The secret of the Ohrid Pearl

The pearl is a symbol of beauty, love, marriage, clean, wealth, virginity and perfection.

Throughout history, the pearl, with its warm inner glow, has been one of the most highly prized and wanted gems. Countless references to the pearl can be found in the religions and mythology from the earliest times. The ancient Egyptians were buried with them. Cleopatra reportedly dissolved a single pearl in a glass of wine and drank it. The Greeks highly appreciate the pearl for both its unrivaled beauty and its association with love and marriage, while in ancient Rome pearls were considered the ultimate symbol of wealth and social standing.  During the Dark Ages, while fair maidens of nobility cherished delicate pearl necklaces, the knights wore pearls believing that the magic of the pearl will protect them in battle. In the Renaissance pearls were so highly regarded, a number of European countries actually passed laws forbidding anyone but the nobility to wear them.

Natural Pearls are formed when an irritant, usually a parasite works its way into an oyster. As a defense mechanism, a fluid is used to coat the irritant. Layer upon layer of this coating, called “nacre”, creates the pearl. The birth of a pearl is truly a miraculous event.

Cultured pearls share the same properties as natural pearls. Oysters form cultured pearls in an almost identical fashion. The only difference is that a person carefully implants the irritant in the oyster letting the nature to create its miracle then.

There is a third type of pearls that is produced in Ohrid, Macedonia, man-made pearls known as Ohrid Pearls. The secret recipe for producing this pearls is kept by the members of two families, Filevi and Talevi, passing the secret generation to generation as a tradition for almost a century.

This secret came to Ohrid by one refugee from Bajkal, Russia, named Jovan Subanovik  who moved to Ohrid because of the city war in Russia in the twenties of the XX century. During his stay in Ohrid, he became a very close friend of Nikola Filev, known by his generosity, who was the owner of the restaurant where Jovan was spending lots of time. On their walks, by the coast of the lake, Jovan noticed that Ohrid Lake has very similar fauna like Baikal Lake from where he was coming. Especially interesting for him was the small fish Plasica, which invoke his memories of his family’s old tradition, a craft that was part of his identity -pearl making. Pearls have been produced on the Baikal lake for more than 700 years. Baikal and Ohrid Lake are two of the three oldest lakes in the world.

He decided to sell the secret recipe to the family Talevi for existential reasons in 1924. Later in 1928, he passes the secret to his good friend Nikola Filev. These families are still keeping the secret within their families and have grown in Macedonian brand of jewelry with a certificate, internationally recognized as brand “Ohrid Pearl” by Lisbon Declaration in 2013 and other documents in Macedonia.

Trough the years the handmade jewelry evolved, it’s combined with filigree and created with combinations of other materials and styles, faithful to the tradition with ultra modern models for the future. For me, the most beautiful is the classic pearl which still can be found in their stores.

The Ohrid Pearl is a unique product consisted of two natural materials: the base is the oyster, the heart of the oyster where the natural pearl is created, called mother pearl,  same material from which the natural pearl is created, and the second part is the emulsion made from the scales of the endemic type of fish Plasica that lives in Ohrid Lake. Production of this emulsion, a liquid silver, is the secret.

Mihajlo and Nikola Filevi

Even the brushes are from natural material, made of horse hair, squirrel or camel so it will not leave the motion lines during the application of the emulsion. Depending on the size of the pearl more layers are applicated, and between every layer, 45 minutes are necessary to get it dry. It’s a long process that asks for both patience and skill.

Trough the years’ many queens, politicians, celebrities have worn the Ohrid Pearls. Here are some of them:

Queen Elizabeth
Dutch Queen Juliana
Swedish King Gustaf and Queen Silvia in 1977
Princess Diana
Danish Queen Margaret II
jelisaveta karagjordjevic
Mihajlo Filev with Serbian Princess Jelisaveta Karagjordjevic

The families were working hard to keep the tradition and pass it to the next generations to be recognized and protected as a brand. Mihajlo Filev stands out in this field as the fourth generation of the family Filevi, with the presentation and affirmation of Ohrid as a touristic city through the sign of the Ohrid Pearl. He keeps the tradition of giving the pearls as present to important persons from different countries and the pearls are becoming more and more popular. On the next photo, you can see his daughters as the fifth generation learning the beauty of the family craft.

Irma and Mina Filevi

These are the new ambassadors that will continue the tradition and represent their family, their city, and country through the Ohrid Pearls.

The pearls of the family Filevi can be found in their stores in Ohrid and a store in the capital, Skopje, while the Museum dedicated to the Ohrid Pearl near the Catedral church St. Sophia in Ohrid. More information on their  Website or follow their Facebook Page.

For everyone who is visiting Ohrid, the best present or souvenir you can buy is nothing less than Ohrid Pearl. For the original, you get a certificate which is a guaranty of origin and quality. You have to know where you can find the real one, the original and I hope this post helped. Since we can afford it we should take the chance to wear Ohrid Pearl and feel like queens in every occasion.

Addresses in Ohrid:
Filevi Store I
Filevi Store II
Museum and Filevi Store III

Address in Skopje:
Filevi Store
Facebook Page with contact for Skopje

If you would like to see more of the Ohrid Pearl visit the post Girls and Pearls. For all cocktail enthusiasts and everyday people that appreciate great drink visit the post “One Pearl” – Please.

Daily Prompt: Encrusted

43 thoughts on “The secret of the Ohrid Pearl

  1. I enjoyed reading this article about Pearls, the Ohrid in particular. I love pearls. I used to have a real necklace but it broke and was lost years ago. I still think pearls are the classiest most elegant of all adornments to wear.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My mom’s favorite necklace is a pearl one and I think it’s quite an old one. It was gifted to her by a friend. She wears it only on special occasions though like a wedding or some get together and takes really very good care of it. Thanks for the write-up. It was an interesting read. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pearls are so gorgeous. I had no idea that there was any other way to produce them than the “normal” way! I hope the Ohrid pearl tradition stays alive for generations to come.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great, Skopje is beautiful city, find time for the old bazaar, it’s different than the rest of the city, more oriental. Have fun, if you have any questions feel free to contact me. I’ll be in Skopje probably on Friday and Saturday let me know if you are still there. I hope next time you will come in Ohrid too. Btw there is a link in the post of the shop in Skopje 😉


    1. Thank you 😀
      Skopje is beautiful city with many contrasts. I’m going there next weekend, hopefully to make nice photos and write a post finally.


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