The tagua nut
It grows in the tropical rainforests of South America, mostly in Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, and Peru. It 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.
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.
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”.
The Tagua Nut, also known as vegetable ivory, is the seed found in the pods of the Ivory-nut palm tree. The Tagua nut 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. This is another very important reason why to choose products made of this material.
Vegetable ivory is naturally white with a fine marbled grain structure. It can be dyed; dying often brings out the grain. It is still commonly used in buttons, jewelry, and artistic carving. Many vegetable ivory buttons were decorated in a way that used the natural tagua nut color.
HOW IS THE TAGUA NUT 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 in beautiful colors using natural dyes. And finally, artisans arrange a unique combination of various seeds to create beautiful designs!