Persian Rugs Vs. Oriental Rugs: What Are The Major Differences?

Jessica Stone
by Jessica Stone

Although technically incorrect, many use the terms “Persian rug” and “Oriental rug” interchangeably. To truly understand hand-knotted area rugs, it’s important that you know the difference between the two. Put simply, Persian rugs are Oriental rugs, but not all Oriental rugs are Persian. Confused yet?

Oriental rugs are essentially a broad category of rugs that consist of any hand-knotted rug that was made in Asia. Persian rugs, on the other hand, fall under the classification of Oriental rugs and are specifically made in Persia – or modern-day Iran. Since Persian rugs are a very famous, traditional type of hand-knotted rug, they are given their own unique distinction.

With that said, the differences between Oriental rugs and Persian rugs are incredibly vast. Both are unique, visually appealing, and display skilled craftsmanship in their own way. Continue reading to gain a more comprehensive understanding of Persian rugs vs. Oriental rugs.

Do You Need an Interior Decorator?

Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.

What is an Oriental Rug?

Essentially, an oriental rug is any rug that was hand-knotted in an Asian country. These rugs typically hail from China, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Pakistan, India, and Tibet. China’s carpet-weaving cultural history is a century’s long and once they became an exporter, they’ve been one of the top sources of oriental rugs in the world. Though, it wasn’t until recently that China’s rugs were discovered by the rest of the world, which altered the manufacturing process. Nowadays, oriental rugs are produced faster and more affordably so that Chinese oriental rugs can reach consumers all across the globe.

All oriental rugs are handwoven using a loom, knotting strings of yarn to form the weave and create an elaborate design. Most oriental rugs use the symmetrical Turkish, or Ghiordes, Knot in the manufacturing process. Although modern technology has transformed the process of making and dying yarn into largely mechanical, oriental rugs are still hand woven and knotted.

Because of the attention to detail and labor-intensive nature, oriental rugs are incredibly valuable and rare. Each rug is unique and takes countless hours of hard work with human hands to create. Most oriental rugs are made out of wool, while silk and bamboo may also be used in some situations. They are often embellished with designs and symbols that reflect the cultures of where they are made.

What is a Persian Rug?

Persian rugs are hand-knotted carpets that are made in Iran. Since these rugs are very popular and have many characteristic features, they are given their own distinction under the umbrella of oriental rugs. Handweaving was originally invented in Persia, and it is still done very traditionally. The techniques are passed down through the generations, with many dating back several centuries.

Cities and regions in Iran even have their own techniques and styles with comparatively long histories. Some Persian rugs are named after the tribe, city, or region that they come from. For this reason, you can tell a lot about a Persian rug by examining the pattern and way that it was weaved. These rugs are often highly sought after for their quality, intricacy, and high knot count – with some as many as 500 knots per square inch. In fact, some of the most detailed rug designs come from Persia.

Persian Rugs vs. Oriental Rugs

Both Oriental rugs and Persian rugs are the most valuable and popular types of rugs in the world, with their ancient, elaborate designs, incredible durability, natural wool fibers, and impeccable craftsmanship. Oftentimes, it can be challenging to tell the difference between Oriental rugs and Persian rugs. However, that’s where we come in!

Country of Origin

The main difference between Persian and Oriental rugs has to do with the country that they are made in. As previously mentioned, oriental rugs are composed of rugs that are hand-weaved all over Asia, including Turkey, China, Iran, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and more.

By contrast, Persian rugs are made exclusively in Persia – which is now present-day Iran. Like oriental rugs, Persian rugs can be broken down further into a number of subcategories. Some of the many types of Persian rugs include Hamedan, Isfahan, Heriz, Kazvin, and Karaja rugs.

Rug Materials

Both Oriental and Persian rugs are commonly made with wool, but silk, cotton, and even goat hair are other materials that are often used depending on where they are woven.

For instance, a Persian rug made in the Hamden region of Iran may be constructed with a wool pile and a cotton foundation. Whereas, an Oriental rug made in Afghanistan may feature a wool pile on a wool foundation, with goat hair to help fasten the edges together.


