An Early 20th century Qum Persian rug 19935-202x140cm

Qum, a dusty city at the desert's edge, is revered by Shias for its holy shrine. The tradition of carpet weaving in the town is relatively new, beginning in the early 20th century, just before World War II, when the popularity of Oriental rugs in the West was at its peak. Nearby centres like Kashan, a significant carpet-producing hub, along with Arak, were overwhelmed by demand. Consequently, merchants from Kashan and Arak established looms in Qum, capitalizing on the presence of weavers already living in the city, drawn by their religious beliefs and the desire to be near the shrine despite the city’s limited water supply and harsh environment.

These weavers, representing various ethnic backgrounds and towns, had a wealth of experience in weaving techniques and traditions. Their presence in Qum and the establishment of workshops by merchants created a unique opportunity to harness this pool of skilled labour. This collaboration marked the beginning of Qum as a new centre for Persian rug weaving, producing some of the finest carpets. The industry was built from the ground up, with merchants hiring designers from across the region to develop specific design styles. These styles, inspired by centuries-old patterns from other cities but with a unique touch of finesse, set Qum's carpets apart.

Over the past four decades, the domestic market's strong demand for fine rugs has driven weavers to produce superfine silk carpets. Today, Qum rugs are celebrated for their exceptional quality, often featuring over a million knots per square meter in silk.

Earlier examples, like the rug presented here, are generally made with quality wool and natural dyes. This rug’s pattern, inspired by the tribal Bakhtiaru rugs and modified to fit the fine city weave and the rust hue acquired from madder roots, adds an astonishing charm to this tastefully woven piece.