More than a thing to walk upon, some rugs are investments and true works of art.
A hand-knotted rug adds great aesthetic value to a space.
It also has great monetary value.
Here are 10 reasons rugs are so expensive.
Why Are Rugs So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
1. Costly Materials
The value of materials used to create a rug plays a large role in determining its cost.
This explains why two rugs with similarly designed patterns might sit at nearly opposite ends of the price spectrum.
One rug is crafted with high-end materials.
The other is a cheap duplicate.
Many of the most expensive rugs have materials such as high-quality wool or silk.
Rugs composed of other natural fibers also command a higher-than-average price.
Those created from synthetics will have more moderate price tags attached to them.
Generally, rugs composed of cheaper materials have a greater tendency to fade, stain, shed, or form small fluffy balls—known as pilling—as they deteriorate.
Characteristics of better materials separate them from those that cost less but often do not last nearly as long.
Wool offers a sturdy foundation for rugs.
Renewable and durable, the natural sturdy fibers that bind within the wool often have a luxurious and plush texture that offers greater comfort when walked upon compared to synthetic rugs.
Silk offers another example of an expensive material found in some of the finer rugs.
Second to wool in its durability, these expensive floor covers do not work well in heavy-traffic areas or homes with pets and kids.
Silk rugs may require occasional professional cleaning to keep them looking fabulous.
For a very expensive rug, make sure that the rug is truly made from a silkworm.
Similar to “artificial” food products that resemble real things, there are many rugs created from artificial silk.
These pseudo-silk rugs are actually made of a different type of fiber, such as mercerized cotton—a special, more resistant cotton—or a manufactured fiber such as rayon.
When purchasing a silk rug, inspect it carefully to determine whether it is created from real silk or the cheaper “artificial” silk substitute.
Cotton offers a fluffy and soft alternative, one created from natural fibers that are less expensive than wool or silk.
Not as durable as wool, cotton rugs should not be placed in areas with heavy traffic.
Kids and pet companions do better with cotton than with silk, making them a better alternative for someone who wants a natural fiber rug.
D. Hemp And Jute
Hemp and jute offer other less expensive alternatives.
Ideal for heavy traffic and homes with a lot of activity, these rugs offer a greater amount of durability.
Nylon is another less expensive choice, one created from synthetic fibers.
Due to its high level of absorbency, it is prone to damage from spills of water or other liquids that land upon it.
Polyester offers another synthetic option, one that is more stain-resistant but also much less durable.
Many polyester rugs are made from recycled plastic bottles.
Thus, they offer an environmentally green choice for those who do not mind a synthetic rug.
2. Patterns And Designs
Similar to the difference in cost between a bland tile and one with a complex mosaic, the patterns and designs found on rugs play a role in their price.
Rare designs and older ones with antique patterns command high prices.
Similar to a period piece in any type of artwork, part of the value comes from the cultural influences of the period when the rug was created.
Heirlooms rugs from long ago share this similarity with phonographic records among young folks today.
These “vinyl” heirlooms pressed long ago may have scratches and imperfections.
They may not carry the sound the same way that a digital recording will today.
When the needle touches the vinyl, though, they have a certain feel.
When admiring a rug with a pattern and design crafted many years ago, we can appreciate the unique nature of this heirloom and the cultural milieu in which it was created.
3. Spinning Process And Dyes Used
Spinning wool or other fibers takes time and incurs a cost.
Similar to the pizza that the delivery driver brought to the door, somebody had to make the sausage and pepperoni before the pizza chef made and baked the pie.
Mechanization has lowered the cost of spinning and dying the fibers.
In some traditional cultures, the spinning process still involves a hand spindle.
Using this early technology, almost eight hours of spinning take place to create the fibers needed for one hour of weaving.
A difference also exists between natural dyes—usually created from minerals or various types of plants—and those processed with chemicals.
Natural dyes tend to fade less than their chemical cousins.
Thus, rugs with fibers colored with natural dyes tend to keep their color and have greater durability.
Chemical dyes offer a cheaper alternative.
The vibrant colors available from chemical dyes may be stunning when on a new carpet.
They may also fade as time progresses.
4. Time Required To Create Rugs
Rather than thinking of rugs as something that we walk upon, one might consider some of the handcrafted models to be something akin to a work of art.
Similar to a painter who spends long hours creating a masterpiece on canvas, most hand-knotted rugs take a substantial amount of time to design and weave.
