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Rugs are more than trendy home accessories. Just how much more is proven by the five most famous and most expensive rugs in the world, which we present to you in this ranking. You will be surprised, we promise!


The Holy Carpet

In last place, with a purchase price of about 3,000 US dollars is the famous Ardabil carpet. This 16th-century Persian rug is often referred to as the “Holy Carpet”, the oldest dated rug in the world and is currently on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

holy carpet ardabil

The famous "Holy Carpet" from 1539/1540 in Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Source: unknown -, public domain, Link

The ruler Shah Tahmasp I commissioned the rug in around 1539 to decorate the shrine of his ancestors. This shrine is located in a Moschee in Ardebil, from which the rug gets its name, and was kept there until its sale in 1890. Negotiators from the English-Persian rug manufacturer Ziegler acquired the rug on behalf of the London Museum for the then immense sum of about 3,000 US dollars. In the museum, it got the honourable nickname “Holy Carpet”.

The rug was produced in the traditional knotting manufactures of Kashan. An extremely fine knot is typical for a rug from this region: The Ardebil rug, with a size of 61.5 square metres, has a knot density of 520,000 knots per square metre - making a total of 26 million knots.

The indigo blue base, on which different ornaments can be seen, is made of the finest silk. The pile of the rug is made of pure wool. In terms of design, according to many interpreters, it shows a depiction of the sky: Glass mosque lamps represent stars reflected in a water surface on which lotus flowers float. The date of manufacture is also incorporated into the rug: The Islamic year 947. This corresponds approximately to the year 1540/41.

The Ardebil rug has a secret twin, also called the “Secret Carpet”. Produced at the same time in the same manufacture, it is today less well preserved than the better-known “Holy. It is also narrower and smaller and had to be partially restored. Also sold in 1890, it passed through the hands of many wealthy businessmen until it was bought by an American industrialist for $70,000 and donated to the Museum of Art in Los Angeles in 1953, where it is still exhibited today.

These two rugs are the most important Persian rugs made in Iran and have been copied accordingly. Even the British Prime Minister has an Ardebil rug like this in her office in Downing Street.


The Pearl Rug

The Maharajah Gaekwar Khande Rao, who ruled from 1856 to 1870 in the Indian state of Baroda, made the special rug, which takes fourth place in our ranking.

Made to decorate the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad, this rug was not made of silk or wool but of pearls. The most renowned jewellers of the time processed a total of about 1.4 million genuine natural pearls in two to three millimetres diameter. These pearls alone have an estimated value of 30,000 carats and weigh about six kilograms. Each pearl has been strung and linked individually.

The rug is also adorned with three large rosettes of silver-plated gold diamonds. Many more silvered gemstones were made: 600 emeralds, 1,300 rubies and 2,600 diamonds. The depicted motifs are of Arabic tradition and are reminiscent of the ornaments of the Taj Mahal.

Contrary to what was originally planned, the approximately 2.70 x 1.60 metre large pearl rug never arrived at the grave of Muhammad in Mecca, but remained in the treasury of the Maharajah. It was worth 60 million rupees at that time. Today, the rug is only partially intact. Nevertheless, at an auction in Qatar in 2009, it was sold for a record $5.5 million.


The Kirman vase rug

The rug in third place looks inconspicuous, but has already caused a lot of trouble. The story that made it so famous is not set in the Orient, but in tranquil Augsburg.


Rug in "vase technique", Kirman, 17th century

Source: artwork: unknown -, public domain, Link

There, an auctioneer estimated its worth at 900 euros in October 2009, and the misfortune of the old lady, who had previously owned the rug, took its course.

A short time later, the rug was auctioned and reached the initially pleasing purchase price of 20,000 euros. But the journey of the rug was not over yet: The lucky buyer turned to the famous Christie's auction house in London, which believed the blue rug from the Persian Kerman, whose slightly wavy surface is decorated with colourful flowers, leaves and branches, to be 200,000 to 300,000 British pounds.

