Fake Serafian Signatures

When many of us look for rugs from Isfahan things like the makers signature become very important. Here we have a letter and picture from a reader and frequent contributor that calls into question some of these signatures. Does this mean do not trust signatures? Actually what is should tell us is that in Isfahan carpets beauty and perfection mean more than signatures.

Dear Barry,

I have spent time reviewing information in your Persian Carpet Rug /Guide To Isfahan Rugs & Carpets. I have found it all very informative and useful in expanding my knowledge. This piece under "Previous Discussion" regarding "Old Genuine Serafians Signed or Not?" caught my eye.

In the first rug class I took, the instructor said, "Don't buy a rug because of a name. Buy it because you like it". I think this is wise advice, especially for a novice buyer. On a trip to Iran in '98, I visited a workshop where ordinary Persian carpets were being transformed into "masterpieces". Knots were removed by skilled workers and new knots woven into the carpet thus giving it a new pedigree: names of famous weavers/workshops were being added to the carpet. The workers, although skilled at their trade, were naive about the consequences of their work (this is why I have elected to remove their faces). They were proud of their work and did not mind showing it off as the pictures below attest. This practice is not limited to Iran as you know. Nor do I view the deception as the fault of the workers. They are simple people just trying to earn a living. The owners of the rugs who are paying to have the deception carried out are the ones at fault. They will sell these rugs in foreign markets and a naive consumer intent on having a "name" carpet will be the looser. The Iranian Master Weavers do not endorse this practice, needless to say, and the honest dealers say little, at least to me as a westerner, about it. They are embarrassed about it. I have been told these "renamed" rugs are not allowed to be sold in Iran (the Master Weaver whose names are being abused have that much control) but the rugs are shipped to foreign markets .

As you stated in your piece about "Is The Carpet Beautiful", the value of the carpet should be in the beauty of the carpet itself not in the knot count, the name of the weaver, etc.

I am sure you have seen such pictures but I thought you might find these interesting. If you wish to use them on your site, it is ok but please, I would appreciate you not using my name. If you need a name and are comfortable using an alias that is all right with me. Iranians can be very sensitive and I would not want any of the honest dealers I know to feel I was portraying the business as a whole as being untrustworthy. I want to be welcome back to Iran in the future!


A Canadian Collector Source of this page is a friend from Canada. Our photographer and contributor chooses for her own reasons to remain anonymous.

For Further Reading:Guide to Rugs & Books

Thanks and best wishes,

J. Barry O'Connell Jr.

Index to my Rug Notes

How Do I Find An Honest Rug Dealer?