Finding the optimum lighting for your vintage rugs is often a balancing act between presentation and preservation. Most collectors are well aware that direct sunlight threatens to severely damage antique carpets but can artificial lighting wreak similar damages? A few weeks ago, we spoke at great length about the renowned Ardabil carpet on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The ancient carpet is lit only at certain points of the day and only for a very brief period. Should your precious carpets be receiving similar treatment?
LED Bulbs and Your Sensitive Textiles
LED bulbs are often preferred for lighting sensitive textiles, owing much of their popularity to a lower output of damaging ultraviolet light than their incandescent competitors. In fact, several museums have switched to LED bulbs for lighting textiles for this very reason. With less exposure to ultraviolet light, the dyes in antique carpets run less risk of fading. Some analysts point out that only the most scrutinizing of collectors should concern themselves with regulating ultraviolet light from artificial sources, fearing that such details are unnecessarily complicated. While ultraviolet light’s degrading impact may have been overstated, it’s still worth noting that the fading effect of ultraviolet light from bulbs, while minor, is still a point to consider since those damages can add up over generations. LED bulbs also offer the benefit of attracting fewer insects due to the reduced ultraviolet rays. This may not be much of a concern, considering well-maintained luxury rugs that see a lot of use aren’t often prone to insect damage anyway.
Achieving the Zenith of Color in Vintage Rugs
Certain collectors aren’t driven to get the richest color presentation from their carpets unless they are having the pieces photographed. However, these pieces should be appreciated with their beauty presented at its pinnacle. To view luxury carpets in the entirety of their color spectrum, you may wish to invest in LED bulbs that offer a high CRI (color rendering index). These LED bulbs will feature a CRI somewhere in the 90s rendering them capable of properly illuminating rich reds that were popularly used in luxury textiles. An LED with high CRI will allow you to present your pieces in classy, elegant lighting yet still capture the details and depth of the colors.
The actual display of your Persian or Oriental rugs is more of a matter of preference than science but your lighting choices can still play a major role. If you are hanging your carpets as tapestries, recessed lighting may be your best means of illuminating your acquisitions with true refinement. When equipped with low lumen LED bulbs, recessed lighting has contributed to some stunning atmospheres in hanging carpets. However, if you’re more interested in a classical floor rug display, a dimmer switch can offer the subtlety and gentleness needed to do your vintage rugs justice while also allowing the versatility to work with varying natural lighting throughout the day. You’ll find that the majority of high quality LED bulbs are compatible with dimmable lighting.
While the lighting schedule the Victoria and Albert Museum uses for the Ardabil carpet is admirable, it may not be one to which you need to stringently adhere in your own home. However, LED bulbs may bring a richness and depth to your vintage rugs while allowing them to present their full color spectrum. Do you feel your carpets are displayed in a way that does justice to their craftsmanship? If not, consider dimmer switches or recessed lighting for a more atmospheric presentation. These minor details can really bring the artistry of your pieces to life.