Herat Antique Oriental Rugs

Restoration:  How Much Is Too Much?

The words ‘repair’ and ‘restoration’ are frequently used interchangeably.  And, at times, one may both repair and restore a rug.  But let’s keep it simple. For the purpose of what follows, restoration is what’s done when areas of a rug (or other weaving) have low pile or no pile.  Where, visually, there is a need to ‘fill-in’ or re-create that which is now missing or damaged.

There is a short check list of factors to recognize and evaluate. Ideally, this evaluation should be done prior to acquiring a rug.  It should, in fact, be a standard part of the decision making process when deciding whether to buy a rug.

If you already have acquired the rug, any decision to have restoration done to the rug should use the same factors. First, you need to decide whether anything should be done or should it be left in ‘as found’ condition?  And, if work is to be done, how much should be done?

An important consideration is cost.  What is it going to cost to restore the rug?

An important and purely subjective factor is one’s visual or aesthetic response to the rug in its less than perfect condition.  Do I like the way it looks?

There is, however, another consideration.  It is very important.  And, it is often overlooked. If work is to be done, how much should be done?  Is it possible to do too much?  How much is too much? And, yes, a rug can be ‘overly restored’.    

At some point an otherwise worthy antique or semi-antique rug can be ‘overly restored’ and as a consequence lose monetary value and its standing as a work of woven art?

Remember, when you buy an antique rug you are also buying authenticity, you have acquired something that was imaginatively and artistically created in another culture at some distant point in time.

I am not suggesting that restoration never be done.  Good quality restoration can enhance both the monetary and visual significance of a rug. I am, however, stating unequivocally that serious thought must be given to the decision to have restoration done and the extent of such work.

So, how much is too much?  Well, like many things in life ‘that depends’. And, I shall write more specifically about this in future articles.

In the end, it takes some experience and good judgment.  But, you need not make this decision alone. I highly recommend getting some input from a trusted dealer, or perhaps an experienced collector and from the person performing the restoration work.

Ultimately, the decision is yours to make but more information is better than less.  Good luck!!

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