If you’re in the market and Moroccan rug shopping is on your agenda, you are likely one of two things; extremely excited and having a hard time choosing or incredibly overwhelmed and having a hard time choosing. The good news is you’re not alone.
The bad news is there are still thousands of rugs to choose from! In this article, I hope to share with you some basic information about buying Moroccan rugs that will help you make the best choice for you whether you’re in the souks of Morocco shopping or shopping online.
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Why are Moroccan rugs expensive?
This is a difficult question to pose because it’s a subjective question. What is expensive for one person might be a good deal for another. When shopping for a Moroccan rug, keep in mind that these are handmade items. Aside from a very basic wooden loom, there are no machines used at all. Each of the knots on the rugs is tied by hand.
A lot of labor means a higher cost, the time of the women who make these rugs needs to be compensated, and a good dealer or salesperson will take this into account. Rugs are also collectible pieces. Many vintage rugs today sell for 10x and more of their original cost and value.
Buying a rug from Morocco is like buying a piece of artwork. There are a variety of levels to artwork just like there are to rugs. Different styles command different prices. While you may really like one style it might be out of your range and looking at different styles may reduce it The more ornate a rug, typically means more time went into that rug which in turn means the cost will be higher.
If you do worry about cost there are ways to get a beautiful rug but stay in the range you want. Come in knowing your number, and also be realistic. If you’re only wanting to spend $200 you can’t expect you’ll pick up a room-sized rug. Whether you’re shopping online for rugs or in Morocco there are rugs at every price point. But I’d caution you not to expect to find thrift store bargains.
Narrowing Down Moroccan Rug Choices
When someone says they want a Moroccan rug, my first question is what kind? Then I usually get a blank stare and, “a Moroccan one.”
The truth is there are dozens of varieties of Moroccan rugs. Each tribe and region has its own styles and designs. There are vintage rugs and contemporary rugs. There are wool rugs and wool blend rugs. There are rugs made with synthetic materials.
All of these options are important to consider. Spend some time looking at different Moroccan rug styles to learn what you like and what you may want (you can find several of the most popular Moroccan rug styles in this post).
Consider the pile of the rug (that’s the height of the threads), do you want something flat or something plump? Certain styles are only one or the other. How much time and effort you have to put into the care of the rug also can play a role in the style you choose.
Doing this kind of research ahead of time is especially important if you’re purchasing in Morocco but it really can go a long way in helping you hone in on what you want to start looking for.
Buying a Vintage Moroccan Rug vs. Modern Rugs
With some products that are considered vintage, it is possible to assign a date or a date range of when the product was made. This is not the case with vintage Moroccan rugs. It might be possible for someone to say “this rug was made 50-70 years ago” but it’s impossible to say a specific date. This makes the world of vintage rug buying tricky if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for.
However, this is also helpful for consumers. Not being able to name a specific date is actually a good thing for vetting sales.
There are a lot of tactics that are used by sellers to age rugs to make them appear vintage when in fact they’re not. Someone that really knows Moroccan rugs will be able to date the piece based on the designs being used, the wear patterns on the rug, and other factors.
If you don’t have this knowledge but want a vintage rug you need to a) buy from a reputable dealer b) expect to pay a higher price for that piece c) also be prepared that you may still not be getting the real deal. It’s truly a gamble.
My best advice when it comes to this is to find a rug that you love.
Find a rug that completes a space that you’re decorating and is inviting to your home. Whether that’s a vintage or a modern rug really won’t make that much difference for the average consumer.
If you’re buying a rug because you want an investment piece and you are not well versed in rugs, then you need to shop with someone who is.
Moroccan Rug Co-op Myths
Just like with all industries if there is money to be made, there are people willing to blur the lines of what’s real and what’s a ploy. This fact is something that is especially important to know if you’ll be buying in Morocco.
The idea of cooperatives is something that people in the west especially are really keen to support – and for good reason! However, the term has taken off in countries like Morocco with little to no oversight on who uses the term or even an understanding of what it is – it’s a buzzword.
In the vast majority of cases; whether being used to describe rugs or any other goods, co-ops are a marketing ploy. The owners of the shop may understand the intention behind it but they most likely are not upholding the values.
It can be very difficult to buy directly from the makers in Morocco and finding companies that truly understand the ethics behind a cooperative are few and far between. If you want to do this from abroad I suggest checking out Mushmina or The Anou both of which have a regularly rotating stock of rugs that are all ethically made.
If you’re buying in Morocco and are brought to a rug cooperative, know that the likelihood you’re actually in a cooperative is low. Don’t pay an adjusted price simply because you believe the women will take home more.
Buying Rugs Online vs Buying in Morocco
If buying online is one of the only ways to get items to your home you’re in luck – there are loads of options. There is nothing inherently wrong with this but you should take precautions and know that anything you buy sight unseen has risks – whether that’s rugs or anything else.
So how can you protect yourself when buying online? Here are a few tips:
- Ask the vendor if it’s possible to do a video chat with them before purchasing so that they can show you the specific rug up close. Thanks to technology today there’s no reason this isn’t possible. This is especially helpful to see colors that haven’t been adjusted and that there are no filters on the images.
- Use a credit card when purchasing even if there is an extra charge. Consider it like insurance should your rug not arrive or there be an issue you can always go through your credit card company for some protection on your purchase.
- Document as much as possible. Keep any correspondence and make sure to get a full invoice from the purchase.
- Is there someone locally that you could use as an intermediary instead of buying blindly? Paying someone local that you trust to go and see the rug first and provide honest feedback to you is well worth what you might pay them for handling this for you.
Making a large purchase like a Moroccan rug can be intimidating but also exciting. Keep your wits about you and don’t be afraid to bargain!