tagua nut

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How it’s made?

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

What is Tagua Nut?

Tagua (”tah-gwa”) nut, also called ‘ivory nut’, ‘vegetable ivory’ or ‘Corozo’ is the dried seedpod of the Tagua Palm tree (Phytelephas Macrocarpa) which grows in tropical rainforests of South America.

Interesting Facts

  • Tagua nuts grow in large armoured clusters with each cluster containing many nuts. They range in size but in average they are about the size of a walnut.
  • Chemically they are pure cellulose and before nuts mature they contain a milky liquid in the centre.
  • When ripe, the nuts fall to the ground and are gathered and dried from four to eight weeks, after which they become extremely hard.

The Process

  • The big and ripened clusters are collected and then selected.
  • They are dried from four to eight weeks, after which they become hard.
  • Small shells that contain the nuts are extracted from clusters
  • Shells are cracked to extract the nuts, and each nut is cleaned
  • At this point, there are three options… leave the Tagua nuts with their natural brown skin/shell (the nuts are polished), remove the skin/shell (the nuts are filed and polished) in this case the natural ivory color becomes visible or opt for the marbled look (the skin/shell is filed only partially).
  • Using a saw, Tagua nuts are sliced or cut in the desired shape.   Holes are then drilled depending on the purpose and design.
  • Once whole nuts or slices are ready and depending on the purpose, the next step is to dye the pieces in the desired colors. Usually fabric dyes are used.
  • Once the dyeing process is finished and the pieces dried, artisans used these beads to put together beautiful and creative designs
  • Finally the only thing left is to enjoy these beautiful creations

This is a very brief summary of the Tagua nut process. It seems simple and quick but please note that this is a laborious process which involves growers, pickers and artisans.

Tips When Buying Tagua

The nut is hollow in the middle with a small canal running to its base, but that does not mean that all Tagua slices come with a hole. Holes in Tagua slices are signs of improper and accelerated drying process. Properly dried slices do not have cracks or holes.

  • If the proper production process is not followed, Tagua nuts can go bad or moldy.
  • Avoid using alcohol or perfumes, various chemicals may cause the color to run.
  • When ordering directly or online make sure that the company is well established and guarantees the quality of the product they sell. As well, look for customer reviews or ratings.
  • When buying directly from producers make sure the companies exist, are legally constituted and do not use child labor.
  • Make sure that companies claiming to be certified as fair trade or eco friendly have some way to prove these claims. The best is to look for certification by one of generally recognized independent organizations such as the Fair Trade Federation, Green America, etc.

You can find some pictures at www.pueblito.ca

What is Tagua (vegetable ivory)?

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

TAGUA NUT – VEGETABLE IVORY

Tagua (”tah-gwa”), also called ‘ivory nut’ or ‘vegetable ivory’, are primarily the dried seedpod of the Tagua Palm tree (Phytelephas macrocarpa) which grows in tropical rainforests of South America.

Family: Palmae

Division: Magnoliophyta comprising flowering plants that produce seeds enclosed in an ovary; in some systems considered a class (Angiospermae) and in others a division (Magnoliophyta or Anthophyta)

Botanical name: Phytelephas Macrocarpa Palmae

There are several species of tagua (tä´gwä) (Tah gwa) palms. In average it is a small understory tree of 20 to 30 feet that grows in damp areas of moist tropical forests of South America. The tree produces a vegetable ivory nut called Tagua nut. The Tagua nuts grow in large armoured clusters with each cluster containing many nuts.  They range in size but on average each Tagua is about the size of a walnut. Chemically they are pure cellulose and before the nut matures contain a milky liquid in the centre. When ripe the nuts fall to the ground and are gathered and dried from four to eight weeks after which they become extremely hard.

Forest animals such as agoutis and squirrels eat Tagua nuts. The cellular structure and grain is similar to that of elephant or animal ivory, but is more dense and flexible (In one year a Tagua palm produces the same amount of “ivory” as one female elephant In the late eighteen hundreds up through World War II, before the invention of plastic, this ivory nut was used to make some of the finest buttons in the clothing industry. Some were even used on United States Army uniforms. Other common items such as jewelery, dice, chess pieces and cane handles were made out of Tagua nuts.  In fact, some expensive “ivory” pieces from the Victorian era were actually made from Tagua nuts.  For close to eighty years the ivory nut was a commodity of global importance and factories on three continents used to manufacture articles of utility and luxury. The creation of synthetics killed the world ivory nut market. The vegetable ivory nut has undergone a come back because of the slaughter and near extinction of various mammals that are hunted for ivory, e.g., elephants, whales, walrus and other species.

In addition to protecting animal ivory, tagua products help preserve tropical rainforests by providing a sustainable income for forest gathers. The sale of tagua products also helps forest peoples make the transition to a cash economy when they are unable to survive in a completely traditional lifestyle. The tagua nuts, however, are harvested by hand without harming the tree.

The indigenous people of South America used Tagua to represent the feminine because of its great magnet-like romantic energy. Each member of the tribe was given a Tagua pendant to wear around his or her neck. The natives believed that persons wearing Tagua would live in harmony and always be loved by their family and friends. Seedpods are peeled, sliced or carved and dyed in different colors. Tagua jewellery and watches are made from those dried and polished seedpods.

More Information About Tagua

Jewelry Made from Tagua