The state of the Persian Rug market post lifting of US sanctions

14 Apr, 2016 – The 2016 Domotext handmade Carpet Fair in Hannover was abuzz with a dawn of a new era for Persian rugs as US sanctions had been lifted; with speculation that the American dealers will be rushing to update their stock after so many years of sanctions. In reality only time will tell if such expectations will materialise.  Yet there are some specific tangible indicators of growing demand. 

New Emerging Market 

In the last decade we have witnessed an astronomical rise in the value of Chinese artefacts and Russian antiquities.  From the 1980’s and well into the 1990’s the demand for Japanese antiques remained persistent. Today if you talk to any leading reputable antique dealer of Persian rugs, they will tell you of a sudden increase in demand and hence prices. Lord Lamont, the newly appointed trade envoy to Iran has called Iran “the world’s biggest emerging market since the collapse of the Soviet Union 25 years ago”.  If the swift growth of demand for high-end Persian rugs is anything to go by then there may be a great deal of truth in that statement.

As a collector and dealer of antique rugs I have many loyal clients around the world.  But I have to admit to have been taken by utter surprise of the growing demand coming from inside Iran. Persian carpets were brought to Europe around the sixteenth century and have since reigned supreme. One of the most talented Old Masters of the 17th Century Sir Anthony van Dyck painted Royalty and aristocrats resplendent against their obligatory Persian carpets, slightly lesser – albeit moneyed – mortals were seen with Turkish rugs.

Today Iranians inside the country are beginning to reassert ownership of national treasures lost long ago to the West. This coupled with move away from the stark minimalism of the last decade and growing demand for rare quality pieces by discerning clients around Europe and especially North America is keeping the antique market buoyant.

The lifting of sanctions is obviously a key factor. But there are other salient influences that cannot be ignored. Tastes are changing and our interior-designer clients are increasingly after rare antique and vintage multihued pieces. The vibrant rugs we have supplied for fashion shoots or even London Fashion Week were last deemed stylish in the 1960s and 70s. For the last two decades we have successfully produced minimalist rugs for many leading stores such as the Conran Store, Liberty and John Lewis. The sale of such production goods in contrast is fast diminishing. Irrespective of sanctions, demand and prices for certain goods go up and they can also simply go down due to the changes in consumer tastes.  

Increasing Rarity 

Still many have attributed the rise in prices of production and particularly Persian vintage rugs on sanctions. But the reality is that certain good are ever more difficult to source. In the last two decades, the number of Persian weavers has halved to about one million. The artisan weavers of the past are fast disappearing. This is largely due to demographic changes and employment aspirations of an increasingly urbanized society. 71 percent of Iranians live in cities, the population is predominately under thirty, with a literacy rate 93 percent for those aged between 10 and 49. While demand seems to be growing unabated; all these factors are augmenting the rarity values of quality antique and vintage rugs. 

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