentic tribal rugs. Now many of them have been exposed to the sophisticated designs and techniques that flourished in the Pakistani refugee camps. Blessed with a modicum of peace and stability, Afghan weavers are beginning to fly.
The weavers of China are good, good, good, but they seem to be waiting for the right direction. Western producers give them bad cues. Someday they will connect with their own roots and the sleeping dragon will wake. In the meantime, no one can beat Chinese rugs for value.
The Pakistani rug world faces an uncertain future, suddenly deprived of hundreds of thousands skilled Afghanis who have returned home. But Pakistani weavers can take heart in knowing that they can weave finer rugs than their Afghan cousins, and that’s just what they’re doing. Producers are creating perfect colors and designs. Western buyers who are indifferent to the supposed charms of abrash and natural dyes often prefer the best rugs made by Pakistan’s indigenous weavers.
Tibetan rug producers — there is no end to their inventiveness. They are artists whose canvas is the wonderful woven fabric of native Tibetan wool. Tibetan weavers are responsible for a new dimension in Oriental rug design.
And finally, the confusing world of Indian rugs. There are so many productions from this vast country. The best Indian rugs — Mahindras, for instance — don’t seem to find a permanent place in the market, while common Indian rugs seem to survive everything. But now and then people with vision give direction to a gifted band of Indian weavers — and then you have something special.
At times during the writing of this book I have worried that the renaissance has lost its momentum. At the end, though, I’m cheerful. When we tear into newly arrived bales of rugs, there is nearly always at least one captivating carpet among them, one that expresses a new idea or an old idea made fresh. I hope you find as much pleasure as I do in Oriental rugs today.