the Tufenkian showroom guests can watch a
carpet being woven.
If your holiday in Armenia includes shopping
for a rug, get used to hearing these words:
"My friend. For you, a special deal."
Ignore those words. There are no special deals
and here's why: The seller is smarter than you.
You will not get a deal that he does not want
you to have. Live with that reality.
And if you think you are going to stroll through
the market and stroll out with a carpet worth
five times what you paid, remember this: Sometimes
- most of the time - cheap is just cheap.
Admit that you are out of your league trying
to outwit the pros and shop for something you
like, rather than for a bargain.
Edgar Janjutyan, sales manager of Tufenkian Carpets
(www.tufenkian.am), knows a lot about carpets.
They are his livelihood.
His first piece of advice to a tourist turned
rug buyer - especially if vernissage is where
you'll be shopping - is to find a trusted friend
here and take him or her with you when you go
"The risk of buying rugs from vernissage
is totally your decision," Janjutyan says.
"First of all, the seller will lie about
the price, then he will lie about the quality,
then he will lie about the date it was made."
It's part of the system. If you enjoy haggling,
you'll have a great time.
Take your time, Janjutyan advises.
"The deal should take at least a half hour,"
he says. "Remember that every minute you
are making the price different. Bargain till the
The seller will try to trick you. Try to trick
him back. It's part of the dance.
Do not, Janjutyan advises, let on that you are
excited about the rug. Think of the rug as a used
At the Tufenkian showroom, on Tumanyan Street
near the Opera, you can watch craftswomen create
a carpet and get a sense of what to look for.
The rugs there are on the high end of the market
and are mostly for an upscale clientele.
But whether in a Western-style show room or in
a basement shop, judging the quality of a rug
is a matter of counting knots.
The lowest-quality Armenian carpet will be 25
by 25, meaning it has 25 knots per square decimeter.
(Another piece of advice from Janjutyan: Take
a ruler or measuring tape when you go shopping.)
estimate quality, count the knots.
The top of the line should be 40 by 40. How do
you know? Simple: Turn back an edge of the carpet
and count the knots - they'll look like pixels
on a computer screen.
This little move, Janjutyan says, will give the
buyer some edge in the bargaining.
"The seller will get the idea that you know
something about carpets and will see that you
are not an amateur."
Many carpets you'll see here have been brought
from storage, in places that are not always conducive
to preservation. Insects, Janjutyan says, can
be a bad factor for rug buyers.
His advice: Turn the carpet over and hold it
between your face and the sun. Any holes or damages
will be penetrated by the sunlight.
If you find a carpet you like in spite of minor
damage, get it fixed here, Janjutyan advises.
There are plenty specialists who can cheaply make
"Having it repaired abroad will cost more
than you paid for the rug."
Think you're going to find a national treasure
at a flea-market price? Forget that notion.
Until about the mid-90s, Janjutyan says, it was
possible to find antique carpets of great value
being sold by common homeowners who simply needed
money. Not any more.
There are, in fact, professionals who travel
throughout the regions, going into homes looking
for carpets of antiquity. But those rare finds
don't stay in Armenia long enough for any tourist
to find them. Instead they are shipped off to
places such as Austria, where a carpet purchased
for $1,000 from some very-willing villager will
fetch $15,000 in a Viennese showroom.
Finally, be aware that any carpet taken out of
Armenia must have tax and customs certification.
The total fee is approximately 200 to 1,000 drams
per square meter. You will also need to pay for
two photographs of the carpet to be kept in those
Any dealer should be able to take care of the
paper work for you, but make sure you ask. Know,
too, that commissions are only made on Monday
and Wednesdays. So, if you're time in Armenia
is short, make sure you make your rug purchase
in time to have it commissioned. Otherwise you'll
have more hassle at the airport than you ever
got from that carpet seller.