What is Tagua?
Tagua nuts come from the tagua palm tree which is found predominantly in South America, mainly Ecuador. The nuts are harvested sustainably without harming the trees which in turn protects the rainforest and animals. Tagua is often dyed before being made into jewelry but are also used without dying. Each nut has a brown peel which when removed reveals the naturally beautiful ivory-like color. Once fully mature the nuts are harvested and after about 2 to 3 months of drying become very hard and durable, perfect for carving.
The tagua nuts vary in size; although, typically they range from 5-7 cm (2 to 3 inches) long and usually up to 5 cm (2 inches) in diameter. They are round/oval and covered in a dark brown skin. The nuts are found within a larger husk that is thick and covered in spines. Each spiny husk usually contains around 4 or 5 tagua nuts. It normally takes 10-15 years before the palm produces nuts, but once it starts it can keep producing for several years.
History of Tagua
Before the widespread use of modern plastics, tagua was a very common and popular material which was used to make buttons, dominos, chess pieces, netsukes (Japanese carvings), dice, and many other small items. In the 1920's, 20% of all the buttons produced in the U.S. were made of tagua, and almost $5M USD worth of tagua was exported into the U.S. and Europe every year. Currently, tagua has fallen out of use for almost all manufacturing applications but is becoming increasingly popular among craftsman and artisans alike because of organic properties and sustainable production.