Tagua nuts are dried seedpods which are harvested in remote regions of the Amazon and are known as vegetable ivory for their creamy white appearance and similarity to elephant ivory. The Tagua nuts are harvested from the Tagua Palms three times a year when the pods naturally fall to the ground. This is a sustainable practice and no environmental damage occurs. The nuts are the components of the jewellery products and are handmade into beautiful jewellery pieces by family workshops in Otavalo.
All the craftspeople producing the pieces are of indigenous background and with very small plots of land per family the main alternative to agriculture is craftwork. They are very dependent on their craft production to provide an income and assist them rise above a subsistence level.
This project is very active in the local communities, donating a percentage of profits to local schools in surrounding poor villages. They are also working with Government agencies that help marginalised communities in remote areas that might have new crafts to sell and need an advocate to assist in this process.
Providing people from marginalized communities with a source of sustainable income through the production of craftwork is of core importance. While a relatively young project, they have an ongoing passion to work with indigenous communities to source new products that are environmentally sustainable and that assist people to live independently above a subsistence level.
The tagua palm grows in five provinces in Ecuador. The thorny palm takes 15 years before it will bear fruit. The palm produces three harvests annually, producing large studded pods, each containing four or more large seeds. The pods fall to the ground when ripe and are gathered and dried for 4 to 8 weeks after which the seeds are removed. The tagua nuts vary in size from a small olive to the size of an orange, however the average size would be similar to a walnut. The tagua nuts have a brown skin, which can be peeled to expose a creamy white ivory colour, or partially peeled to produce a marbled effect.
The seeds are polished or cut with power tools in small family workshops, to produce slices or buttons, while smaller seeds are tumbled to produce round beads. Tagua can be easily dyed to produce a vibrant range of colours, which come together to create unique and exciting pieces of jewellery.