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Tagua Ivory Nut Facts & Options

Whether a farmer, designer, or shopper, tagua nuts are gems from nature to treasure. Especially crafts people would love to enhance their creativity with tagua. My previous blog focused on buttons, but other fab results are jewelry, carvings and utilitarian objets d’art.

Additional popular items are wine corks, key chains, dice, dominoes, and chess pieces. Look further to find cane and umbrella handles, pipes, tiles, and sewing needle cases. Most pieces are results from the fine art of scrimshaw.

The green and reasonably soft nut from the hard casing has the consistency of Jell-O. Once the nut is ripened, it becomes very hard, so this is the time to shape tagua into different molds.

The drying process is the trickiest part of utilizing tagua nuts. The hollow, soft center is formed as the nut hardens. Each nut has a small stem that is softer and more porous than the rest of the nut.

It takes about 4 days to kiln-dry the nuts. Ecuadorian artisans find it is easier to work the nut if it is only dried about 70%, which is still pretty hard. After completing the figurine or shape, they dry it more. This extra drying helps to insure that it will not crack later.

To achieve this extra step of drying, they put the pieces under paper or a towel and shine heat lamps onto the covering. This is similar to incubating a chicken egg — not too hot, just nice and warm.

You can buy them dried 70% to carve. About 8% will have cracks or flaws in them, but those can be utilized for different purposes. There are basically five stages of shaping, detailing, sanding, polishing and drying. Most all those stages are accomplished with a bench grinder.

One World Projects distributes finished tagua jewelry to both wholesale and individual buyers. Take a look at their products and be sure to read about this admirable fair trade business founded by Phil Smith in 1992.

Your queries and comments are welcome. See invite options below. There’s more to know about color turns from white to yellow and chocolate brown. Some boil, some inlay; — bring it on!

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Written by Delia Montgomery

I am Delia, d/b/a Chic Eco on, and established myself as an eco fashion guru by learning "who makes what in the world of environmental fashion and design."

Enjoy reading some of my freelance writing about environmental design, fashion and art -- from both consumer and supplier perspectives. You may notice I focus most on individual eco designers, movers and shakers.

From sustainable fashion apparel to paint and flooring, discoveries are a rush. I get my kicks this way. I also offer sales representation of earth-friendly designed products for wholesale buyers. Retailers may take advantage of my services with factory-direct pricing. Spend less time sourcing and prevent green-washed purchases!

My other forte is connecting suppliers with business-to-business tools. Aspects of my business vary with consulting services while I'm proud to be the aide that embraces unique and innovative gigs.

I'm originally a Kentucky Blue Grass gal who relocated to Maui early 2006 and the tropical Puna District of Big Island, Hawaii late 2007. Walk the talk is my motto here.

Early 2009 I constructed a yurt home office in a semi-urban setting on a tiny lot. My water comes from the sky, contained in a catchment that's not likely to dry in this rain forest. The electric is designed for solar conversion. I grow about 30% of my food organically, compost, and recycle to the hilt. Permaculture with a full eco system is my gardening style.

In fact, gardening is my ultimate joy. I seek gigs like design, weeding and planting between other jobs. My love is Hawai'i which has more climate zones than any state. There are frequent earthquakes here, typically under a 3.0 magnitude, and I happen to dig the vibrations. It's a wonderful simple life in paradise. As I grow older and wiser, I become more and more grateful.


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