Watch: The Magro brothers keeping Phoenician traditions alive

A hobby that was born in a store on top of St. Elmo about 50 years ago became a career in which many challenges were faced.

Manuel and Nicholas Magro told TVM that during the Covid pandemic, the artisan brothers, had continued with their work and were looking forward to better times when tourists return to Malta so that their traditional craft, which is increasingly being lost, gets the appreciation it deserves.

Brothers Manuel and Nicholas Magro are living testament to a craft which is on the way to being lost – the art of filigree. A form of delicate metal work and art dating back to Phoenician times where the artist uses fine threads of gold or silver that are woven to create ornaments such as jewelry.

“We can’t be without each other! I’ve been in the craft for 52 years. I got married then he got married. I’m always a step ahead being the older one. Through this craft we have raised two families!

The artisans greeted us warmly in their workshop where they recounted their first brush with this profession more than fifty years ago.

“We were kids. I was twelve years old, my brother was nine. We are from Valletta and it was summer time so we’d run around outside, but we always wanted to do something meaningful instead of wasting time. My dad had a friend who worked in silver. He called him and his friend told him to send me to start. And I went and he showed me, I loved it immediately.”

His brother Nicholas said they struggled until they opened on their own in 1980, and over time moved into a new shop at Prajjet bay. Despite the challenges they faced, including foreign competition with machine-manufactured ornaments, the brothers said that when Covid struck like a lightning bolt it very nearly killed their genuine love for this craft.

” We were very very affected, as you see here we are 365 days a year and there is usually always something going on. When you come here you can’t just stare ahead into thin air, you have to do something.”

They said they don’t know what they would have done without the wage supplement. “Actually I just received it. It was a great help. We had nothing, zero sales, I am taking part time wage supplement but it’s still something. Then of course you have to pay stamp duty and you still need to eat out of your finances – € 50 per week in stamp duty. It’s one thing when you are ‘on the go’ but at the moment you can’t sell because there aren’t people. At least you can say you got something! ”

The Magro brothers said that before retiring from this craft which decades ago was passed onto them by Alfie Agius, similarly, they wanted to pass it on to others, so that filigree lives on and remains an example of the dedication of Maltese artists everywhere, which in rough seas still does not give up or stop dreaming.