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Definitions May Vary, but What's in a Name Anyway?

April 20, 1991|NANCY JO HILL

What is an Oriental rug?

Webster's dictionary defines it as "a rug of Asiatic origin, either hand-woven or hand-knotted."

But how can that be, if the most prized Oriental rugs of all are from Persia?

Because "Oriental rug" has been a catchall phrase for hundreds of years, according to John Ralls of Johnson-Ralls, a Mission Viejo design firm.

Some dealers say that only rugs from Asia are "Oriental." Some people think a rug must be hand-knotted to be one. Copies of true Oriental rug styles are even made in Bulgaria, Romania and Portugal.

"The rugs which we tend to know, which come from Persia or Caucasian areas (in the Soviet Union), are not, in fact, Oriental. They're more Middle Eastern," Ralls says.

An Oriental rug is any handmade rug of natural fibers "made in the rug-making belt, which starts at the Mediterranean and ends at the Pacific. And that goes up into Russia and down into Egypt," says Lynn Burrows of Aga John, a rug dealer located at Design Center South in Laguna Niguel.

Maybe the definition really doesn't matter. After all, the rugs are so beautiful, who cares what they're called?

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