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Going Green with Tagua Nut Carvings

Jul 1, 2008
Tagua nut carvings may look like they have been produced from finest ivory, but the truth is, it has never been anywhere near an elephant! The tagua nut is actually a very hard nut that comes from a tree known as the ivory nut palm. This nut can be carved and polished to a high degree, making it difficult to discern from elephant ivory. The paleness of the nut and the ease with which it can be carved has made it very popular as an adornment or decorative piece.

The tagua nut carvings have often been referred to as vegetable ivory, or corozo, and needs to be dried out before it can be carved. While fresh, it has a flaky brown skin and it shaped a bit like a small avocado. These nuts hail from the South American rainforest, where they are found on the ground, often haver having been stripped of their skin by animals and insects. After being dried, carved and polished, these nuts can be used for a variety of purposes, including making beads, jewelry, and even bagpipes! In many ways, the vegetable ivory of the tagua nut carvings can do a great deal to relieve the desire for ivory.

Many humanitarians and environmentalists strongly support the production of tagua nut carvings. Not only can their sale save swathes of rainforest from being cut down due to farming, they can also replace the trade of elephant ivory, where elephants are butchered solely for their valuable ivory tusks. In 1990, the Tagua Initative was started, a conservation-based enterprise that was devoted to creating economic incentives for harvesting these popular and valuable nuts.

It is interesting to note that tagua nut carvings have, in some ways, been with the United States a great deal longer than you might think. For instance, until inexpensive plastic buttons came along, about 20% of all buttons made in the United states were made with tagua nuts. Today, Ecuador is a country that is known for its skillful tagua nut carvings, which can come in the form of boxes, jewelry, keychains and other ornaments. Tagua nuts have been carved for many years, but international markets are just beginning to notice how beautiful this material is and how skilled the artisans who carve it can be.

If you have an interest in tagua nut carvings, you'll find that there are many different options available to you!
About the Author
Author collects tagua nut carvings and netsuke.
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