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If you took some time browsing our website, you will have undoubtedly noticed our section of Tagua Jewellery or carvings made from this material. But what is tagua and where does it come from? You will find the answers in this section.

What is Tagua?

Tagua is the fruit of the tagua palm tree - scientifically named Phytelephas. Other common names for the tree include ivory palm, ivory-nut palm or simply tagua palm, while the fruit is also referred to as vegetable ivory. The reason for the reference to ivory comes from the fact that the tagua nut resembles animal ivory closely; it is both a very hard substance as well as showing lines that resemble the Schreger lines of real, mammal ivory.

The trees can reach heights of up to 20m and the tagua nut is shaped similar to an avocado with a diameter of around 4-8cm. Strictly speaking the fruit is not a nut in the biological sense as it is covered by pericarp (the soft outer layer of a fruit) and what is called "tagua" is the seed of the fruit.

Where is Tagua found?

Tagua palms are mainly found in South America. The seeds of the Ecuadorean ivory palm are harvested in Ecuador whereas Brazil calls the large-fruited ivory palm native, which is also the most commonly traded tagua ivory on the international markets.

How is Tagua made?

The tagua seeds can be collected after they have fallen off the palm tree and animals removed the pericarp. The ripe fruits can also be harvested and the pericarp removed manually. The tagua nuts are then dried. During the drying process, the nut hardens and a small cavity can form in the center. This can cause a problem for some carvings and it is therefore not uncommon to either include the hollow space in the center into the design or only carve more shallow as not to break into that cavity.

How is Tagua used?

Tagua's popularity is rising due to restrictions and ban in the trade of elephant ivory, as well as other species, and also due to growing conscience of animal welfare. In the past, tagua was a popular material in the manufacture of buttons for garments but later fell out of favour when the cheaper plastic buttons substituted them. Nowadays, tagua finds its use in the jewellery industry, for beads or the carving of figurines. A comeback for being used in buttons can be seen again and there are also some niche applications for it, for example knobs for kitchen drawers. Tagua can easily be dyed and this makes it a very interesting material in the creation of creative and colourful pieces of jewellery.

Other than for the above mentioned uses, the tagua fruit is also used as a food source and its wood finds its use in the construction industry.

Social and environmental impact

Thanks to its increasing popularity around the world, there is sufficient demand for it to stimulate rural economies in countries where tagua is native, mainly in South American countries. It provides the rural and often indigenous population with an income and this frees them from the dependence on poppy seed cultivation or logging activities in the rainforest.

As only the fruits are collected, there is no need to fell or otherwise harm the trees to access this wonderful resource. On the contrary, locals often take great care of the trees since the income derived from the tagua trade provides for their family. Other than drying the tagua seeds in the sun there are no chemical or energy-intensive processes involved which further supplements tagua's status as an environmentally friendly material. Should an item made of tagua no longer be required, then it does not pose a problem for landfill or recycling processes as it is fully bio-degradable. Only any supplementary parts of the tagua article may remain, such as earring hooks or metal pins to join more complex carvings together.

Explore and Shop Tagua now

We hope the above information gives you a good idea of what a wonderful resource tagua is. It's now time to explore our range and find your dream pair of Tagua Jewellery. Enjoy a vibrant and environmentally-friendly choice of beautiful jewellery!

Find Your Tagua Jewellery Now

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