5 Tips to Identify Authentic Navajo Rugs (With Videos)

Today is the day you’ve decided to buy a Navajo rug, and whether you’re fortunate enough to be in the southwest or doing an eBay search from home, there are a few important things to consider.

First and foremost – make sure the piece you are looking at is an authentic Navajo textile. Many countries produce “knock-offs”and to the untrained eye these counterfeits may be hard to differentiate from the real thing. If possible, it’s best to buy from an established dealer, one with a solid reputation and trained personnel to assist you, but if that isn’t the case, here are a few tips. 

1- Navajo rugs, unless they are colorful Germantowns from the late 1800’s, saddle blankets or small, tourist rugs called Gallup throws, have no fringe. If you see a fringed rug, chances are it’s not Navajo. Also, Navajo rugs often have side selvage cords, two or three cords which follow through the weft loops to maintain rug alignment and provide added strength and durability. Imitations do not employ this weaving technique. 

2- Navajo rugs are usually woven from 100% sheep wool, both warp and weft, whether hand spun or commercial. Exceptions to this are the Gallup throw which has a cotton warp and some Transitional rugs from the late 1800’s. “Knock off” rugs are often woven with acrylic yarn. 

3-Navajo rugs most often have finished tassel cords at the four corners, while foreign weaves may have thick, rope-like braids. Navajo rugs should lie flat on the floor, have the same width at top and bottom with no exposed warp.

4- Once you’re confident that the piece you are looking at is genuine Navajo, price is another factor to consider. Navajo textiles are priced based on their age, tightness of weave, fineness of wool, complexity of pattern, symmetry of design, straightness, color uniformity, renown of the weaver and overall harmony and balance.

5- In purchasing a Navajo rug it is helpful to know something about Navajo history and culture, such as the all important fact that Navajo weavers from different parts of the Reservation weave different styles of rugs.

Doing some preliminary research before stepping into a rug showroom will aid you tremendously. Instead of being overwhelmed by the many styles, colors and designs, your eye will quickly be able to discern the finest tapestry weaves of Two Grey Hills, the vibrant reds of the Ganados, the dancing Yeis and soft pastels of vegetal dyed Burntwaters and Wide Ruins.

In this instance, knowledge is truly power. The more you learn about the Navajo world, the more the weavings will come alive for you. The more time you spend with the rugs, touching them, comparing them side by side, the more you’ll find yourself drawn to particular styles and periods. 

Once you begin the journey into the world of Navajo weaving, into the sacred art taught by Spider Woman to her people, your life and home will be enriched.
Via Perry Null Trading 

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