Art, science, philosophy, spirituality, nature, energy, alternative and craftsmanship – all those aspects merged into one is utopia for someone. But not for Dean Shkartov – Deko, whose name is synonym for the Macedonian Ruby with raspberry-pink colour, that only endemic ruby variety in Europe, whose most important location is Macedonia.
In such a small land, right here, is the ruby for Europe. It's not in huge France, Romania or Germany, but in this small part here, Deko points out, narrating the story filled with countless interesting episodes.
Ruby is the most hardness gemstone after a diamond. According to the Mohs scale, this gemstone has a hardness of 9, just after the diamond, with hardness of 10.
One of the hardest and with huge energy, but at the same time one of the stones with most gentle raspberry-pink colour that is vibration of the heart chakra, the centre of love. Those two aspects – the strongest and the most merciful – isn't that God?, Deko told us when we were leaving.
But let's go back to the beginning and try to recount some of the stories that he told us in a small, 10-square-foot store for natural crystals, minerals and gemstones, located in the heart of Skopje – in the corner of the Rekord, in place of the first jewellery in town.
The path to the magical world of crystals
Deko was born on the 8th of August, 1964 in Skopje. His most important childhood memories are related to his post-school education at Elementary School "Vladimir Nadzor", today "Blazhe Koneski" in Michurin, Aerodrom Municipality.
Fortunately, we had teacher Milka Jurukovska, who was able to pull out every little bit of creativity of each child and put it into function. From fourth grade we were a musical trio and after discovering Deep Purple in the seventh grade, we switched to rock music. Hard rock has proven to be very good for a fragile child to mature and understand the principle of firmness.
Unlike his father and sister, who are architects, Deko followed his mother's steps, a biologist, and enrolled and graduated from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Food, Department of Viticulture and Orcharding.
The nature has always been very important to me. In the first year at University, the two most important subjects were botany by guru professor Radmila Grupche and chemistry by the famous Olga Bauer. The way how professor Grupche handed over that material to us, that fascinating world of cell life, and philosophically explained how to differentiate, according to that time understandings, the living from the inanimate nature... Now through the crystals, after 10-20 years I realized that there isn’t an inanimate nature. Even the crystal is a living nature – Nikola Tesla saw it as the first step in organizing life, which is not biological.
While studying, Deko had another great passion. That was the music. The first three years of his studies are related to "Badmingtons", the legendary punk trio, a phenomenon at the time. Before the end of the study he crosses to the pop-rock concept – "Aleksandar Makedonski" and after graduating was the engagement with "Klerzho".
Just the things got going with "Klerzho", Yugoslavia disintegrated in 1991. We lost contacts with Croatia and Slovenia, which were practically our promotional markets. Then I had the opportunity to travel and stay in foreign country, for the first time for long time. I went to Trieste, Italy, at my aunt Tania, my mother's sister. I started looking for a job. I wore just the synthesizer, if I have luck with the music, the bike to look for a job and the backpack, Deko recalls.
Before continuing to narrate about his life journey, he shared with us some of his knowledge of the historic-geographical and social features of this Italian city.
In Trieste he meets Primo Rovis, the first citizen and a great coffee-mogul, favourite among the citizens and a big patron. Rovis was a poor boy, an Italian from Zhminj, Istria, who immigrated to Italy after the peninsula being assigned to the Yugoslavia. At the age of 8 he was an orphan, without a father and mother. In Trieste he started as a grocer and sold sugar, rice, oil... From the early 1960s Rovis began selling coffee. Gradually, he became a world-class expert for Brazil's coffee stock market. He became a billionaire but never forgot that he was poor.
During that time, Rovis fought politically for Trieste to obtain administrative independence for the funds received at the regional level, and Deko began filling out applications to emigrate to America or Australia as an agronomist.
I told my aunt to ask Rovis for Brazil, he was a diplomat, an honorary consul in this South American country. We found the number in the phonebook, called for a term and he received me.
Rovis heard Deko, but did not advise him to go to Brazil. He told him to leave a phone number and if he could – he would help. After 10 days the phone of aunt Tania rang. On the other side of the line was precisely he, the great benefactor.
If you are still looking for a job, get your work clothes and come to me tomorrow at 1 p.m. at "Piazza Tommaseo" No. 4.