When the rug was then auctioned for the second time in April 2010, another surprise followed: The interest of the bidders was great! A collector appeared in person and six more people submitted offers by phone. The starting bid was 150,000 pounds and was far exceeded: An anonymous bidder from the Middle East bought the rug for the equivalent of 7.5 million euros, making it the most expensive rug in the world.

A report confirmed the instinct of the buyer: The rug was originally owned by the French art lover Comtesse Martine Marie-Pol de Béhague. After she died, her nephew inherited the rug until it was auctioned in Monaco in 1987. So the rug came into the possession of a Munich rug dealer, and from there into the hands of his former housekeeper, who received the rug in gratitude. This person then bequeathed it to the old lady, who brought it to the Augsburg auctioneer, who sold it way under value at 20,000 euros.

The lady therefore went to court and demanded that the auctioneer pay the difference to the 300,000 pounds estimated by Christie's. She rejected compensation in the amount of 85,000 euros - and lost.

The auctioneer did not have to pay a penny, as he was able to prove that none of the valuers of his auction house was able to correctly assess the true value of the rug. So the dispute over the 7.5-million-euro rug came to an end. In the end, there was only one real winner: The anonymous bidder on the phone at Christie's.


The Clark Sickle Leaf rug

The second-placed rug in our ranking is a Persian rug which was sold for an unbelievable $34 million in 2013, three times the price of the Kerman vase rug, which, at that time, was the most expensive rug in the world.

The Clark Sickle Leaf rug

The Clark 'Sickle-Leaf'-Rug, Kirman, 17th century.

Source: by anonymous - Sotheby’s, public domain, Link

The Persian rug, which was auctioned by the New York auction house Sotheby's, dates from the first half of the 17th century and measures 2.7 x 2 metres. It is decorated with a golden sickle-leaf pattern on a red background and has a blue border. It is presumed to have been made in Kerman, in southeastern Iran.

Originally acquired from the estate of the collector and eponym William A. Clark, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington finally released the special piece for auction and achieved an absolute record price. The "Clark Sickle Leaf Rug" is the most expensive rug ever to be auctioned. But not only that: It is also the most expensive work of Islamic art ever auctioned, and therefore holds two world records.


The Bayeux Tapestry

Our number one is Bayeux's world-famous tapestry. A tapestry from the Middle Ages which is exhibited to this day in the town of Bayeux in Normandy, of inestimable historical value.

rug bayeux tapestry

Source: by Myrabella - own work, public domain, Link

The tapestry from the year 1070 is a total of nearly 70 (!) metres long and about 50 centimetres wide. In motifs, in several pictorial episodes with a short explanatory text, it tells the story of how William, Duke of the Normans, became king of England. The period it covers is approximately one year. Since very few people could read in the Middle Ages, the motifs of the rug are almost self-explanatory.

The rug is not knotted, but woven from linen. The motifs have been embroidered by nuns with colourfully dyed woollen threads - strictly speaking, the Bayeux tapestry is not a rug at all, at least in our current understanding of the word. It is estimated that several nuns worked on the tapestry simultaneous for a total of about 10 years.

Unfortunately, time has left its mark on this artwork: About 69 meters of the tapestry are still intact today. Originally, the rug was even longer than 70 metres. The final scenes are missing.

It is not clear who commissioned the work. However, it is believed that Bishop Odo of Bayeux, the half-brother of Duke William, commissioned it. This is because he himself is pictured on the rug several times, at particularly significant places. It is also assumed that the rug was not intended for the Bayeux cathedral but rather for presentation in the hall of a noble residence, which Odo was having constructed in Bayeux at that time.

rug bayeux tapestry

Source: by Myrabella - own work, public domain, Link

Its remarkable, incomparable quality makes the Bayeux tapestry one of the most important picture monuments of the High Middle Ages. Today's people benefit from detailed depictions of the medieval ways of life, which can provide a great deal information about the conditions at that time.

Since 1982, the rug has been exhibited in a purpose-built museum. Since 2007, it has also been a UNESCO World Heritage Site, something which further underlines its enormously high cultural value.

We hope this little ranking kept you entertained - it was a lot of fun for us. A nice side effect: From now on, you can impress people with this rug knowledge. Astonished faces guaranteed!

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