So you have an rug in front of you: no information on it other than an interesting story or some family history. You may notice on the back of the rug a small cloth tag which often features the following characters in a greyish text: Two capital letters, followed by a 4 digit number. What is this tag? What information does it hold?
Here's a sample of what the tag may look like: often fixed to the reverse of the rug with several staples holding it in place
*Image provided courtesy Rug Rag reader
As seen in the image above, the tag may appear tattered with faint lettering. This tag is actually what is known as a "wash tag." Not all rugs have them, and they were once more commonly found years ago than they are now. After importation, it was not uncommon for an importer to send out a rug for a chemical wash. This chemical wash would soften the wool, and give the pile a more lustrous finish.
The first two letters usually reveal the importer's code and initials when the rug was given its original luster wash. In this particular instance as seen above, "CH" is believed to be attributed to the importer "Chatalbash" who once imported rugs from Iran to New York. The final four digits indicate the sequence of wash ID.
While this tag does not always reveal all information, it does help attribute some rugs to notable importers which could assist in the sale and/or documentation of a rug. As one can imagine, in the case of oriental rugs, there is never a tremendous paper trail to follow a carpet throughout it's lifetime. These tags certainly serve as some form of attribution, and may even help to date a rug if the importer kept documentation leading back to the washing of a rug.