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How It's Made

How tagua is processed, dyed and made into beautiful eco friendly fair trade jewelry

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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. Tagua nut vegetable ivory is found in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Brazil.


Tagua Nut Vegetable Ivory Palm Tree  Raw Tagua Vegetable Ivory Nut


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 (tgw) (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 from a small olive to an orange and average 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.


   Raw Tagua Vegetable Ivory Nut Raw Tagua Vegetable Ivory Nut

Raw Tagua Vegetable Ivory NutRaw Tagua Vegetable Ivory Nut 

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 jewellery, 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.



  Raw Tagua Nut Vegetable Ivory SlicesWorking with Raw Tagua Nut Vegetable Ivory

Dyed Tagua Vegetable Ivory Nuts Dyed Tagua Nut Vegetable Ivory Slices  

Wholesale Tagua Nut Vegetable Ivory Slices

More Information About Tagua



  Six wild species of this tree are known. Some of them are found in Central America and others in the Amazon. In Colombia, the Totumo is present almost all around the country in altitudes within 0 to 800 m over the sea level. The fruits are gathered in the departments of Amazonas and Boyac.

 Totumo Gourd Tree  

Family: Bignonaceae (These are shrubs and trees with usually tubular or trumpet-shaped flowers)

Genus: Crescentia (taxonomic group containing one or more species)

Species: cujete L (A fundamental category of taxonomic classification)

Common Names: Calabash tree, krabasi, kalebas, huingo, totumo

Parts Used: Fruits

Totumo is an evergreen tree reaching 6 to 10 m in height with a broad, irregular crown composed of long, spreading branches clothed in 5 to 15 cm long bright green leaves, which create moderate shade beneath the tree. The tree is most outstanding in the landscape for its year-round production of flowers and fruit, both of which are unusual. The 5 cm wide flowers, which bloom at night, are yellow/green with red or purple veins, cup-shaped, and appear to emerge directly from the branches. These are followed by the emergence of the large, round fruit, 12 cm to 30 cm in diameter, with a smooth, hard shell, which hang directly beneath the branches. The fruits develop after pollination and it has a hard green woody shell. Inside there is a pulp that has medicinal applications. 

The tree grows in clayey soils with deficient drainage subject to frequent floods. It grows at elevations from sea level to 800 m, in areas with an average annual precipitation between 1,500 to 1,300 mm and an average annual temperature of 26 C. 

The part of the tree that is collected to process is the fruit. Its active ingredients have not yet been defined. Its uses are mainly in phytopharmaceuticals. The extract of the fruit is effective in the treatment of fever. The plant is used most frequently for the effective treatment of diseases of the respiratory tract such as: bronchitis, whooping cough, asthma and those related to illnesses caused by the cold. Good results have been seen in the treatment of otalgia (earaches).  

Totumo Gourd Fruit 

The ripe fruits once dry and clean inside, are used as containers (totumas) to hold water or liquids. During the pre-Columbian time the natives, Mocans, who inhabited the centre and the south of the Atlantic used this crust to make canteens called Totumas in which they stored milk and water. We cut, dry, clean, dye, polish and engrave the fruits to make beautiful One of a kind pendants, earrings and various handcrafts. When they are dry, clean fruits are cut in half; they have a variety of domestic uses, especially as containers to store salt and tortillas. They are valued in the manufacture of handicrafts and musical instruments.Fresh seeds are ground and mixed with water to make a refreshing drink. The drink has a sweet and pleasant taste. 



  Coconut used for jewelry

 Family: Arecaceae (chiefly tropical trees and shrubs and vines usually having a tall columnar trunk bearing a crown of very large leaves; coextensive with the order Palmales)

Genus: Cocos (taxonomic group containing one or more species)

Species: Nucifera L (A fundamental category of taxonomic classification)

Common Names: Coco fruto (Spanish)

Parts Used: Fruits  

The coconut tree was first cultivated by peoples of India or Southeast Asia; emigrants from these countries then introduced the coconut tree to almost everywhere in the tropics of Asia and Oceania. There is no proof of coconuts having grown in America before the arrival of the Spaniards.

The coconut palm tree grows in hot areas. It likes frost-free areas, and grows in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific region. The tree grows near seas in these areas so the roots can find moisture. In the United States it is found only in Hawaii, the Southern tip of Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. 

The coconut palm may reach to 100 feet or more. The leaves are very large, up to 18 feet long, with lanceolate leaflets up to 3 feet long. The fruits are produced in clusters near the growing tip. They vary in shape, but are generally near globose to oblong, up to a foot or more in length. The nut is encased in a thick, fibrous husk, which is persistent and must be cut away to expose the nut. The shell is very hard and woody, near 0.25 inch thick. 

After a long process of filling with different file thickness, the coconut turn into a one of a kind craft.  




 Bamboo Used for jewelry   

Family: Gramineae (Poaceae) (the grasses: chiefly herbaceous but some woody plants including cereals; bamboo)

There are more than 1400 species of bamboo. In the Americas there are around 290 different species.  Some are as short as one foot (30 cm) in height while others can grow to hundred times that size. The root structures of bamboo plants vary and they are often scientifically classified by root type. Many different climates support bamboo, although it is commonly associated with the tropics. In Colombia and Ecuador Bamboo prospers in fertile regions up to 2,000 meters (7,000 feet) above sea level. We know little of how many Bamboo species grow in Columbia. However, Guadua is well known and has 2 popular names - "Guadua macana or Guadua macha."    






Clay is formed by water, heat and pressure eroding away rocks. It is a natural product of the earth. The geological process of mountains and ridges being pushed up and formed and then being worn down again by weather creates clay. Clay can be found in the earth, soft and ready to be formed. Or it can be made up from the different raw, dry materials mixed with water. It can be modeled, pounded, flattened, rolled, pinched, coiled, pressed, thrown on a potters wheel, cast into molds, scored, stamped, extruded, cut or spun. These natural materials are not only used in pottery but also in the making of glass, brick, tile insulators and elements used in electronic devices, cements, plaster and lime. Clay is one of the only materials which doesn"t have much value on it"s own but can be made into valuable product.  




The filigree is art done in paper, and is quite laborious. Although it is not a discipline that requires of much heavy force of work, it does demand a lot of persistence and patience. These singular little figures are made with coiled paper, patched and glued for the final unique piece. Filigree art is available in Jewellery, greeting cards, paper figurines.


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