A question that is frequently asked here at Shaia Oriental Rugs is, ‘What is the difference between a Heriz and a Serapi? It is a valid question particularly since there is not an actual city in Iran named Serapi. Serapi is actually a made-up name referring to an old Heriz rug. Some rug books say there is no such thing as a Serapi rug and yet these rugs are one of the most demanded antique rugs of our day. The explanation is basically simple.
In the village on Heriz, in what was then Persia, rugs of a simple geometric motif were being woven. Then in around 1910, with the coming of European and American businessmen, things began to change. It seems that there came a demand for the rugs to have more color and design. The earlier un-busy motif was replaced for a much busier one. Weavers were forced to follow designs that were laid out on a graph or blueprint called a cartoon. This way the American and European companies could have a direct effect on what the rugs that were being woven would look like. They could also have more continuity or repetition of pattern in what was being produced. And so we had a city where they are producing the same type of rug, same basic motif, and same weaving style and yet these newer rugs, tended to be more busy and bright, and were almost an entirely different look than the older ones woven in the same area.
Indeed a Serapi rug is simply a Heriz rug woven prior to about 1910.
I am not sure exactly where the name itself came from, but it seems that by the 1960’s or so with the growing popularity of antique and semi antique rugs, it became the adapted name given to these older Heriz rugs to distinguish them from the newer ones. Actually, the very same thing happened in the city of Sarouk as well as Mahal. The changes in both of these cities was so dramatic that just as the rug market accepted the name Serapi for old Heriz, it also recognized the name Fereghan Sarouk for an older Sarouk and Sultanabad for an
What is interesting is that now a days, these three types of designs in oriental rugs, Serapi, Fereghan Sarouk, and Sultanabad, whether it is the actual antique one or a copy of the design in a new one, are by far the most popular and requested designs.