Deko's first job was to assist gardener Pino in arranging the courtyard of the Rovis family house. The engagement was extended several times. Entire family Rovis – Primo, his Brazilian wife Suny and two daughters Gilda and Cristina were pleased with Deko.
At first, I was carrying and eating a homemade sandwich, but when Rovis found out, he invited me to have lunch with their staff. After lunch, I had coffee. While enjoying the coffee I thought: Hey, I'm drinking coffee at the biggest coffee tycoon!, Deko narrates with a smile.
At that time, Rovis began a new passion. He ordered two containers of crystals from the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. His idea was to present the fascinating, hidden world of crystals to the public.
He engaged me for two months to sort the crystals, stone by stone. When it was over, all the other contractors had their jobs completed, and just I was told to stay during the exhibition.
Deko was the first employee of Rovis' new business. He took care of arranging the "Arte di Dio" collection and he was presenter on exhibition of about 500 square meters.
When my father came to visit me for the first time and saw the gemstones, he said to me: Stay here my son – this will continued your life. Everything made by man is a subject to criticism, but this is God's creation. Every piece is new and surprising!
For Deko this was a whole new world, in which his love of crystals was born...
Returning to the native soil
Since he came to Trieste, Deko was determined to return to Macedonia. He wanted to gain experience, earn, if is possible to make a career and to return to his home country to invest it. After holding an exhibition at the San Lorenzo Ticinese Basilica in Milan, on the occasion of 2.000 years of Jesus' birth, Deko returns to his fatherland with a van loaded with about a ton of stones.
The first exposure of the crystals was at Skopje Fair in 2001. Visitors were surprised for what they see and kept ask him if the stones were real. That was a positive signal for Deko.
I used the connections that I had through music, not to start from scratch and after a year I saw the potential to open a store.
According to Deko, as a country we have not had much experience with gemstones in jewellery sector. Most likely, because we have not been the centre of power, we have not been a kingdom in the last few centuries. All the larger empires had an upper class and a bourgeoisie, for which craftsmen made jewellery. We have only been a province of the Ottoman Empire and therefore we do not have a rich stock of important specimens of jewellery in museums. Even when Macedonia first became independent in the socialist system, we only had a middle class that was not a buyer of gemstone with higher value.
In the spring of 2002, the first store near the Embassy of Greece was opened, which became a cult. Slowly but surely... the voice blown away. Even the goldsmiths of the Old Bazaar began to recommend: For gemstones, you can ask Deko.
There were semiprecious stones of different kinds and varieties in the store, all imported. He continued to co work with the firms, from whom his previous Italian company supplies. He knew the sources and had an excellent margin. The idea was to present the worldwide most famous crystals to a home audience.
Soon, Deko became interested in learning how to process the gemstones.
We started to wonder for all those tools and machines, because the gemstones are very solid. It is a technology that is not hobby branch, such as woodcarving or metalworking. It is not as exposed as it should have ensured that the gemstones were taken from the poor countries and facet into the rich.
The great invention called Macedonian Ruby
As time went on, geologists and people who understood the subject came to the shop, more and more often and kept asked him how there could be stones from all over the world and nothing from Macedonia. He was increasingly hearing that there were rubies in Macedonia, as well. At first, Deko was sceptical and thought it was a mistake. Upon becoming more interested, he learned that the Macedonian Ruby was marked on the world map, in company of the rubies from Burma, Sri Lanka, India, Russia and Tanzania. The Macedonian Ruby was known in the 50s of the last century, and the earliest data back to the 20s. The research was conducted by German geologist Otto Heinrich Ernst Mandorfer, who after the World War I published several scientific papers which first indicated that in Pelagonia were found samples of corundum, which is aluminium oxide and its red varietal is known as ruby.
We found some stones that looked like ruby and I took them for more testing abroad. I was confirmed that is ruby, not high-class, but still natural. I said to myself: Is that possible? We have ruby at home! It was strange to me that it is not so well known so far, not promoted by institutes, ministries, faculties...
As soon as he realized that there was indeed a ruby in Macedonia, Deko definitely decided to learn how to facet gemstones. He used his acquaintances from Italy, procured machinery, asked for advice, and began to step into the new unknown world. By 2005 he was studying, equipping and experimenting, and in 2006 the first facet Macedonian Ruby finally saw the light of the day. In front of the audience it was exposed for the first time at the Spring Handicraft Bazaar in the Old Bazaar and won the Best Product Award. The news appeared on the front pages of newspapers.
