Color Variations in Rugs (Abrash)
Authentic oriental rugs are hand made rather than machine made, and thus have many variations. This hand made manufacture results in certain distinct, beautiful and unique characteristics that set oriental rugs apart from lesser reproductions. Rugs made by hand will always have certain variations in their surface coloration, density of hand knotting the pile, irregularities in shape along the edges or borders, and differences along the fringes or fringe ends.
The beautiful color variation, known in the trade as “abrash,” is one of the most common and typical characteristics of a real oriental rug, and especially among older or ‘normadic’ rugs. The effect of abrash is to create or produce differing color patterns, colorations, various shades or hues. Gradations can often be seen within one color or color field in the design, such as blues, reds, browns, or other colors. These variations often appear as bands or horizontal bars, although other shapes or sections of color variation are possible. Abrash coloration can vary from very subtle shade differences to distinct or even bold variations in certain colors of the rug.
Abrash results from differences in the dyeing process. Before the rug is made, small quantities of skeins of pile of yarn are dyed by hand. Each dye lot is hand knotted into the rug, but some color variation is inevitable when another dye is next used. Connoisseurs of antique and semi-antique oriental rugs value the beauty and hand made appearance that is typical of abrash.
Abrash color variation can be covered over or obscured by soiling and compaction of the rug pile with use and wear. When the rug is cleaned, much surface soiling is removed and the pile is groomed and made more erect. As a result, the truer and authentic pile coloration is now revealed, along with some abrash color variations that were visible at the time of manufacture. Additionally, there is a possibility that slight variations in pile direction or ‘shading’ will also be seen after a thorough cleaning. One or both of these effects show up as color variations in the rug.
These distinct colorations are characteristic of the many variables and dye lot differences that went into the original hand made rug, and are not considered defects at all. In fact, some of the highest quality rug manufacturers spend a lot of time and money simulating this abrash in their machine woven rug designs. Abrash is part of the beauty and distinctive natural appearance of hand made oriental rugs, and even of some machine made rugs which try to reproduce authentic abrash.