nut is the dried nut of the Tagua palm tree, located in humid mountainous
zones of Ecuador, Colombia, and Panama. It isn’t a domesticated
tree and grows wild in these areas. Tagua nut takes 14 – 15
years to produce growing in the dense vegetation under the tropical
sun. When ripe, the nuts drop to the ground and are harvested by artists
and artisans. After harvesting, it takes anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks
for the nuts to dry.
Tagua nut is known as ivory of the vegetable world. The tagua nut
is a hard grain with a cellular structure similar to that of elephant
ivory. Tagua is denser and more resilient. It ranges in color from
a frosty white to deep amber, most nuts being a rich amber color.
Because it is so similar in texture and color to animal ivory, it
has been passed as animal ivory and sold at the same prices (or even
more!). Is it any wonder that artists want to work with such an amazingly
malleable and beautiful material?
Tagua nut has been used for hundreds of years to make dice, dominoes,
chess pieces, cane and umbrella handles, and religious figurines.
Initially, tagua nut was sent to England in the early 1800s. By the
mid 1800s, Germany imported tons of it and by 1862 button factories
were popping up all over the world in France, England, Canada, the
United States, and Germany.
Millions of nuts were used each year by factories in London and Birmington.
Tagua continued to be a huge part of the garment industry until the
advent of plastics.
For a while, tagua was overshadowed by the world of synthetics until
some famous designers like Christian Dior, Yves Saint Lauren, Valentino,
Versace, among others, began to use tagua nut in their designs during
the 70s. More and more, tagua is making its way back into our world.
The black market ivory trade has endangered the lives of many animals.
Tagua, because of its uncanny likeness to ivory, offers an alternative
to animal ivory.
Tagua nut is a renewable rainforest crop. It is collected from the
jungle floor, ready to carve and create into beautiful pieces. Currently
there are associations promoting the use of tagua as a viable option
not only to animal ivory but also as a means to preserve the jungles
while taking advantage of natural resources.
Because so much of the rainforests have been destroyed to feed livestock
and supply the logging industry, the use of tagua nut in products
promotes the use of the jungles in a sustainable way.
Tagua nut is not only used for carving, but the whole plant can be
used – nothing goes to waste! The roots are medicinal for their
diuretic properties. The stalks are used for making floors. The shoots
are edible when cooked, and the leaves make great roofs. The flowers’
straw is used to make brooms. The seeds are used to make beverages
when they’re unripe and are eaten when they’re ripe as
well as carved to make necklaces, buttons and other accessories.
The tagua nut is a jewel of nature that when transformed and carved
by expert hands, like those of Ana Maria Botero, it becomes a work