Rugs have been a sign of luxury for centuries, and today the fine rug market boasts some incredible prices. While carpets may be desired for their beautiful designs, rugs that hold some of the highest prices also offer some history. One of the features high end rugs offer is a hand made touch, and unique design. In addition rugs have that niche collector market, where price doesn’t stand in the way of a buyer and their floor (or wall) piece.
Experts believe that knotted pile carpets originated in West Asia, and are likely to have been first created around three or four thousand years ago. The Pazyryk Rug is considered to be the world’s oldest surviving rug, and it is guessed to have been produced fourth or fifth century BC. The colorful, griffin bordered rug was found at a Pazyryk burial site in Siberia and is assumed to be of Urartian origin.
Nations in Asia and the Middle East like India, Afghanistan, and China are known for their unique floor pieces, however Turkish rugs are arguably the most renowned and sought after rugs when it comes to the high end market. Rugs are a part of Turkey’s history, and were often used on not only the floors but also the walls of tents and houses to provide warmth. Since the times of the The Renaissance, Turkish Rugs have been a sign of wealth and luxury and today the price tags of some Turkish rugs might justify that to be a standard. That being said, it doesn’t have to be Turkish to be expensive, and Persian rugs have proven to be some of the most desired rugs by rug collectors.
A rug’s pile can be woven, knotted, tufted or other methods may be employed to produce beautiful and unique designs. Regardless of what technique is used, rug collectors are often after more than just a design but also a piece of history. Evidently, on top of being one of a kind pieces, expensive rugs often come bundled with a little history.
10. Isfahan Rug – $116,500
This very detailed rug features red and blue intricate designs all over. From its patterns in the centre to its very unique vinery design mini border, this rug is a rare gem. Selling at Christie’s in 2008, this 16th century rug measures in at 16-foot-1-inches by 6-foot-11-inches. This rug comes with an added touch of history as it was originally owned by tobacco and electric power industrialist James B. Duke.
9. Small Medallion Ushak Rug – $158,000
Sporting some dark and rich colours, this 16th century piece is of Anatolian origin and is in excellent condition considering its age. This rug is a bit smaller than many of the other rugs on this list and it measures in at 4-feet-10-inches by 3-feet-11-inches and was sold at Christie’s auction for much more than its estimated price of $40,000 to $60,000. With a classic medallion in the centre, this small rug was most likely first used as a prayer rug for Muslims.
8. Ziegler Mahal Rug – $170,000
This piece, albeit not in the greatest condition, gave buyers a shock when it sold for more than six times its estimated selling price. Measuring in at 24-feet by 17-feet, this piece features some large designs to compliment its large canvas. At roughly 416 square feet, that’s $409.86 per square foot. Despite its many holes and tears, rugs with damage like this can be repaired. An origin date could not be found for this rug of Central Persia.
7. Tabriz Carpet – $182,500
Trabiz has a reputation for hosting some of the oldest rug weaving centres in the world. These carpets are known for their colourful designs and medallion accents. This Tabriz Carpet sports much darker colours than is typical and was sold by Sotheby’s. This piece is quite large measuring in at 19-feet-10-inches by 13-feet-3inches, and its size was a contributing factor when it came to the price. This late 18th century rug was estimated to sell for somewhere between $150,000 and $200,000 and the final hammer price proved to be just that.
6. Ziegler Mahal Carpet – $182,500
Zieglar is a company that essentially imports Persian rugs, and they are known for having much control of the looms in Iran. In June 2008, a Ziegler Mahal carpet went for $182,500. Boasting some bright brown and blue designs, this piece was produced sometime in the early 1900’s. Measuring in at 18-feet-6-inches by 10-feet-9-inches and sporting an excellent condition this piece was sold by Sotheby’s in 2008.
5. Persian Trabiz Medallion Carpet – $2.4 Million
This 16th century rug is from North West Persia and broke the record for most expensive rug in world (that title was merely temporary), and measuring in at 21-feet-8-inches by 11-feet-9-inches, it is huge compared to most of the carpets on this list. The piece is named after the capital city East Azarbaijan Province of Iran known as Trabiz. As mentioned before, Tabriz rugs are known for their medallions and are a feature that makes these rugs well sought after.
4. Silk Isfahan Rug – $4.45 Million
When this Persian rug was sold in 2008, it was the most expensive in the world and evidently it was a trend setter for the following years. The 16th century rug is from central Persia. With limited use of red, green and blue, this rug measures in at 7-feet-7-inches by 5-feet-7-inches. This piece was sold at Chirstie’s auction and like its Persian successors, it sold for much more than anticipated, with an estimated cost of somewhere between $1 million and $1.5 million.
3. Pearl Carpet of Baroda – $5.5 Million
Nothing says luxury like gems and pearls, and this Indian rug proved that when it sold to an unknown buyer in 2009 at a Sotheby’s auction for $5.5 million. The 5-foot-8-inch by 8-foot-8-inch carpet features over a million Basra seed pearls, and according to Sotheby’s was commissioned for the Maharajah of what used to be the Indian state of Baroda, and might have been a gift for the tomb of the prophet Mohammed.
2. The Kirman Vase Carpet – $10.2 Million
It was in 2010 that this 17th century Persian rug broke the record for most expensive rug ever sold, selling to an unknown buyer for $10.2 million dollars. The rug measures in at 11-feet by 5-feet and was produced in the city of Kirman in Iran, an area known for it’s rug designers. Before the big sale, this rug was only estimated to bring in approximately £200,000, a far-cry compared to what it eventually sold for.
1. The Clark Sickle-Leaf Carpet – $33.7 Million
Last June, this 17th century rug was purchased for $33.7 million at Sotheby’s (a New York auction), that’s roughly three times more than our runner up and roughly six times more than it was estimated to go for. This piece is believed to be a product of Kirman, an area of Persia famous for its talented rug designers and history in rug making. Measured at approximately 8-feet-9-inches by 6-feet-5-inches. this isn’t just a rug, but also an antique. Considering the price it sold for, everyone can agree – this piece is a work of art that probably won’t be seeing the bottom of a foot anytime soon.
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