(Posted on 12/11/13)
Discovering exactly when an undated rug was made is almost impossible. However, complete accuracy is not important, as a few years either way make little difference to its value or collectability; placing it in the right quarter of the appropriate century will nearly always suffice. The one exception is when an item is on the borderline between being old and antique. (The definition of antique varies between '100 years old' and 'made before the turn of the century'.) Accurate dating is crucial in these cases because tax regulations in some countries provide exemptions for antiques; these vary from country to country, and advice should be taken locally.
Establishing when a rug was made This is achieved by carefully examining its structure and design, which usually change to some degree with time, and taking into account its general condition and appearance. Dating a rug from its weave and design requires extensive specialist knowledge and can only be undertaken by an expert. The condition and appearance of a rug can be effected by a number of factors other than age, and it is dangerous to jump to the conclusion that something is necessarily old because it is worn and in a poor state of repair. A relatively old rug that has been well looked after may be in far better condition than a newer item that has seen less considerate use, and some contemporary items are deliberately made to look old by the use of chemical washes. A more reliable determinant of age is the way the colour have changed. As a rug gets older the colours become more subdued; this mellowing process is caused by the reaction of the dyes to light, and it can take between 20 and 50 years before the rug reaches what is generally referred to as 'the primary stage of mellowness'. By looking into the pile of a rug and comparing the intensity of colours with those on the surface, you can obtain a rough idea of how far the mellowing process has progressed. This is not exact method as the rare of fading is determined by the length of time the rug has been exposed to the light and by the intensity of the light source. Rugs that have been chemically washed to give the appearance of age normally show the same degree of fading throughout the depth of the pile.