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Macedonian jewelry: Ohrid pearls

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Pearls are girls best friends

In many occasions, Ohrid pearl as a term is found when describing the beautiful Ohrid lake. This time, I would like to tell you more about actual traditional jewelry manufacturing in Macedonia, precisely in Ohrid. Ohrid pearl, along with silver made filigree pieces of jewelry, is the national pride of Macedonia.

The legend says that the secret about making these pearls, characteristic and original jewelry from Ohrid, came in this region as a “secret only for your friend”. The story starts in 1928 in Ohrid, with a mysterious guest named Jovan Subanovich visiting Ohrid. He came as an immigrant from the distant Russia and incidentally landed here. Staying here for a longer period made him develop a very good friendship with Mihailo Filev. One day, walking along the shores of Lake Ohrid and talking on many issues and life stories, the two friends saw a fisherman. The fisherman carried baskets of "Plashica", an endemic kind of fish, only swimming in Lake Ohrid.

When Jovan saw the fish, he recognized that he could reveal the mystery that he carried with him from distant Russia, from Lake Baikal. And this intriguing secret was in the specific fish Plashica, out of whose flakes pearls can be made. As a sign of the great friendship, Jovan introduced Michail to the secret method for pearl making, a craft which was not known in Ohrid before.

The Talevi and Filevi are the two Ohrid families who make genuine Ohrid pearl necklaces, earrings and brooches; they carried this handcraft from one generation to another. The Ohrid pearl that is created from seashells and coated with 5-7 thin layers of an emulsion made from the flakes of the Ohrid fish called Plashica is only possible to be found here in Ohrid.

At the heart of the old town, just above the cathedral church of Sts. Sofia, the museum had been opened by the Filevi family. Here you can see original tools that are used to make the jewelry, photos of the family from the years of the beginning of the creation of the pearls, as well as photographs of people from the country and the world who bought it or received as a gift.

Princess Diana, The Queen Elizabeth II, Jovanka Broz were some of the ladies lucky enough to have an Ohrid pearl in their collection. Are you gonna join this elite company? I can give you the map where to find it.

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The author

Zlata Golaboska

Zlata Golaboska

I am Zlata and I am an architect living in the Balkans. I am passionate about cities, how people influence architecture and vice versa, and how places change our lives.

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