A Magic Carpet Ride Purchasing a handmade Tibetan rug--without getting rolled
By Nellie Huang

(MONEY Magazine) – Traditional Oriental rugs aren't out--it's just that hand-knotted Tibetan rugs are so in. Typically made in Nepal, they're as sumptuous as the traditional fare but are much less ornate, which means a cleaner fit with today's modernist and minimalist home designs. Here's how to get the most Tibetan rug for your dollar.

DON'T BUY "HAND-TUFTED." These rugs reveal themselves when you turn them over and see their canvas backing--the yarn is pierced into a cotton backing, then covered in latex and canvas. Especially after frequent cleanings, hand-tufted rugs can look "nappy and worn" says Arpie Klujian Petkus, the Los Angeles showroom manager of Tibetan rug manufacturer Tufenkian. Hand-knotted rugs, however (a series of hand-tied knots trimmed to create the pile), are quality pieces that can last a lifetime.

FORGET KNOTS PER SQUARE INCH. A high knot count (100, say, vs. 70) does not mean that a rug is more durable. It often simply means that the carpet has a more intricate design. (Some museum-quality Orientals have 1,000 knots.)

EXPECT TO SPEND AT LEAST $2,000. Opening price of a hand-knotted six-by-nine rug: $2,000 to $3,000. (Tufted, $900 to $1,500; machine-made, $700 to $900.) Prices can go much higher, especially for designer rugs, like Stephanie Odegard's in New York City (up to $6,200). High knot counts also hike prices: A 60-knot six-by-niner can sell for $2,200 to $2,600, a 100-knot for $3,600 to $4,000, says Bob Bertram of Endless Knot in Cotati, Calif. Don't be afraid to haggle. "Some retailers work close to the bone," he adds, "so it pays to shop."

QUALITY TEST Rub the pile vigorously. Good yarn will feel slightly oily (from the lanolin). Some shedding is okay, but if the yarn feels dry or flaky, it's not top-quality.

YARN The best Tibetan rugs are made of 100% hand-spun young wool with a high lanolin content from New Zealand or Tibet. Yarn from India is considered poor quality.

COLOR TEST Fold the corner. Colors on the back should match the front. The back of a chemically washed (bleached) rug will look brighter; these rugs also tend to fade fast.

DYES Chemically dyed (chrome) yarn creates a more durable and even tone, but naturally dyed (vegetable) yarn like this--see the color variation?--is considered more desirable and commands a 20% premium.