The image of a small country like Macedonia, agrarian and mining, suddenly is presented with a gemstone that is endemic. Suddenly, from agrarian land, we become the land of the gemstone, which only can be found here. In scientific literature, Macedonia has been described as the most important place in Europe for rubies, Deko emphasizes.
First of all, the interested individuals in Macedonia didn't have enough confidence in the new product. The first loyal clients were mostly foreign missionaries, diplomats and ambassadors... Slowly but surely, the domestic clients began to be encouraged by the foreign clients.
At that time there was a campaign "Buy Macedonian products", and it was invested in absorbing our awareness that we are an ancient culture and have something we can show to the world. The Macedonian Ruby appeared just at the right moment, Deko said.
Since 2008 the Macedonian Ruby has been protected as a trademark and practically Deko is the filter of its quality promotion. According to him, the charm of promoting the Macedonian Ruby is in honesty, not commercialisation.
It is the result of pure human and artistic enthusiasm. It rays from the ruby. They say that when a gemstone is facet, it is very important what the creator's mental and spiritual state is – that energy is also transmitted to the stone.
The promotion of the Macedonian Ruby chronologically coincides with the beginning of the development of incoming tourism in Macedonia. The location near the Embassy of Greece has already proved to be insufficiently suitable for tourists visiting Skopje briefly, who usually had time to visit only points in downtown. Deko had already looked for the position closer to the Centre, some small place. The choice fell on store on Rekord, which began operating in 2012. Both stores operated for about three years until 2015, when the store near the Embassy of Greece was closed.
The new corner has received great publicity.
When foreign authors came to make documentaries about Macedonia, then we were one of the new things that were suggested to them and they accepted it with great enthusiasm. The Macedonian Ruby has appeared in documentaries on the European TV channel "Arte" and on Japanese television "Suzuki". We were also included in the Japanese and French tourist catalogues.
The first exhibition "Macedonian Ruby – The Powerful Beam of Our Heart", which had been planned for years, was held at "Porta Macedonia" on 29th of November, 2013. Deko explained to us the symbolism of the exhibition's title:
The pink gemstones are received by our energy system through the heart chakra, the first chakra that distinguishes man from the other animal world. It is the chakra, which intersects the horizontal (material) and vertical (spiritual) worlds. The point where the vertical and horizontal axis of the cross are intersecting, the balance between the earthly and the divine, actually is the gate that opens for advancing in spirituality. Hence – "The Powerful Beam of Our Heart", because we Macedonians are known as polyglots and hospitable, kind, positive, loved by all and non-aggressive.
The promotional video for the exhibition of Macedonian Rubin, with music by Deko ("Klerzho" and "Badmingtons"), was to be made by film editor Sashko Poter-Micevski. But here the fortuity, if subsist, involves. In the meantime, Sashko received a scholarship for London and sent as his replacement the young student Tamara Kotevska, nowadays known as the director of "Honeyland".
The promotional video for Macedonian Ruby was one of Tamara's first major projects, and now, she got two Oscar nominations!
Deko's wants every town in Macedonia to have a shop with a local craftsman, who will incorporate the Macedonian Ruby. So far, this idea has been implemented in Ohrid with the help of associate Mitko Ukoeski, who practically revived the filigree craft, that is, the concept of the supreme old master Vangel Dereban, a historical figure for Ohrid. On Easter 2018, after 10 years, the Dereban's store reopens, where the Macedonian Ruby is also incorporated in filigree.
Filigree with only one stone of Macedonian Ruby is already a recognizable product that is immediately apparent. It becomes an elite craft product with higher added value. And a world brand.
In the family of Balkan Prime Tours
There are four employees in the Deko's shop. Over the years, a network of outside collaborators has been built, because this sector, as Deko told us, works that way – everyone helps everybody.
For several years, Deko has been striving to be in friendly communication with the tourist guides.
Collaboration doesn't work the best with travel guides who are working only for profit. They are not at the required level of cooperation, as the Macedonian Ruby is not a commercial product. It is much more... The best promoters of the Macedonian Ruby are those who feel its subtle value.
The initiator of the collaboration with Balkan Prime Tours was Vlatko Sulev.
