Tagua nut - The Green Vegetable Ivory
Our tagua jewelry is handmade from high-quality, sustainably-produced, Fair Trade tagua. Tagua is considered the new eco-friendly, vegetable ivory and is known for its strength, color, beauty and resilient qualities.
Several tropical American palms produce vegetable ivory, but one of the most important is Phytelephas Aequatorialis, also known as the Ecuadorean Ivory Palm. This palm tree is the main source of Ecuadorean tagua, a botanical alternative to ivory. The name literally means “elephant plant” and the palm grows in the Equatorial Amazon Rain Forest in the Napo Valley region between Colombia and Ecuador.
The Tagua Nut
Tagua nuts are the seeds from the fruits of the Ivory Palm. Female palms have clusters of large, woody, pointed, brown fruits that are the size of grapefruits and melons. The seeds are harvested from fruits that have naturally fallen to the ground.
Each fruit contains about 20-25 seeds. Once the seeds are removed from the fruit pods and dried, several layers of the brown outer skin are removed to reveal the smooth, white endosperm, called tagua.
The endosperm of immature seeds is pulpy and sweet and is food for people and animals from the region. Mature, dry seeds harden over time and once the seed is about 70% dry, it can be carved to make intricate beads, jewelry, figurines and buttons. Then, it is colored with water-based, non-toxic dyes and finally polished by hand.
The History of Tagua
Before the invention of plastics, once ivory had become scarce, tagua seeds were used for hundreds of years as a raw material for luxury articles. Once plastic was introduced, tagua was largely disposed of. In the last decade, however, tagua is experiencing a green revolution and is once again valued for its beauty and as a natural, biodegradable, sustainable and renewable resource. Using tagua as an alternative to ivory both protects elephants and the rainforest in our fragile world.
As a Fair Trade company and member of the Fair Trade Federation, Belart acquires tagua nuts solely from government-controlled environments, making sure that sufficient seeds are left to perpetuate the palms and the native tagua habitat.
Fair Trade Tagua: The Impact of Your Choice
When you purchase a tagua jewlery piece from our collection, you are making a “purchase with a purpose,” directly embracing the ethics of Fair Trade, contributing to the preservation of elephants, tropical rainforests and cultural traditions, and supporting native women's groups and communities that have been displaced by the violence of Colombia’s 50+ years of civil war.