What is the Tagua Nut?
The Tagua Nut (also known as vegetable ivory) is the seed found in the pods of the Ivory-nut palm tree. Phytelephas, the scientific name of the ivory-palm tree, literally means “elephant plant” because when its seeds are dried out they become as hard, durable and carvable as an elephant tusk ivory.
Tagua grows in the tropical rainforests of South America, mostly in Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Peru.
Tagua will take approximately 15 years to produce its first harvest and will not stop bearing fruit for all of the years and even a century to come. A 35 to 40 year old plant measures about 6 feet and produces, in the 3 yearly harvests, between 15 to 16 heads or “mocochas”.
How is it made into jewelry?
The Tagua pods are collected and then selected to dry them out in the sun from four to six months, so that they become hard. The small shells that contain the nuts are extracted from the pods and cracked to extract the nuts. They can have their natural brown skin, or it can be removed completely to get a white ivory color. At this point, a saw is used to slice or cut the Tagua nuts in the desired shape. Afterwards, the Tagua pieces are dyed into beautiful colors using natural dies. And finally, artisans put these beautiful pieces with another seeds and materials together to create beautiful designs!
We could talk for hours when it comes to the reasons for using Tagua jewelry, but just to give you an idea…
- It raises the economic value of these rainforest palms, protecting them from destruction and supporting new plantings.
- It does no harm in any stage of growth or production to the trees, animals, people, or land.
- Enables Terra Natural Designs to support the artisans who carve and dye these nuts with fair wages (in accord with the Fair Trade guidelines) and with work in a pesticide-free environment. We also work with the artisans and co-ops to help them integrate modern business techniques and jewelry design.
- Offers an excellent alternative to the tusks of elephants, walruses, and whales. While these animals are killed for their tusks, the ivory palms produce nuts year after year, even beyond a century.
- It is also beautiful, attractive, light weight, durable, eco-friendly, sustainable, organic, natural, CO2 positive, fair trade, non-toxic, even edible, bio degradable, versatile, trendy, reasonable priced.