A Persian rug or Persian carpet is a handwoven or hand knotted rug, woven in Iran. It can be a kilim (flat woven rug) or a knotted pile rug. The term carpet denotes a larger size but often these two terms, Oriental carpet and Oriental rug are used interchangeably. An antique rug indicates an age of 100 years or more, strictly speaking.
Persia was officially renamed Iran in 1935. If you look at a map of the former Persian Empire you can see that the borders were quite different than the current area that is Iran and have changed many times throughout history. My point being, if an antique rug was woven in 1850 in what was then classified as Persia it would still be considered a Persian rug, even if that location is not now within current Iranian borders. A Turkish rug is not a Persian rug, nor are rugs woven in India, China, Romania and the like.
Oriental rug is a more generalized term for handwoven rugs and carpets, woven on a loom, of wool, silk or cotton. The full subject also includes all the woven textiles used by nomads inside and outside of their dwellings or decoratively on their animals, such as camels and goats. These types of woven articles are referred to as Oriental Rug trappings and sometimes, you will find goat hair or camel used as well.
An example of a rug that uses goat hair is the Turkish Tulu, which use silky, shinny angora goat hair but these examples are not the norm. The majority of rugs that have been woven for the last few hundred years are of wool composition most often woven on a cotton foundation (warp and wefts). Traditionally, nomadic rugs were woven with wool on wool foundations.
Again, an Oriental rug can be from any number of countries. As indicated in my article, How Oriental Rugs are Named indicating where the rug was woven or the tribal affiliation also occurs. Afghan rugs, Chinese rugs or Turkish rugs are all, also Oriental Rugs as well as Turkoman rugs (tribal affiliations) and Qashqai rugs.
So, in summary, the generalized term for a hand-woven rug is Oriental rug.
Is there such a thing as a Persian Oriental Rug? Yes. This would be an Oriental rug woven in Iran. The term Persian Oriental rug is not widely used in the trade but logically applicable. I noticed recently a number of searches with this phrasing so just thought I would comment on it.
Are machine woven rugs made in Iran? Yes. Very surprising but true. Just do a simple search on Google for Iranian machine woven rugs and you will see numerous manufacturers.
Are Oriental rugs woven in the United States? No. The term "Oriental rug" indicates the Orient or the East. Are Karastan rugs Oriental rugs? No, they are machine-made rugs, made here in the US. Many of their designs are taken from antique Persian rugs.
If you are interested in learning more about Oriental rugs, do have a look at my Oriental rug articles page, with particular attention to a small rug dictionary I put together, defining some basic terms.
Additionally, here is a link to my you tube channel, if you are interested in looking at some beautiful rugs!
Penny Krieger is the owner of Paradise Oriental Rugs, Inc., located in the San Francisco Bay Area in Sonoma County. Her gallery at 137 North Main Street , Sebastopol , CA , specializes in tribal rugs and carpets woven with hand-spun wool and plant based dyes with a strong emphasis on Persian tribal rugs and tribal designs woven in Afghanistan. https://www.paradiseorientalrugs.com Phone: 707-823-3355