Are most hand-knotted rugs a rip off?

beckyg75April 23, 2012

Please help us understand the rug industry. We are very perplexed.

All the rug and home stores we have visited seem to be playing a ridiculous game of "hide the real price" - even Bloomingdale's!

We are looking for an 8x10 and 9x12 - we would like a hand-knotted or hand-tufted rug in wool or wool and silk or wool and viscose.

Some of the rugs have price tags of $20k and up, but then the salesperson whips out a calculator and in their magic "sale" takes off 75% (this also happened at Bloomies.) My husband and I, who don't enjoy haggling or playing games, were incredulous.

Can someone please enlighten us as to what price we should try to get these sales people to for the following categories? e.g. $50 per square foot, for example

150 knots per square inch - 100% wool - hand-knotted in Nepal

150 knots per square inch - 90% wool/10% silk - hand-knotted in India

100 knots per square inch - 50% wool and 50% silk - hand-knotted in Nepal

If it helps, none of the rugs we are looking at feature complex patterns. We want a more contemporary rug, and neutral colors, so most of the rugs we liked had 2 or 3 or 4 colors maximum.

All of these rugs are new manufacture - not antique or rare or one of a kind.


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wondering the same thing myself. Granted everyone must make a profit, but most rugs are not worth what stores are asking. Saw a rug on ebay I liked offered $999, guy has it listed for $2,300, but will take $1,700 he said (he keeps relisting it with no takers).

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 8:34PM
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Prices seem amazingly fungible, definitely. There used to be a professional, knowledgeable rug person who frequented this forum -- now maybe you can find her at atticmag?

Yep here she is : )

Here is a link that might be useful: hope the link works...Jane is a dear

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 9:57PM
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To give you an idea of the markups. About 12 years ago I was in the market for a new rug for my dining room and I tried to learn as much as I could by going to rug stores and doing lots of reading. Didn't help too much!

I found the perfect rug, about 8x10, wool, hand-knotted in Pakistan. The store in Mass was large and expensive. They said the rug was $15k and the special sale was $8K. We had just bought a house and I didn't want to spend as much, but the rug was perfect. My mother had a friend in another state married to a rug dealer and she suggested I give him a call. I had brought the rug home for a trial so I was able to photograph it and copy all the details.

My mother's friend was able to get a rug from the same area.It wasn't identical as they are hand made, but it was close to 99% . He said his store price would have been around $4,500 and I could have it for $3,800. Huge variations in price for a rug from the same area/distributor.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 10:51PM
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Kind of off the subject, but I think it's the same thing in clothing stores with their "fake" sales. A shirt will have a tag for $60 and then you have to look at the sign over the rack that shows you the sale price of $20. Well, it was never worth $60! It was a $20 shirt to begin with! It's all about making you think you are getting a, rugs, groceries, cars, etc., when you really are paying full cost. I guess this is one reason I hate shopping for anything.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 11:03PM
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Wow, chispa, yay for you that you got such a great deal - that is a huge savings.

I kind of suspected the markup is enormous. What bothers me is the salespeople pushing them as though they are collectible and will go up in value, but that is NOT the kind of rugs we are looking at or even want.

I can see on Craigslist lots of the more expensive and rarer rugs that people want to sell b/c they are moving and they are forced to dump them at a fraction of the original price. Unfortunately, the ones for sale used are mostly traditional and multi-colored and very ornate, whereas we just want a quiet, neutral rug with maybe a modern subtle design, tone on tone.

flyleft, I wrote to Jane - told her about this posting and sent her the link - let's hope she or another expert weighs in!

I also am not at all opposed to people making a profit - they have overhead and insurance and taxes, etc., but I do not want to be "ripped off" and of course, want the best we can afford!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 10:35AM
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I'm not a big fan of rug shopping at Bloomies or Macys. It's worse than buying a car or mattress. 100 kpsi isn't a count that would be worth $4,000+ imo and rugs from India are usually thinner.
I've had luck with a dealer on Ebay who has a store in New York. There are others like him and have 100% customer ratings. There are many pics of the rugs and one of the underside with a ruler so you can figure out kpsi. You can also talk with the owner on the phone. They have some contemporary rugs, too.
I am not affiliated with them in any way.

Here is a link that might be useful: rug store

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 10:42AM
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The main thing is to find a reputable store or rug dealer that you can trust. You will need to visit all the rug dealers within 30 miles of your home and get a feel for which ones you can trust.

Beckyg, what state are you in? Maybe some of us here can recommend a rug dealer you could check out.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 12:01PM
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francypants, interesting link - will look at the inventory in more detail when I have time later tonight.

Chispa, I'm in NYC. Have visited ABC Carpet and Home, Bloomies (was there for something else, and looked at the rugs on a whim, and they do have some nice ones but the prices were too high for the quality), also went to a few neighborhood places and some furniture stores and to Safavieh.

