Saturday, December 6, 2014

Have you seen my eco-friendly earrings
made from tagua nut?

Posted by Amanda Villaruel | |
For my birthday I got these beautiful, red earrings made from tagua nut. This beauty is handmade by artisans in Colombia :-)

Frankly, I had never heard about tagua nut until the day I unpacked the earrings! 
My beautiful red Tagua nut earrings - Colombian jewelry
Tagua nut earrings from Angelica Leon Design

I did some digging though, and did you know that the tagua nut goes by many names like vegetable ivory and natural ivory? Basically it's a nut from a palm tree, and it's considered as one of the eco-friendly materials from the South American rain forest, mostly found in Ecuador and Colombia. 

The designer behind the earrings is Angelica Leon, who grew up in Bogota and she now lives in my hometown, Oslo. Not only does she design earrings, but also necklaces, bracelets, ear studs and rings. And their raw material is the vegetable ivory.

Check out her collection of tagua nut jewelry (opens in a new window)
Information about the tagua nut earrings made by Angelica Leon Design
Information about the tagua nut earrings made by Angelica Leon Design

What is vegetable ivory?

At first glance the vegetable ivory looks much like animal ivory; they're white, hard and share the same texture.

Before they can be worked with, the nuts need to be dried in the sun which can take a few weeks or even months - it all depends on the weather condition. It's amazing how you can transform something so plain, into a beautiful piece of jewelry. And one of the main reasons for that is the nut takes dye easily, by boiling it in natural colored powders.

When they're ready, the earrings are polished which brings out the material's structure.

Also read: 17 personal tips on how to travel sustainably and ethically.
The tagua nut - alternative to animal ivory. Copyright: Jack Kunnen / 123RF Stock Photo
The tagua nut.
Copyright: Jack Kunnen / 123RF Stock Photo

I'm not going to glorify the tagua nut because every raw material has at least one weak spot.

The drawback of vegetable ivory is that prolonged exposure to sun or water can cause the piece to crack and the color to fade. But then again, most jewelry should be kept from exposure to sunlight and that also includes silver jewelry. So, there's nothing new here ;-)

Obviously, purchasing jewelry made from this type of nut is far more sustainable than jewelry made from animal ivory, which derives from the tusks and teeth of animals.

Many animals are killed, just for the tusks.

A study from Colorado State University suggests that ivory poachers are killing animals faster than they're being born.1 And that 100,000 elephants were killed between 2010 and 2012 because of the illegal poaching trade. This alone is reason enough to avoid animal ivory, and switch over to sustainable materials, like the tagua nut. 

And let's not forget about the people behind the vegetable ivory jewelry.

Enamore Treasures writes that more than 50.000 families in Ecuador earn a living based on the nuts. And according to Colombian Craft Designs, working with vegetable ivory can generate five times more income than working on cattle ranches or banana plantations. It can also be used as an incentive for the people in South America to stay away from working in the drug plantations.

Plantations = clearing and destroying rain forest to meet land needs.

So, why consider jewelry made from tagua nut?

  1. An eco-friendly option that contributes to the preservation of the rain forest in South America

  2. You're supporting craft work and not mass-produced jewelry

  3. Jewelry made from vegetable ivory are hand-made and original, and colorful options to your indie style and wardrobe ;-)

Sources used in this article:
  •  1 "Elephant crisis: Ivory poachers are killing animals faster than they are being born" -
  • Colombian Craft Designs, Enamore Treasures

Have your say about what you just read :)

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