Small rugs may take several days or months, with larger ones sometimes taking years.
Some people who acquire and collect ornamental, hand-designed rugs treat them as investments or fine pieces of art rather than a place to walk with muddy or dirty feet.
Large hand-made rugs may take a couple of years to manufacture.
A very fast rug weaver may be able to complete almost six knots per minute, or 360 an hour if they work nonstop.
If a 9-foot by 12-foot rug has approximately 500 knots per square inch, it would require more than 12,000 working hours to create by hand.
Remember that a full-time worker today who puts in a 40-hour workweek spends approximately 2,080 hours on the job each year.
That assumes they do not take any vacation or sick leave.
To complete this rug with very talented workers who never missed a day on the job, we would need 5.75 of them assigned to work on that single rug of average quality for an entire year.
Even by paying them pennies on the dollar, this would result in a very expensive rug!
And this cost only factors in what would be paid to the artisans, not the farmers, spinners, or dyers who created the raw materials and got them into form for the weaving process.
Synthetic, machine-manufactured carpets can be produced much more rapidly than this, of course.
However, they lack that human touch.
Think about this the next time you see somebody walking across an older Persian or Oriental rug with dirty shoes.
Each step may easily soil a week’s worth of work.
5. Knot Density
One of the most important factors in determining both a rug’s cost and its value is the density of the knots.
In the United States, that value is measured in knots per square inch.
Almost everywhere else, they measure in metric units, but the importance of this measure is that rugs with a higher knot count require more time to assemble and create.
Rugs and carpets with higher knot counts can display greater levels of detail, as well.
Think about the difference between bedsheets with a low thread count and those with a much higher one.
For those unfamiliar with the thread analogy, a techie one might suffice.
Those who are computer savvy can think about the parallel of looking at pixels on a screen.
A low-resolution JPG/JPEG image will have fewer pixes than a high-resolution TIF/TIFF file.
If a person zooms in on these computer images, the higher-intensity one maintains its form better while the other one quickly becomes blurry and unintelligible.
Similar to the way a person can notice the difference between these files by zooming in, they can easily detect how having more knots per square inch allows for richer, more intricate design patterns to be woven into the rugs.
Depending on their size, some of the most detailed hand-woven rugs may take months to many years to assemble.
Even if they copy the pattern from another rug, the designs will have minor differences due to the unique work of the people who have crafted them.
This makes these rugs one-of-a-kind treasures.
Thus, an individually designed, hand-made rug with a high knots-per-inch count must cost a lot more than one mass-produced by a machine.
When it comes to rugs made by hand, a distinction is made between hand-knotted and hand-tufted rugs.
Both are created by hand, but the process differs in time, skill level, and complexity.
6. Cost Of Hand-Knotted Rugs
Hand-knotting is the original way that ancient artisans created the earliest rug masterpieces and the intricate designs they placed upon them.
Each hand-knotted rug has a one-of-a-kind pattern that is usually created on a loom.
Oriental and Persian rugs of high quality are perfect examples of hand-knotted rugs that are carefully crafted from silk, wool, or cotton.
They tend to have less texture and a flatter pile.
They take longer time and more skill to create, often designed with a very high number of knots per square inch.
One easy way to determine if a rug is hand-knotted is to turn it over.
Hand-knotted rugs do not have any backing.
Instead, the design will appear the same on either side of the rug.
Since hand-knotted rugs and carpets do not have binding at their ends, they usually have fringes.
These original, hand-produced carpets exhibit the superior quality required to craft them.
They also have superior value.
Different Materials And Processes
With that said, however, there are distinctions within the family of hand-knotted rugs.
Some may use wool of poorer quality or that is highly processed in their carpets.
Others may incorporate what is known as a “Jufti” knot, sometimes called a false knot.
This cost-cutting measure lowers the quality of these hand-knotted rugs.
If a rug maker is willing to invest more than 1.5 million hand-knots to create a carpet that measures 9 feet by 12 feet to set the tone in the center of the living room, that signature piece probably took at least 1,500 hours to create.
Imagine what a person might pay for a highly-qualified mechanic to work on a car for only 15 hours.
For a tradesperson to do intricate woodwork could take 150 hours while renovating an older home.
Now we can do the math and understand the time and cost involved with a high-quality hand-knotted rug that has a beautiful pattern.
