Carpet Chats: Common Rug Jargon Explained

Overwhelmed by the details that go into choosing your rug? There’s a lot to know! That’s why we’ve gathered some of the most common terms here. So read up and then come visit us at Dover Rug & Home to find the perfect piece for your home.

  • Abrash:

    A gradual transition in color resulting from the dying process; can appear as striations in hue.

  • All-over design:

    A term used to describe a rug that features a repeated design throughout the field, rather than a central point or medallion.

Transitional rug with all-over design.

This transitional rug is an excellent example of an all-over design, as it features a recurring pattern throughout the field rather than a central medallion as a focal point.

  • Antique finish:

    A process of chemical soaking that simulates aging by altering the intensity and saturation of dye colors.

  • Arabesque:

    A wonderfully ornate design of flowers intertwined with curing vines.

  • Border rug:

    A rug featuring prominent designs on the outer border (the “edge” that surrounds the field).

Antique Rug from Dover Rug & Home

This antique rug features intricately detailed border designs – a marker of traditional rugs.

  • Boteh:

    A pear-like figure common in Oriental designs (you may recognize it from the paisley pattern).

  • Carved pile:

    A design cut or embossed into the pile.

  • Field:

    The central portion of the rug’s design, surrounded by the border; fields may be blank, contain medallions, or consist of an all-over design, as explained above.

Hand-knotted wool rug featuring a central medallion and two detailed borders.

The field of this beautiful rug features a central medallion surrounded by recurring patterns and two detailed borders.

Rugs in History: The Pazyryk Carpet

The art of rug-weaving has a rich and storied history—one that stretches further into the past than you may imagine. The oldest known pile-woven carpet, known as the Pazyryk carpet, dates back to the 5th century BCE according to radiocarbon testing.

The ancient Pazyryk rug.

Experts hypothesize that carpets existed long before the Pazyryk carpet; however since the silk, cotton, and wool used to weave carpets degrade over time, archeologists have been unable to find earlier examples. In fact, the fine weaving and elaborate pictorial design indicated a long history of technique previous to its manufacture.

In 1949, a group of Russian archaeologists under the supervision of Sergei Rudenko discovered the Pazyryk carpet in a valley of the Siberian Atlai Mountains. The central debate surrounding the Pazyryk rug;s origins boils down to two options: it was either produced in the mountain region where it was found, or it was a product of Achaemenid manufacture.

The ancient Pazyryk rug, close up.

Despite its age, the Pazyryk rug already shows the basic arrangement that would later become standard for oriental carpet design. The central field features a repeating pattern: rows of identical square frames on a deep red background, each filled with stelliform ornaments and overlapping cross-shaped patterns. Two animal frieze borders surround the central design; the inner main border shows a procession of deer, while the outer border depicts men and horses.

The ancient Pazyryk rug .

Here you can see an example of a similarly organized rug, also featuring these classical elements: a central repeating pattern, an elaborate main border, and at least one secondary border.

Antique Rug from Dover Rug & Home

The illustrious history of rug-making surely goes further back than the Pazyryk rug, but this fascinating example nonetheless shows the scope and breadth of the weaving tradition. Here at Dover Rug & Home, we harbor a deep appreciation for this ancient art. If you are interested in antique rugs such as the one pictured above, please take a look at our selection here.