Where else should I be looking?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 2:53PM
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Beckyg, you are in luck! My mother's friend's stores are in NJ. Have to go get the kids, but will try to dig out the info on him ... it was about 12 years ago! In any case, my Mom will have the name of the family.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 5:58PM
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Ok, it was nine years ago and I found the receipt! The store is PTK Oriental Rug Center in Millburn, NJ. My mom's friend was/is married to the owner Jafar Tabib. It has been a long time since I did business with him, but might be worth a call to see if they have the types of rugs you are looking for.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 6:54PM
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A rig purchase can be a daunting task. Agree with e poster who recommended a reputable dealer.

We chose safavieh and have made several purchases over the yrs from them

Good luck

Here is a link that might be useful: Safavieh

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 10:36PM
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When buying rugs, the important thing is to make sure you are allowed to bring them home and try them in your rooms with no obligation to buy. You will discover things look different at home than in the store. There is a store called The Dump (horrible name, I know) that has wonderful prices but everything is final sale, no in home viewing and I won't buy there because I KNOW from experience that you can't judge a rug by it's appearance in the store. A retailer can take an imprint of your credit card without running it through and give you a few days to live with a piece. I also have to say that that PTK has many locations and I've never been to the Millburn store, but I have been to other PTK locations and I was never impressed with their selection or their prices. I have probably bought half a dozen handmade rugs for my home over the years. My taste runs to the antique Persian rugs. A good quality handmade rug will last a long time and will withstand all kinds of abuses which is why I love them. They have so much character and artistry. It's just important to really educate your eye , shop at as many places as possible, and try out as many rugs as you can in your home before making a decision. I don't care what people say about a rugs investment value. Odds are you will NEVER recoup your money, however there are some dealers that will allow you to trade in your rug for what you paid for it and "trade up" to another rug (you pay the difference obviously) if your tastes change. It's worth enquiring about.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 12:04AM
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jejvtr, your suggestion of Safavieh is a winner. I live in the Wash, DC area and will look them up.

If I wanted a Persian rug I would take a friend from Iran with me. I know, Becky, that you are not looking for that kind of rug but Safavieh has many different rugs and maybe there is a place near you. I would check it out.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 2:08AM
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Hi Chispa, thanks I will check out PTK - it is less than an hour from us it appears. Will call first to see if they have "modern" oriental rugs.

I did visit Safavieh in NYC (they have several locations, I went to the flagship) and they had some gorgeous rugs, but again, it wasn't obvious to me how they got priced.

It is a good idea to see a rug in the room - I know our furniture sure looked different when we changed the paint color.

My original question was looking for some hard metrics - e.g. how much per square foot for different materials.
Well, through a LOT of googling, I found this place that lists that info - don't know if the prices or quality is good, and I would be scared to order from the internet sight-unseen, but the amounts listed are interesting:

e.g. Price for different knot counts/material �

Wool 60 Knots - $43.50 per Sq. Ft.
Wool 70 Knots - $49.50 per Sq. Ft.
Wool 100 Knots - $58.00 per Sq Ft.
Wool and Silk 100 knots (Wool and Silk 100 knots (>43% silk) - $80.00 per Sq. Ft.
Wool and Silk 150 knots (Wool and Silk 150 knots (>43% silk) - $90.00 per Sq. Ft.
100% Silk 100 Knots - $120 per Sq. Ft.

At least I can keep those numbers in mind while shopping. I would love to do better than these, b/c they are a bit out of our range!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 12:57PM
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beckyg, it is hard to price and hard to compare from store to store, unless you have the actual rugs in front of you. I'm not sure you can price per square foot ... only if you are an expert and know what else to look for. Different grades of wool/silk, type of backing, dyes, etc.

I recently saw a rug at the local to-the-trade design center. The rug of my dreams! It turned out to be an antique and priced at $95,000. Not sure the sq.ft prices apply! You need to find a dealer/owner you trust, so you can pay a fair price for the product.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 2:23PM
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Haha, totally agree with you, but we are looking for new, modern, and something that dogs and kids and guests can trample on without us gasping. That's why I was excited to find that website. DH and I like to know some rough #s going into things.

We figured a wool rug would hold up well, plus we like that wool is a natural fiber, and can be cleaned by a normal vacuuming and regular washing by a pro.

I did read on another website to make sure the wool is "live" - i.e. sheared from a live animal, vs. taken from a dead one, as the live wool is much softer (maybe due to lanolin? it didn't say) and lasts longer and sheds less.

I am still gathering facts. We may hire a decorator at some point, b/c it would be nice to see to the trade stuff, as you mentioned.

I think our budget of about $5k for one rug (either 8.5x11 or 9x12) and $3k for the other rug in our bedroom is not really able to go up, so we just want the very best for that price.

We will probably donate/sell for a big loss these rugs in about 7-10 years, so it just doesn't make sense for us to overspend.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 4:17PM
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Disclaimer: Not an expert. But we did visit Nepal and purchase carpets there.

