Producto / Ivory-nut palm (Tagua) jewelry

Tagua, also known as ivory nut or vegetable nut, is the seed of the palm Phytelephas macrocarpa, which grows in humid tropical rainforests in the Pacific, especially in Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador.

They are used and sold internationally, mainly to make buttons and artistic figures or decorations and adornments. For this, the indigenous Embera and Wounaan people work with this seed, preparing much-admired crafts of beauty.

The tagua or ivory vegetable comes from the white and hard endosperm of the seed of the Phytelephas sp, of the Arecaceae family that is distributed throughout the northwest of South America. The polished endosperm of the seed looks a lot like ivory, in spite of its absolutely distinct properties. In Ecuador, the species used to get tagua is Phitelephas aequatorialis, which grows in the subtropical zone between the Andes and the coast, especially in the province of Manábí until an altitude of about 1,500 meters above sea level, above all in the city of Montecristi, where there many foreigners and Ecuadorians go to find pretty and cheap objects made of this material. Tagua (tagua flour) serves as feed for animals like cattle, pigs, and birds.

It had a high demand in countries in the Northern hemisphere until the beginning of this century, mainly for the production of buttons. It’s estimated that in 1920, 20% of buttons made in the United States were made from tagua, which came mainly from Ecuador, Colombia, and Panama. But the button industry suffered a great recession after the Second World War, when plastic replaced almost every use of tagua.

In Colombia there are a lot of crafts produced from this seed, especially in the Department of Boyacá (Chiquinquirá, Ráquira and others in Colombia) ) there is a lot of tagua produced, which is why it’s easy to find games of chess, dominos, yo-yos, pipes, necklaces, etc. They are sold in Sunday markets and plazas of fairs and are met with great reception because of their beauty, durability, and economical prices.

Pictures below: SETEM

This English translation has been possible thanks to the project: Free translation of websites for NGOs and non-profit-making organizations. A project managed by Mondo Services. Translator: Leigh Siderhurst


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