Buying and selling Oriental carpets is becoming easier and safer than ever before. There are more dealers than in the past, and of these, more who are willing to spend time answering your questions. The veil of mystery has been lifted from these works, what with abundant literature in the bookstores, and public lectures, exhibitions and auctions organised by carpet dealers.

This has come about of a realisation among the trade that better-informed buyers make better and more reasonable customers and caretakers of these carpets. This information-sharing is in the interests of all the parties concerned. And because of the availability of information, it is difficult for purveyors of fake or damaged carpets to remain undiscovered . The market is also experiencing an influx of new carpet dealers because of the growing demand, as evidenced by the number of auctions, exhibitions and lectures being held, and the growing emphasis on tasteful decor. Individuals everywhere have also begun to seek out examples for man's ingenuity in a world of machines and high technology. There can be no better example than the craftsmanship involved in making hand-knotted carpets.

As the competition grows between dealers, better quality is being introduced into the market, and prices are levelling off. This aside, it is wise for you to realise that even armed with extensive knowhow, you will find the buying experience most satisfying if it is based on a relationship of trust between yourself and your dealer. It is important for both parties to identify in each other an appreciation of the product being handled; an appreciation of its origins and craftsmanship; and its value. You as the buyer must be comfortable in describing your needs to the dealers, as well as your budget and personal tastes. It is akin to the relationship between good friends who share a mutual respect. The dealer on his part should convey to you the breadth of choice that is at your disposal. He should advise you to buy only after you have thought about where you plan to use it, the colour of design you want, and your budget. Most dealers will invite you to take a chosen carpet home without obligation where you can see it in your own setting and lighting.

People often tend to be afraid to approach carpet dealers for the first time because it all looks so expensive and out of their range. But this is changing. Carpet dealers are more forthcoming than before because they realise that the more you know, the better your decision is likely to be. In the past, dealers tended to hold information "close to the chest" because they were protective of the industry, and the air of mystery held its own attractiveness. Because of this, it was also easier for unscrupulous dealers to slip through, for instance, selling machine-made as hand-knotted, or Pakistani carpets as Persian ones. The trend was to sell at the highest price with the least information provided.

Today, the selling strategy is different. Dealers tend to be judged (by more informed clients) by the amount of information they are willing to share. The fact that may individuals are now aware that it's more worthwhile to spend S$1500 on a hand-knotted carpet than S$1200 on a machine-made department store variety says a lot. This fits in well with the growing sense of professionalism that's evident in the carpet dealing business.


Carpet auctions are becoming increasingly popular both with dealers and buyer and range from the simple to the stylish. Purists claim that auctions are not the best places to buy carpets because such events are held to get rid of unsaleable or damaged pieces. But this argument usually applies to auctions held by travelling "dealers", that is, dealers who come into town for an auction, and then fly out again, leaving no forwarding address. Quite rightly, a potential buyer should be wary.

But when an established dealer holds an auction, it is quite safe to assume that you will not be led astray, if not because he is a professional, them simply because he cares about his reputation. As to the prices you pay at an auction, just as with any other kind of auction, after a certain value has been set as the opening bid, you pay only as much as you're willing to. Sometimes you may end up paying more than what you would pay if you bought the same carpet at retail. This is because the more interest there is in the carpet, the higher the price goes. On the other hand, of only one bidder is interested in a particular carpet, he's very likely to get it at an attractive price. A lack of interest from the audience may lead to the dealer lowering his starting price, which is otherwise set at the same range as it would fetch at retail. So, sometimes the dealer gains, sometimes they buyer does.

Most dealers would agree that auctions are not guaranteed money-spinners because of this risk factor. By the same token, successful auctions at which a large number of carpets are sold augur well for dealers because it would be impossible to sell the same number of carpets from his retail store within a single day. The overheads of organising and advertising the auction are offset by these "volume" sales.

The aesthetics of an auction are important too. At no other occasion can a prospective buyer enjoy the luxury of examining, and actually feeling such a large number of carpets which include tribal, village and city examples all individually laid out. And at such leisure as well. Granted, the number of carpets at an auction - usually 60 to 100 - is many times smaller than the amount available in a retail store. But can anyone ask to see as many carpets at a store at his leisure without feeling obligated to buy? We strongly believe that even if the prospective buyer at an auction doesn't buy, the experience itself would have been worth his while. He would have learned about the different types available, their origins, and their market values. He would learn that carpets at an auction can be purchased for as little as S$300, and as much as tens of thousands of dollars. In the process, he would also have been able to narrow down his own preferences. Most amusingly, he would have learned how much carpet lovers are willing to part with for something they truly desire to posses.


Reputable dealers take pride in sharing their knowledge and insights with their clients. As such it is not uncommon for them to organise lectures - usually at no charge - for interested groups who want to refine their appreciation of hand-made carpets.

The lectures usually cover such topics as the history of hand-made carpets, the main carpet-weaving centres in the Middle East, the use of traditional materials and identifiable motifs, care and maintenance, and tips on buying.


In line with rising appreciation of these artistic works, carpet exhibitions are becoming more regular than ever before. Organised in a similar fashion to art exhibitions, selected carpets are exhibited, and prices agreed to between dealer and buyer.

Here again is a good opportunity for new collectors to gain valuable insights even if they are not purchasing. Examining a carpet with hands and eyes is far more useful than reading from a book and viewing colour charts.