It is difficult to draw a precise boundary as to what counts as an exclusive carpet but most carpet connoisseurs nevertheless agree on the following definition: It is a carpet with exceptional detail knotted by hand in a workshop by experienced, professional carpet weavers. The material used must be of superior quality and have a knot density of at least 600,000 knots per square metre.
The one thing we can say is that an exclusive carpet first and foremost is hand woven and there is an incredible number of hours of hard work and a high level of concentration behind the finished carpet. The finest carpets are woven in varying sizes in studios and in more orderly conditions than, for example, nomadic camps or in the homes where carpets are also woven. The tools used are of a high quality to eliminate any damage to the carpet during the work and the concentration level is high during the weaving process. Most studios with exclusive hand-woven carpets are mainly in Iran (Persia) in cities including Tabriz, Keshan, Isfahan, Nain and Ghom but also in Turkey (Anatolia) and in the city of Hereke near Istanbul. Naturally, the carpets produced all have their distinct style that can be traced back to the city or region they come from.
A common theme with virtually all exclusive carpets is that they have a high knot density, often between 600,000 knots per square metre up to, and sometimes more than, one million and we are then talking mainly about the type of carpets like Isfahan, Ghom, Täbriz, Nain, Keshan and Hereke. Many of these carpets have an element of silk, sometimes with gold and silver, to enhance the details, and really fine and detailed carpets can be knotted entirely in silk, which ensures a fine detail to the carpets that is difficult to surpass. There are examples where legends and famous incidents are incorporated into the carpets that in certain cases retell an historical event in a beautiful and illustrative way. If you have ever seen an exclusive carpet you cannot help but wonder how it is possible to produce something so beautiful using a method that goes so far back in time!
This type of carpet, ideally in a large format, is considered as very exclusive and has for centuries been a natural feature in most royal palaces and castles around the world. A hand-woven carpet in these beautiful settings has undoubtedly heightened the impression of elegance and luxury and can be found even today in many government buildings and ministries. It is not unusual to actually put as many resources into decorating buildings as it costs to build them, which gives the impression that you want to show off an environment that is as representative as possible, and indicate a high status. These beautiful carpets are, where they are laid, a reminder that they are actually priceless treasures and not least an exquisite cultural heritage that is worth preserving for the future. Of course there are a lot of exclusive carpets also to be seen in museums around the world, and some find their way into collectors' homes, often at a high price.
In addition to a high knot density in the carpets, there are many other factors that come into play when it comes to classifying them as exclusive. We have mentioned that the most detailed carpets are knotted entirely in silk and, in carpets where silk is a feature used to enhance the details, only the finest wool from sheep called cork wool is used. This wool comes from the neck of the sheep and has a high content of wool grease, making it soft and easy to work with. For the dying of the yarn only natural dyes are used obtained from plants and minerals, and combinations of dyes in the carpets are chosen with the utmost care to ensure the best possible harmony. Nothing is left to chance when knotting an exclusive carpet and accuracy is a consistent aspect throughout the entire manufacturing process in order to achieve the required quality for the carpet.
Almost all hand-woven, exclusive carpets bear a signature that is woven into the short side of the carpet. It is common for this signature to be accompanied by, for example, the Iranian flag and examples of signed mats might include Habibian (Nain), Imani (Ghom), Enteshari (Isfahan) and the city in which the carpet was made is usually woven in.
It is possible today to find exclusive carpets on the market but we would like to issue a forewarning that it will be harder to find these in the future. The main reason is that many talented weavers have stopped working due to old age, and that there are no natural heirs to take over the reins. Young people are looking to other professions and it is rarer that you follow in your father's footsteps, which means the tradition is slowly dying out. It is also a major investment in time and materials for the major studios, and in some cases they choose to spend more on utility carpets which have less detail but are quicker to knot and are therefore a better revenue stream. So if you see a beautiful, hand-woven, signed exclusive carpet that you like - buy it, tomorrow may be too late!
Some examples of exclusive carpets:
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