Who would have ever thought that luxury jewelry would have its seeds in a nut? While tribal fashions have been the appearing on all the major catwalks, tagua jewelry could start a new trend – tropical fashions. Tagua is a true South American wonder that will make you look and feel beautiful.
Raw State of Tagua
In its rainforest environment, tagua nuts could easily be confused for almonds. They share the same off-white color.
As the tagua develops, a tagua nut will thicken, harden and grow in size. It is not uncommon for these nuts to grow to six centimeters.
Tagua comes from a popular rainforest palm tree. The trees are commonly found in the northwestern rainforests of South America.
Rainforest inhabitants learned early on about tagua’s properties. For instance, traditional societies used tagua for its medicinal properties, and they also used it as a material in their home building.
These societies also have a long history of incorporating tagua in their attire, jewelry and ceremonies.
Tagua plays an integral role in many traditions today. For instance, the Embera Indians, in Colombia, use tagua in their necklaces, bracelets, and miniature domino and chess sets.
Virtually any piece of jewelry can be crafted with tagua. The pieces will definitely last too; the U.S. military uniforms were made from tagua during World War I and II.
Tagua is commonly referred to as “vegetable ivory” or “ivory nut.”
Fortunately, no elephants have to be harmed during the process of extracting the material. In fact, the discovery of tagua and its many benefits has aided the elephant population because it offers an alternative to poaching.
Tagua is almost identical in color, texture and strength to elephant ivory and it can be an ideal alternative to plastic as well.
While tagua has been used in modern materials, like plastic, its incorporation into design is its own revolution. As a traditional material, the nut used to be exclusive to the domestic sphere.
The increase of eco-tourism in rainforest regions led to the commercialization of tagua pieces. A distinct artisanal tagua economy developed.
However, the material would eventually be exported around the globe.
The 21st century witnessed a strong push to incorporate tagua into mainstream culture. In 2005, Europe played a pivotal role in this shift. More designers began putting a modern flair on an artisanal design.
The United States became most familiar with tagua a few years later.
Tagua’s popularity in North America stayed in craft, bead and art circles for some time, and it would eventually take off as more high-end and modern designers added their twist on this folk tradition of jewelry design.
Today, jewelry from this nut from the South American rainforest can be found in the most exclusive and chi-chi jewelry boutiques.
While the jewelry pieces are beautiful, tagua’s popularity is linked to some greater themes.
Tagua has made tremendous environmental impacts, from saving elephant populations and reducing poaching to cutting down on the use of plastic.
As a result, many jewelry designers label and sell their tagua pieces as organic, sustainable, green and eco-friendly/eco-chic.
Tagua jewelry has also had positive economic impact for artisanal communities. It is not uncommon for a modern jewelry designer to donate part of the proceeds to a South American tribe or to hire exclusively traditional tagua artisans to make their jewelry.
Tagua also intrigues foreign consumers for the positive cultural benefits. It represents keeping indigenous tradition, knowledge and culture alive.