Slowly but surely... I think that Vlatko definitely is one of those who have the capacity, the wider staff to see things. He is developing both the business and the idea to set up a new platform that will be valid for long time in the future. So do us. We have simply recognized ourselves as people of similar sensibilities who can do much for their own country. Connecting good people is the solution to the problem created by the high capacity of network connections of "bad" people...
Deko adds that the girls from Balkan Prime Tours have great credit in the whole story as well.
Vlatko chose associates that suit him and proved to have done a great job. Those girls that are carrying groups here have a "clicker" to show their guests rare exclusivity. To be successful and to do great things, you do not have to struggle much. It is much more important to remember the right thing at the right time and to transmit information with less energy.
According to Deko, Balkan Prime Tours is a leader in incoming tourism and a major promoter of the Macedonian Ruby. And what is important for tourists is that here, in the store, they acquire information and discover a whole new and hidden world. Precious stones, natural minerals and crystals in jewellery are very attractive all over the world. First because they are small; second, because they are authentic; third, because some of them represent precisely defined geographical points on the Earth, because they are endemic species and fourth – they reflect certain historical and cultural momentums in society.
Tourists are looking for new experiences. On each new journey they want to gain new knowledge. We're very good at that – we give them information about something new that they can't find anywhere else in the world and we give them geological knowledge that is extremely attractive, says Deko.
Those who will buy Macedonian Ruby, also will get a certificate. The main satisfaction for Deko is their feedback, which is noted in the notebook of impressions. It's amazing!
The symbolism of the Macedonian Ruby
Some gemstones are markers for certain cultures, countries, states or nations. Jade was a cult stone in China, turquoise was the stone of Pueblo and Navajo Indians in Arizona, Apache had their "tears", the Māori of New Zealand had the nephrite... We have the Macedonian Ruby. It is important that it is from the territory of Europe, with raspberry-pink colour, economical, not high class of rubies, and most importantly – it is authentic and natural.
Synthetic stones are manufactured in controlled laboratory conditions. They are always monolithic. Often they have no inclusions and each piece is ideally same as egg-to-egg. Every person wants his stone to have some detail that sets it apart from everything else. The inclusions, which are imperfections, are like barcode-lines that can identify where the stone originated. It gives a personalized effect and people know that.
The Dolomite marbles, which are the rocks where the ruby was created, are one of the oldest on the planet. They are from the Precambrian period and is thought to be 800-900 million years old and more.
So, you have a piece of the planet Earth that is a gemstone over a billion years old. It is immutable because precious metals melt and break the primary chemical bonds, they are recombining. No matter how much you facet the gemstone to get to a clean zone, when it is finally processed – its surface is facet, but its configuration and crystal structure have remained unchanged since creation. The stones are therefore thought to be a record of information from the time in which they were made and are often used as relic elements, as instruments of healing and meditation.
If the Macedonian Ruby is music, it would be Deep Purple's hard-rock, evolving to Pink Floyd and Mozart:
Distortions in rock music are an association of distortion of abrasive tools that grind the stone. That grates and this grates. That's strong and this is strong. And one more thing: Deep Purple was one of the most noisy rock bands and their biggest attraction is the live performance. The studio albums are one, but Deep Purple's live performance you never know how it will happen, how it will develop and how long it will last. Every presentation of the Macedonian Ruby here in the shop is unpredictable, because you have to adjust your performance to the type of visitor.
In addition to the Macedonian Ruby, Deko also presented the amazonite with reseda green colour and the Kokino crystal with gray, matte colour –
That's our holy trinity! Macedonian Ruby is love, amazonite is hope, and Kokino's crystal is faith.
World-famous celebrities have received the gift of the Macedonian Ruby – Popes Benedict XVI and Francis, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, Indian Yogi Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda, Princess of the Hunza – Rani Atiqa, owner of the foundry in Florence – Marinelli, actresses Catherine Deneuve, Daryl Hannah and Isabelle Huppert and many other Macedonian diplomats and celebrities.
All Macedonian Rubies for the great world figures are made and exited from our workshop. It's a pity that Toshe Proeski didn't manage to get it...
For Deko, it is very important to be the protagonist of a historic step forward, because the introduction and standardization of a national gemstone in one country happens very rarely in history. It is an important historical moment.
An idea, inspiration or vision is being realized in my life and I see it functioning and it will be a platform for generations after us... Of course, if we manage to protect the Macedonian Ruby from an uncontrolled outflow, that we are witnessing for decades. We are the first and the real factor in its protection, he concludes.