The knots per inch may be some what misleading as it depends on the fiber that is used. With a silk rug, you would expect and want a higher knot count as the threads are finer. Also, rugs from different countries/areas will cost more or less. So, when we were in Nepal, we paid more for Tibetan carpets than we did for a Nepali carpet. There are also differences in dyes with natural dyes usually commanding higher prices than synthetic. Even among wool carpets, there may be differences in price for different types of wool. Again in Nepal, there were yak wool carpets and sheep wool carpets. In most countries there are also carpets made for the tourists. I would not feel comfortable purchasing a carpet I had not seen in person and looked at the backside.

I guess my point is that buying a carpet is not so formulaic as you may want it to be. Study up on gauging quality and then when you find something you like, decide whether or not it is being sold at a price you can afford.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 7:26PM
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Beckyg, if you go to a reasonable store/dealer you should be able to get a very nice 9x12 for around $5k. You can't go wrong with wool. I've had a few of my rugs for 10 years and they have done well with kids. My oldest DS was a spitter (projectile!) and the rugs cleaned up well.

I found a trusted dealer near our new home and he had lots of nice rugs in the $4-6k range. I felt bad I ended up buying from the to-the-trade guy, but I had picked out other fnishes for the room and he had a rug that worked perfectly ... at twice the cost, but the colors are perfect, so we went for it.

As far as the Design Centers, I have mixed feelings. I have what I would consider a healthy budget and I feel like I can't afford anything there. The upholstered kitchen chairs my designer pointed out came in around $2,500 each ... I could write the check, but why, they were just upholstered chairs! There seems to be a price/quality gap between mass market furniture and to-the-trade stuff. One is too cheap and the other too expensive. Getting off my soapbox now!!!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 7:48PM
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Hi again, sorry for the long delay but life has been hectic and we have not had a chance to pursue the rug search over the past few weekends.

However, Jane T. from Attic Mag sent me a very helpful email, and with her permission I am reposting part of it below.

"Tufted rugs: always, always smell the backside of the rug. There are varying qualities of tufted rugs. They used to be considered the lowest grade of rug made but some of the designers have brought the quality up. I wrote an article for Atticmag titled "Sniff Test For Tufted Rugs" - if you haven't already seen it, it may be useful.

Stick with 100% wool if you can. It will be the most resilient. Silk in very low amounts (like your 10%) is ok as it can add some sparkle to the rug but silk rugs in general are not good wearing rugs. Best for the wall.

As my business is cleaning and restoration, I base a good portion of my opinion on quality and how well the rug holds up to a good cleaning. We are seeing a number of hand-knotted Tibetan rugs lately and I am really impressed with their quality and how beautifully they wash up. Maintenance is a very important yet often overlooked factor in purchasing a rug. If the fiber and/or dyes are not good, you will be disappointed down the road."

It's me, Becky, again. The link to her article, which is very interesting and worthwhile reading, is

Hope others have found this useful!

Here is a link that might be useful: Sniff test for tufted rugs

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 10:45PM
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Just a warning. One should not buy silk rugs for high traffic areas. They will not hold up. 150 knots per square inch is what I look for.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 11:03PM
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I knew even before I read the linked article what it was going to say :-)

We purchased an inexpensive runner to go in the library hall as it ends in a door to the outside we frequently use to take out the trash. This is an involved romp on wet brick, grass, and gravel, so the runner also had to function as a shoe wiping mat, really. We purchased a mid quality tufted rug that looks good and is forgiving of footprints. After 5 years it started out gassing! Our housekeeper thought something was burning and on a wet day I could smell it too. It wasn't that noticeable and after several months it just went away.

My friend in Florida purchased a rug from Ethan Allen that was not inexpensive but certainly was not a fine rug, and it did the same thing a year after they bought it. They actually had an electrician in, and he knew immediately what it was when he walked in the room. They were really angry--- but it did finally cure them of their affinity for Ethan Allen, lol. They could afford anything they wanted but had grown up believing that name represented the best quality from family folklore.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 8:21AM
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hey becky, do you still plan to own hand knotted tibetan rugs?

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 2:29AM
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I have a hand knotted wool rug and it truly has held up so much better than machine made carpets in my home, so the price reflects quality. Considering it takes about an hour to weave one square inch for knotted rugs and do the math based on beckyg's dollar:sq foot, these rugs are still very cheap. In fact, I wonder how anyone could survive as a rug maker.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 12:05PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

For the prices they charge, take a trip to the countries who make them. The vendors follow all tourists around like puppies, in your face, and they all have an "uncle" who sells these wonderful rugs for cheap! AND they serve you tea and figs while you listen to the sales pitch!

Count a little cash with a frown on your face, start walking, and they start sweating! Keep your cash close to your heart in an inside pocket!! Its a fun little game to play, especially if you win!!

Good luck! Happy shopping!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 1:52PM
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