How to Determine if an Oriental Rug is a Fake

Buying an oriental rug can be a big investment. Because each rug is made by hand, each oriental rugs is unique and considered one of a kind. So how can you tell the value of the rug and what it is worth? As someone once described, an oriental rug is worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it.

For us at Kashian Bros, we don’t sell oriental rugs, but we do clean them. We are often placed in a position where we have to tell a customer that the rug they thought was a silk rug, turns out to be a fake. The fiber is mercerized cotton or a manufactured fiber like rayon. While the rugs made with these non-silk fibers may initially have a beautiful, soft texture and a lovely sheen, they will not wear the same or clean the same as a true silk rug.

After a rug made with mercerized cotton or rayon is walked on, the fiber will lay down flat. It will start to clump together and will lose its vibrant sheen. It may start to look like it’s dirty, even though it was just cleaned.

One method for identifying if the rug is silk is to clip off a loose fiber from the rug and burn it. When a silk fiber burns, it will curl up and will leave a hard, black ash. The smoke will also smell similar to burning hair.

If you burn a piece of mercerized cotton (also known as refurbished cotton), the fiber will turn into black ash. The ash will be loose and flakey, not hard like the silk ash. The burned fiber will smell more like burning paper.

Another method for testing silk is to rub the fiber with your finger. Silk will stay cool to the touch when you rub it and mercerized cotton will feel warm when you rub it. This one can be tricky though as it can be difficult to discern a reliable difference. It is best to try this if you have a known silk rug and a suspected mercerized cotton rug next to each other so that you can try both at the same time.

Below are some photos of a rug that we came across that had silk fringe. However, upon further inspection, we noticed that the fringe was woven into the rug in the selvage to make it appear as though then entire rug was make of silk. While the knot count was very tight and the fringe was silk, the body was nonetheless made of mercerized cotton. You can see the difference in color between the two materials.

Silk fringe with cotton selvage. Notice the color difference and difference in sheen level.

Real or Fake Rug 1

In this photo, you can see that the material is worn. A silk rug would have a much more defined, clear pattern.

Real or Fake Rug 2

Have a question about your area rug? Contact us today.

Posted February 18, 2015
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