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Fine Antique Rugs and The Evolution of a Collection-Part 1

Part One

By Jan David Winitz, President/Founder of Claremont Rug Company


Astoundingly Expressive Early Kermanshah Carpet Fills Sophisticated Sitting Room with Deeply Engaging, Refined Atmosphere.

Collecting antique Oriental carpets is fascinating, and for some a lifelong endeavor that is an intensely personal exercise. Collectors are drawn from all manner of society. They include well-known historic figures such as William Randolph Hearst and John D. Rockefeller as well as King Henry VIII, who remarkably, was in competition with Cardinal Woolsey for the best rugs coming from the Ottoman Empire of Turkey. Modern day connoisseurs include many captains of industry across the globe.

While there are many factors involved in the decision about whether to embark on an adventure in rug collecting, two of the most likely considerations revolve around which rugs to choose and how much to invest.

Whether one invests $100,000 or ultimately $20 million to create a collection, it becomes clear that what starts as a decorative interest can become a most exhilarating passion. Putting together a suite of carpets that enhance the décor in your home, but also are chosen for their high level of artistry, is the way many people become the proud owners of a rug collection.

It has often been said that you know when you’ve become a collector when you keep buying rugs after there are no more floors (or walls) left in your home to display them.

Persian Ivory Sultanabad Antique Rug in a grand traditional foyer

A high collectible 19th century Persian Sultanabad provides a stunning first impression to this collector’s 1911 mansion.

One of the beauties of the genre is that collectors of art-level rugs have the unique ability to choose pieces within a relatively modest price point — allowing them to pursue their new passion at an investment level they find comfortable. To seasoned art collectors for whom investments topping seven figures is de rigueur, it is nothing less than extraordinary that exquisite, art-level rugs from 1800- 1910 (known as the “Second Golden Age of Persian Weaving”) can be obtained in the range of $15,000 to $250,000 – with the exception of palace size pieces.

Once one decides that fine rugs is an art form they wish to explore, how to collect, what to collect and when to collect is an art all its own. It is important to find a dealer that you can put your trust in and has both great expertise and passion for the art form. As Warren Buffet famously said, “If you don’t know jewelry, know the jeweler.”

Antique Caucasian Karachov Kazak, 5′ 8” x 6′ 10”, 3rd quarter, 19th century, connoisseur caliber. A unique interpretation of a famous design style with unusually light colors, highlighted by its apple green field.

What is paramount is to work with a gallery that not only has a vast selection at levels of quality up to high-collectible, but also a full exchange policy. It’s nearly impossible to forecast where your taste will take you over time, so working with someone who allows you to trade in your pieces carte blanche provides you with the opportunity to spread your wings as your taste becomes more refined.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I discuss the “strategy” of building a fine rug trove as well as how to incorporate a collection into your surroundings.