The history of the North African Berber people can be traced back to 3000 B.C. when farmers, traders and nomads relied on intricately woven textiles as rugs, cloaks and sleeping mats. Collectible hand-woven Berber carpets feature tribal patterns and designs developed from the Paleolithic age and modified over millennia.
The Berber carpet common in homes and offices today is a much plainer, looped commercial product, only loosely derived from those traditional weavings. Contemporary Berber rugs vary in construction, material and price.
Modern Berber carpets are durable and fairly stain-resistant. Typically, they have tiny flecks of dark-colored yarn woven into a neutral, light background and appear to be made of undyed wool.
The best and most expensive fibers are wool and nylon, and smart consumers opt for 100 percent of one or the other, not a blend. Blended fibers carry the problematic traits of both materials, which offset the virtues of either all-wool or all-nylon.
Cheaper fibers such as Olefin and polyester look worn more quickly, give up clear color for a grayish tinge, and are easily compressed in high-traffic areas.
Modern Berber carpet is almost all loops rather than cut yarns. The length of the loop determines wear and sometimes price. There are a multitude of loop options:
- simple loops
- multicolored strands -- usually a mix of neutral, nearly same-shade yarns
- loops woven in patterns
- a mix of flat-weave and loop called cut-and-loop
- cut-and-loop patterns, an elegant decorative choice
- long loops
- and California Berber, a low cut pile without loops
The loop construction is distinctive, but they can be problematic.
- Loops can get caught on heels and other edges -- and a snag can "run," causing obvious damage to the carpet and necessitating repairs.
- Loops also tend to get smashed and compressed in high-traffic areas, leaving a visible path in your carpet.
- Very short loops or cut pile are the most practical choices for carpet that gets heavy daily wear.
Wool is the most expensive choice for a modern Berber rug, and the style contributes to the price tag. Wool is resilient, eco-friendly, long-wearing, stain-resistant, inhibits mold and dust mites, doesn't off-gas toxins and looks beautiful. It also costs more to clean than synthetic fibers.
Wool's Cost: Wool carpet can start at about $100 per square yard for an average quality rug and increase as the quality rises.
Nylon is very durable, easy and inexpensive to clean, resists compressing and stains, and "bounces back"quickly so it looks good for a long time, even with heavy foot traffic.
Nylon's Cost: Nylon carpet has a wide price range -- from about $25 per square yard and up.
Olefin and Polyester is the cheapest option, but the savings comes at a cost. Olefin and polyester are petroleum products and are susceptible to oil-based stains, although they resist most other kinds. Both synthetics get matted because the fibers are weak, and the material gets crushed because it isn't very resilient.
Olefin/Poly's Cost: Olefin and P.E.T. -- or polyester -- Berbers can be found from about $10 to $14 per square yard and up.
F_ace weight--_the number of ounces of fiber per square yard
_Density--_thickness of the fibers at the carpet base
_Twist level--_determines the carpet's strength