The age of a rug is one of the critical points in not only determining its worth but also how best to safely clean it. However, determining how old a rug is can be one of the most difficult things to do. In general, older antique rugs show evidence of wear. The pile of the rug may be worn away in places, showing the foundation, or worn lower than other areas. However, many modern rugs, that have not been made of reliable materials, can wear very quickly, as well. This is why studying the back of the rug, and other factors, makes for more reliable dating. Today we are going to discuss how to work out the general age of a rug.
Modern Rugs vs. Antique Rugs
Modern rugs often look like old, antique rugs. These distressed and washed out rugs look beautiful but can be deceiving when trying to determine the age. However, most modern rugs will feel fuzzy on the backing, because the yarn used to make them has a fibrous surface. As a modern rug ages, even if it is only walked on rarely or carefully, the underside will become polished or abraded as the friction has worn away this fuzzy/hairy texture.
Older, antique rugs will generally feel gritty, smooth or even sandy on the back. Further, even finely and tightly woven antique rugs will become floppy and supple over time, while modern rugs will generally stay stiff.
You Can Easily Date Some Rugs
Style is an excellent way of tell the age of a rug. Specific styles were only made in a specific date range, like the Ziegler Mahal. Lotto style rugs date to the late renaissance. You can do your research on the rug pattern to try and narrow down the age and era of your rug. While modern rug makers can imitate patterns, it is easy to tell if the rug is a modern remake based on how the colour has faded and the wear on the rug. Older rugs will tend to feature abrash, with the pattern visible on the backing of the rug as well, while modern rugs tend to look more “printed”.
Wear and Damage to Indicate Age of a Rug
A skilled rug professional can repair most rug damage. Which means older rugs with damage can be difficult to tell, just from the pile side of the rug. But when you turn the rug over, you can generally see the repair work on the backing. When looking for an antique rug, be wary of any rug that does not show wear, restoration or oxidisation. If only the pile looks faded, worn or distressed, it is likely a modern reproduction made to look worn as part of a forgery or to create a modern “boho” design.
Dating the Age of a Rug by the Number of Knots
When turning your rug over, you can count the number of horizontal and vertical rows in one inch of the weaving. We call this knots per square inch or KPSI. Multiplying the horizontal row by the vertical row will give you the KPSI number. Many regions and time period shad specific KPSI. Modern rugs tend to have a higher KPSI than antiques, due to modern construction methods. While antique rugs can have a high number of knots, there are generally far more in modern rugs.
Rug Colours and Dyes That Have Changed with Time
Rugs from before the late 1800s only use natural vegetable dyes. These dyes tend to fade with age, exposure to sunlight and to chemicals. Natural dyes come in a wide range of colours but they are generally a mellower, softer colour than chemical dyes.
Modern manufacturers use bleaching methods to treat their rugs to give them an aged appearance. This treatment is easy to spot by separating the pile and looking at it with a magnifying glass. In rugs naturally worn with age, there is a gentle transition between the top and the base of the fibre. When a rug has been bleached, there will be a sharp band of colour in the of the fibre.
While we have tried to give you a way of figuring out the age of your rug, it is not an exact science and many rugs were simply not dated when they were made. It can take an expert eye to tell how old a rug is and how it needs to be treated.
If your rug needs some tender love and care, or is in need of professional cleaning, contact the team at Woods Rug Laundry today. We can check the age of your rug and clean it accordingly. We have experience in a wide range of rugs, modern and antique, giving you peace of mind when you leave your rug with us. Call now!