Another key difference between Persian and oriental rugs is the knot that is used to weave them. Traditional Persian and oriental rugs are hand-knotted on looms, using either the Turkish (Ghiordes) knot or the Persian Knot. Oriental rugs are usually made with the symmetrical Turkish knot, which is very common in Turkey, and the Kurdish regions of Iran.

In most cases, Persian rugs are hand-knotted using the asymmetrical Persian, or Senneh, knot. Though, this knot has been used for thousands of years in India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, and China. Rugs that are made using the Persian knot often come out more symmetrical and detailed in design.


Historically speaking, Persian rugs are often considered to the highest-quality type of Oriental rug there is. In particular, those from the Arak and Isfahan regions of Iran are the best quality. However, nowadays, we can appreciate the countless types of authentic oriental rugs, which have their own individual qualities.


Persian rugs are well-known for their intricate designs. Two of the most common designs include the central medallion and the all-over patterns. The central medallion pattern features a circular or oval design in the center, which is often geometric in shape. Whereas, the all-over pattern refers to a repeating floral or geometric pattern that repeats throughout the rug design. The specific design of a Persian rug will depend on where it as woven in Iran.

Although there are numerous Persian rug designs, there are many more designs when you consider all the types of oriental rugs out there. An oriental rug’s design will typically reflect the culture in which it was woven – particularly the specific culture of the weaver.

Oftentimes, oriental rugs have similar patterns as Persian rugs but with a bit of twist. You’ll usually see flora and fauna themes, with a more curved line quality than Persian rugs. They commonly feature landscape designs with fields, trees, mountains, and lakes. Most oriental rugs will also use contrasting colors to add texture, while some designs may be raised to produce a three-dimensional effect.

Care and Cleaning Tips for Persian and Oriental Rugs

Whether your rug is considered Persian or Oriental, it’s important that you clean it periodically to extend its life and maintain the vibrant colors. These rugs are investments that will increase value over time, necessitating that they should be handled with care. Here are some general tips for cleaning and caring for Persian and oriental rugs:

  • Rotate your rugs often. Hand-knotted rugs will natural wear over time with use. You should flip and turn these rugs on a regular basis to ensure that they wear evenly. That way, you’re not exposing the same parts of the rug to higher levels of foot traffic.
  • Avoid direct sunlight. Sunlight is the worst thing for hand-knotted rugs. When exposed to excessive sunlight, these rugs will fade and the oils in the fibers can become dried out. This causes the rug to be more brittle and susceptible to damage. If your rugs see any amount of sunlight, monitor them frequently to catch damage early.
  • Frequent, gentle cleaning is a must. Persian and oriental rugs should be vacuumed frequently, with suction only. Do not use any roller brushes, as they can cause damage to the rug and pull out the fibers. Giving the rug a gently sweep can also remove lodged dust and debris. Though, you should never shake or beat an oriental or Persian rug.
  • Protect these rugs in storage. When rugs are in use, moths are seldom a concern. However, when you’re storing a Persian or oriental rug, you’ll want to take the necessary precautions to ensure it is protected from damage caused by moths. Before storing, you should clean the rug and roll it with moth balls. Then, double or triple bag the rug in bags and seal it tight. This will prevent moths from entering the rug and also kill any moth larvae that may already be present.

Do You Need an Interior Decorator?

Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.

Final Thoughts

If you take anything away from this article, it’s this: All Persian rugs are Oriental rugs, but not all Oriental rugs are Persian rugs. Persia, which is now modern-day Iran, is one of many Oriental countries. This means that all rugs made here are Oriental rugs. Though, rugs that are made in other Oriental countries (aside from Iran) are also grouped into the category of Oriental rugs.

When you’re out searching for the perfect hand-woven rug for your living space, make sure you clarify whether you’re looking for any type of Oriental rug, or specifically a Persian rug.

Jessica Stone
Jessica Stone

Jessica considers herself a home improvement and design enthusiast. She grew up surrounded by constant home improvement projects and owes most of what she knows to helping her dad renovate her childhood home. Being a Los Angeles resident, Jessica spends a lot of her time looking for her next DIY project and sharing her love for home design.

More by Jessica Stone