Bangladesh Artisans

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What looks like an egg, is as hard as rock, and has the superhuman ability to help save endangered elephants and rainforests?

Say hello to tagua, the seed of a palm tree found in South American tropical countries ranging from Ecuador to northwestern Brazil. Commonly known as ivory palms or tagua palms, these trees’ scientific name means, “plant ivory.”

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And for good reason. The mature tagua (pronounced TAH-gwah) seed is incredibly hard, and with its close grain, resembles the finest elephant ivory – but is actually even more dense and resilient! It’s unbreakable, resistant and beautiful.

No wonder, as the mammal ivory trade drops, the tagua industry has grown.

 

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What was old is new again
You could even argue that tagua is entering a second renaissance. Back before the invention of cheap plastics, tagua was a material of choice for buttons, and some household items and jewellery. Now consumers who are interested in finding sustainable alternatives to plastic and animal ivory are again turning to tagua.

And so have savvy artisans. As those living in tropical countries have become more environmentally aware, they’ve realized the importance of saving their rainforests. Even so, if given the choice between cutting forest and feeding their families with the proceeds, most locals would obviously choose the latter.

But harvesting tagua nuts – and turning them into beautiful jewellery, buttons, chess pieces, carvings and even umbrella tips – has become an economic incentive for preserving the vegetation of fragile tropical ecosystems.

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Quality takes time
Back in the spring, representatives from Sapia, based in Colombia’s capital city of Bogota, came to visit Ten Thousand Villages and brought samples of some of their stunning tagua jewellery. We learned that it takes four to six months of sun-drying before artisans can slice and dye the seeds, which are naturally white under their brown husks. Polishing gives them their signature lustre.

We were so impressed by the beauty and quality of these new pieces that we’ve added a number of them to this year’s selection. The Rippling Brook Earring set is just one new offering. Look for many more in the months to come!

 

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Symphony Tagua Necklace Rippling Brook Earrings

 

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