Carpets, magic or otherwise, have been around at least 2,500 years, with one found in an ancient Scythian tomb in Siberia, according to "Antiques Roadshow Primer" by Carol Prisant (Workman Publishing, New York, 1999, $19.95).
How do you judge quality? Here are some tips:
* Machine or handmade: If the fringe around the edges is sewn on, the rug is usually made by a machine. In a hand-knotted rug, the fringe is the foundation upon which the weavers tie knots and create the rug. Handmade is more desirable and more expensive, unless the machine-made rug has been custom ordered to create a specific design.
* Materials: The best rugs are made from high-quality wool and silk. Good wool is fine and shiny; poor quality is harsh and coarse, and it lacks luster. Rugs made from other materials are not as valuable because they do not last as long.
* Knot count: The higher number of knots per square inch usually indicates the design is more refined. Because more knots require more time and work, these rugs are usually more valuable.
The quality of the rugs is also determined by the fineness of the knots. The finer the knot, the more realistic the design. Coarse Turkish rugs may have as few as 400 knots, whereas fine Persian or Indian rugs might have many thousands.
It is important to measure the knot count at the center of the rug, since many weavers increase the knot count at the edges to fool shoppers.
* Colors: Color is the most important factor in the assessment of any rug. The best colors are achieved using natural vegetable and insect dyes. The more complicated the use of color, the more valuable a rug.
In general, 13 colors or more are considered good, with 20 or more rated as excellent. But a design that has intricate patterns created with color can be more valuable than one with more colors but less detail.
* Weight: "Heavy" does not necessarily mean quality. The value of a hand-made rug is in quality materials and workmanship, not weight.