Abrash or Color Variations in Rugs

Authentic Oriental rugs, by their very nature, have many variations because they are hand made rather than machine made. This hand 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.

One of the most common and typical characteristics of a real Oriental rug, and especially among older or “nomadic” rugs, is the beautiful color variation known in the trade as “abrash.”  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 the blues, reds, browns or other colors. These variations may appear as bands or horizontal bars, but 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. Small quantities of skeins of pile yarn are dyed by hand before the rug is made. Each dye lot is hand knotted into the rug, but when another dye lot is next used, some color variation is inevitable. Connoisseurs of antique and semi-antique Oriental rugs value the beauty and handmade appearance that is typical of abrash.

Sometimes abrash color variation is 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. The truer and authentic pile coloration is now revealed, along with some abrash color variations that were there at the time of manufacture. In addition, 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 not defects at all, but are characteristic of the many variables and dye lot differences that went into the original handmade rug. Indeed, 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 handmade Oriental rugs, and even of some machine made rugs that try to reproduce real abrash.