Guide to SKOPJE

The Ruby of Macedonia

Not all countries have their own national gemstone. China is known for its Chinese jade, Australia has its own Australia opal, the Czech Republic has the Czech garnets, Columbia – the Columbian emerald, the Baltic countries have their renowned amber, Iran and USA – the turquoise. This story is about the Macedonian Ruby, the national gemstone of Macedonia

For years we’ve been wondering: whether other people find it unusual when they hear somebody called by the name of Rubin or Rubincho in the Prilep region. Even today we are uncertain whether that’s just our own impression. But, this time we have a theory. This story is about the ravishing world of the crystals and jewels of Macedonia – the Macedonian ruby.

We’ve known Deko for years, from the times when he was only known as a musician, member of some of the most interesting rock and roll bands in Macedonia, before he left for Italy in 1991, before the war in former Yugoslavia. We recognized him as a keyboard player, guitarist and one of the greatest creative sources of cult Macedonian bands “Badmingtons” and “Kleržo” – a kind of Macedonian Ray Manzarek, John Lord and Dave Greenfield. A musician with restless spirit, who knew how to inspire us, to calm our youthful rebellion and to direct it to something creative and constructive. All you had to do is go and see his bands’ performances and have the chance to talk to him in places where you hang out.

Years went by. We knew that Deko was in Trieste, Italy but we had no idea what he did there and whether we’ll ever see him again. But it happened. We heard the rumor that Deko is back in town. We soon heard him on the radio. We learned that during his stay in Trieste he worked something that he couldn’t imagine he’ll ever do – he discovered the power of crystals. Very soon he was widely recognized by the people around as the great lover of “stones” and the first man to discover and carve the Macedonian ruby. He is recognized by our neighbors who were too old to go on his concerts, by our colleagues who have never heard about “Kleržo”, by the taxi drivers, as the one we’ve met recently: “I like to hear him talk about the stones, the crystals”, he said when he noticed Deko while waiting with his car at the traffic light, next to us.

We scheduled a meeting in his store next to the Greek embassy. We will have an exclusive opportunity to see how to carve a Macedonian ruby.

The story begins in Trieste in 1991, when Dejan ShkartovDeko embarked on a journey to Italy with his bike, backpack and keyboard, looking for a better future and leaving behind Yugoslavia, which has already began to fall apart. The war was knocking on Yugoslavia’s door. A time when his peers were carried out on war fronts, drawn into somebody else’s wars. He decided to check his luck in Trieste, where his aunt lived. Months passed by, he started working – to do the shopping for sick pensioners – since he realized that he came in a country which was not the right place for his kind of music. Soon, he read an article in a newspaper. Brazil seeks agricultural engineers, just like him – highly educated fruit expert. He soon knocked on the door of Primo Rovis, a famous coffee-magnate from Trieste, honorary consul of Brazil.

“We had a short meeting. We talked about the war in Yugoslavia, who am I, where do I come from. He was himself a child of war. He moved to Trieste during the World War Two. He said that the idea for Brazil was not as good as it looked like. His relatives were already leaving Brazil. He didn’t promise much, but he took my personal data“, Deko said, while we were entering his gemstones processing laboratory.

After a short period of time he received a call from the office of Mr. Rovis. He was invited for an interview – they needed a landscaper. This arrangement with Mr. Rovis was for both of them an opportunity to learn more about each other and on many returns the duration of his working contract was extended.  In the eyes of the family Rovis, Dejan was recognized as a hard-working and a kind man, someone they could rely on. At that very moment a big change took place.

“All of a sudden, Mr. Rovis decided to sell the coffee business and start something completely new. He ordered two containers with gemstones, which we were to clean, rock by rock. And that’s how I fell in love in crystals”, Deko recalls.

During his stay in Italy, working as man who takes care of of the collection Arte di Dio, he learned a lot about the natural characteristics and the therapeutic effect of the crystals. But since the very beginning he knew he will someday return to Macedonia.

“When I said I was going home, they didn’t think I was serious. I came back to Macedonia in 2001 and I opened the store. I decided to convey my knowledge of crystals”, he recalls.

As time passed by, the people who came by often told him about an idea, that at first he thought was a false claim; they said to him that in a site near the town of Prilep there are rubies. He thought that people spread bad rumors for something that looked like a ruby. But, it seemed that he heard this story to many times. So, one day he decided. He called his sources in Italy, bought machines, asked for advice and started.

We were standing in a laboratory filled with colorful stones, crystals with fascinating forms, walls glued with concert tickets. Something that seemed so impossible to us before was happening right then in front of our eyes. By every minute the rough stone was becoming a beautiful gemstone. After several minutes, we held a heart-shaped ruby in our hand.

“Today, the Macedonian ruby is well-recognized and can be a beautiful diplomatic present from Macedonia. Now, Macedonia has got its own national gemstone as China has its Chinese jade and Australia has its Australia opal. Our idea is someday our work to become public and everything we do here in our small workshop to be out in the open, to become a tourist attraction, like the diamond factory in Amsterdam”, Deko said.

As a promotion of the Macedonia ruby, several important people in the world have been presented with this gift. Among those people are the Pope Benedict 16, the great Indian yogi Paramhans Swami Nikhileshwaranand and the Hollywood actress Daryl Hannah, as well as Warwick Davis, one of Hollywood’s shortest leading actors.

In the literature, the ruby has been described as “metaphysical rock of love and wisdom”, with healing effect on the energy center of the heart.

“When this energy system is balanced, one can feel and give more love. The balance makes one become more humane. Maybe the influence of the Macedonian ruby has such an effect to people who come to visit our country to make them see us as they do – as warm hearted, welcoming and nonviolent people? “, Deko was thinking loud, while we were sitting on the stairs in front of his small workshop again.

Do other people notice how often do people, living in Prilep and the surrounding area carry the name of the unusual name Rubin or Rubincho? Even today we are not quite certain, but at least we have a theory.

Text and photos by Vasko Markovski