I am writing about what people ask me on and off again regarding area rugs, Persian rugs, Oriental rugs and handmade carpets in general. In certain Canadian provinces, Persian & Oriental rugs are referred to as area rugs or small carpets of Persian style. Floral rugs are sometimes called Tabriz, Isfahan, Kashan or other names attributed to where or in which city, town or village such designs are most likely to have been made. Sometimes floral carpets are named after a certain tribe.
Rugs vs. Carpets
People often ask me what is the difference between a rug and a carpet. A larger size piece such as one that is bigger than 8′ x 5′ feet is considered a carpet. Any carpet smaller than 8′ x 5′ feet is considered a rug. Mostly, in countries like Japan, where rooms are smaller, they are called rugs. In Arabic speaking countries, Persian & Oriental rugs and carpets are called “Sajjad e Ajami” which refers to all rugs and carpets that come from countries that had been once ruled by the former Persian empire during the Achaemenid Empire. This includes all the territory of present day Iran, Afghanistan, and the sub-continent of India including the princely states in between. Up to 1920, the term used when referring to floral rugs was Turkish rugs as most occidental carpets dealers were Armenian. They stopped carrying Turkish carpets around 1920. They encouraged importing and selling Persian carpets imported from modern day Persia and its surrounding areas, hence the widespread use of the term “Persian rugs”.
In 1984, the first embargo / sanctions on rugs and carpets from Iran into the U.S.A was introduced. It was lifted on the last year of the Clinton Administration: 2001. It was then reinstated in 2005. American carpet dealers started using the term oriental rugs and carpets as opposed to Persian Rugs due to the fact that they started to increase their imports of carpets coming from other carpet producing countries such as Pakistan, Turkey, India, China, etc. Thus, dealers started to call all rugs of Persian style: “Oriental Rugs”. The use of term Oriental rugs became prevalent. The term represents hand-knotted rugs with floral and geometric designs inspired from eastern, western and northern Iranian rugs.