Now we can also understand why mom often reminds the kids to take off their dirty shoes and leave them by the door.
These rugs are a visual extension of the craft, talent, and personality of those who designed and created them.
They are handmade heirloom-quality pieces, without a backing, that took a long time to make.
7. Cost Of Hand-Tufted Rugs
Another type of rug that requires a lot of human involvement is known as a hand-tufted rug.
These rugs are created through a weaving process that combines the handiwork of a human with the presence of a mechanized tool.
On the spectrum between fully handmade and totally mechanized, think of these hand-tufted rugs occupying space somewhere in the middle.
Usually made from wool, hand-tufted rugs have a different manufacturing process than those that are hand-knotted.
Since much human intervention is required, they do cost more than the typical mass-produced, machine-created rug.
Hand-tufted rugs are created atop a canvas that is stretched as it occupies a frame.
Strands of wool are punched into this canvas by workers who use a hand-operated tool.
This requires less skill and creativity than the hand-knotting process.
A hand-tufted rug does have a backing in place, often glued to the back, as well as fringe elements that are usually sewed or glued to keep them in place.
Think about the artist who designs a beautiful painting, spending hours creating the perfect ripple effect of the water on the canvas.
Compare that to a person who paints a similar image using paint-by-numbers to get the right shade of blue in the water.
They may represent a similar landscape, but there is a noticeable difference in quality.
Similarly, hand-tufted carpets may have an elegant design and very fine details, but they will never attain the same level of heirloom status as their hand-knotted carpet cousins.
Nevertheless, these less-expensive alternatives may still possess great beauty and create an appealing addition to a home’s interior decor.
8. Ethics And Corporate Social Responsibility
Another important factor in determining the cost of a carpet involves the method of production.
This factor does not necessarily involve whether the carpet was made with hand-knotted detail, the hand-tufted effort by people and machines, or with a machine operated by workers.
This cost involves the type of human labor used to create the carpet.
A talented person who takes hundreds of hours to design and create a carpet comes at one cost.
A factory that uses child laborers or other poorly paid workers to manufacture carpets comes at a different and more ethically problematic cost.
Regardless of their quality, carpets produced by children or other unwilling laborers originate from a place with an unethical and very problematic work environment.
Rugs made in faraway factories that use child laborers may have a cheaper price tag today.
However, the ethics behind their design and manufacture carry a much higher human price.
Those who wish to buy a rug while also expecting the business behind its manufacturing to exercise proper ethics and exhibit corporate social responsibility can look for GoodWeave certification.
Rugs that are GoodWeave certified were manufactured without any forced, bonded, or child labor involved in the entire process.
GoodWeave certification standards support better work opportunities for the adults who manufacture the rugs, as well as educational programs for children in the community where the factories operate.
In order to obtain a GoodWeave label, an item must be produced that meets three very specific criteria.
The facility where it was created did not employ any child laborers.
The facility also did not have any forced or bonded labor, meaning that people were not forced to work in a state of servitude or without fair compensation.
Finally, these conditions require occasional visits to verify and document the working conditions at the factory where the items are manufactured.
GoodWeave representatives ensure the integrity of products and the ethical nature of the labor involved in their creation by making regular, unannounced visits and thorough inspections of the production facilities.
In many locations, these inspections do not occur just at a large box factory.
They also take place in areas where outsourced workers participate in aspects of manufacturing the rugs, including homes.
The GoodWeave label represents more than that children and people under bondage are not exploited.
These facilities also require rug producers to pass an annual performance audit.
9. Size Of Rug
As previously mentioned, larger rugs take more time to produce.
This reason is fairly obvious and applicable to why many different types of consumer goods and products are more expensive if they are larger in size or quantity.
The price difference becomes especially noticeable with rugs produced in traditional ways.
Hand-spun fibers carefully brought together through the tireless efforts of a hand-knotting craftsperson cost a small fortune for a small rug.
This becomes a substantially larger fortune as the rug’s size increases.
10. Age And Origin
Older rugs, especially if carefully maintained, escalate in value.
A 17th-century rug commanded $33.7 million at a 2013 auction at Sotheby’s.
While this was the top price, many smaller rugs have values that outpace their size.
Traditional Oriental, Persian, and Turkish hand-knotted rugs are very expensive.
This is especially true if the rug was hand-knotted by an artisan rather than factory-made.