Kashan Rugs: A Guide
Some of Iran’s most stunning and popular rugs hail from the city of Kashan. A centre of rug making that marks the midway point in the silk-road between the current capital of Iran, Tehran, and the artistic and historic capital of Persia, Isfahan.
The History of the City of Kashan
Kashan is located in the centre of Iran in the Isfahan province and is one of Iran’s oldest cities. The area was one of the primary seats of pre-historic civilisation, archaeological digs have estimated there to be settlements at Sialk, only 4km from current day Kashan, dating back to 6000BC.
Rugs from Kashan
Beautiful Kashan rugs have been crafted here since the 16th and 17th century, during the Safavieh dynasty, with many scholars believing that some of the smaller silk designs date back to the early 16th century.
Kashan was a holiday retreat for many of the rulers of the Safavid era, benefiting from stunning architecture and the city is renowned for its stunning holiday homes. These architectural masterpieces have served as inspiration for the rugs of Kashan as much as the rugs of Kashan have served as inspiration to the architects and artists of the period.
The rugs made in Kashan are often instantly recognisable and are amongst the most beautiful and famous of all Persian rugs. For many, when they think of a Persian rug, the image they see in their head is that of the traditional Kashan rug with central medallion on a red field with navy and ivory borders.
The rugs are knotted using the Persian (or asymmetrical) knot, tied to stunning regularity on a cotton, or for the finest rugs, silk foundation (warp and weft).
The city of Kashan and its surrounding area is encircled by desert and therefore does not have a good source of local materials; originally Merino wool was imported from Manchester was used to create some of Iran’s finest carpets. In more recent times Kashan rugs have used wool sourced from Sabzevar, which produces some of the very best wool in Iran.
What to Look for in a Kashan Rug?
Kashan rugs are typically high-quality, many incorporating silk into their designs. The foundation tends to be cotton however some of the finest examples may be pure silk. The wool should be soft and the pile tightly and evenly knotted. The knot count (KPSI) can range from 100 to over 800 per square inch for the most majestic and luxurious examples, often found in museums or private collections.
The majority of Kashan carpets today have a similar design with a central medallion and Persian floral motifs, largely incorporating the Shah Abassi motif forming the pattern, however as with most regions, designs can and do vary. Antique Kashan rugs are amongst the most beautiful rugs of Iran with with natural dyes and stunning natural patinas. Popular colours are ivory, red, blue and soft greens. The city is home to the oldest existing garden in Iran, the Fin Garden, and this garden also acts as a muse for many of the city’s designs.