One of a Mind is an online magazine, which celebrates the beauty and diversity of crafts, culture and people – strongly believing that together we are more than the sum of our parts. Initiated by sustainable fashion business ABURY, One of a Mind goes beyond the stories behind ABURY’s products, the cultures they work in, and the people they work with. Together with a broad network of contributors worldwide, One of a Mind covers fields such as food, beauty and travel - telling “one of a kind” stories with an “of one mind” attitude.
You might have spotted them already amongst our handmade bracelets: Playful splashes of colour, looking like a group of small raindrops embracing each other in a circle. Yes, these are our tagua bracelets. Before beautifying the ABURY fashionistas around the globe, these little raindrops were growing on palm trees far away in South America, looking over the Ecuadorian rainforest. Wait… what?!
What is a Tagua Nut?
That’s right – now the tagua nuts have turned into organic jewelry, but they have a long journey behind them. Tagua, also called vegetable ivory, is made from the endosperm of the seeds of some palm trees in the tropical rainforests of Ecuador and other parts of Latin America. The tagua nut is not only a very hard and dense material, it is also naturally white with a fine marbled grain structure. If you are imagining something that looks a lot like animal ivory right now, you got the picture. Before plastic became common, tagua was used a lot in button production – so you might have come across tagua before. In fact, I am sure you have even held it in your hands at one point: Dice, knife handles, chess pieces, billiard balls (or of course the tagua raindrop bracelets in our showroom) are just some examples of items that consist of the tagua nut.
© Suzana Holtgrave for ABURY
Tagua: The best Substitute for Animal Ivory
The palm tree that the tagua nut grows on is called Phytelephas aequatorialis. Literally, Phytelephas means “elephant plant” – so even the name implies a strong link between vegetable and animal ivory. Tagua is a fantastic substitute for animal ivory and a true life saver at the same time: While elephants must die for their precious ivory, tagua palm trees are a renewable resource – they reproduce every year. So, dear readers, save the elephants, and buy our tagua nut bracelets!
How does Tagua turn into Handmade Bracelets?
The question remains, how does the seed of the tagua palm tree fruit turn into our colourful tagua nut bracelets? The process can be looked at in various stages. Firstly, collecting the tagua nuts requires a trip to the mountainside, a bit of exercise and someone with less vertigo than me. The fruits of the palm tree are harvested and opened with a machete – so it would also be advantageous if the person responsible has experience in working a machete. After all, the material used for the tagua bracelets is hidden in the very heart of the fruit.
© Photos via Organic Tagua Jewelry
In the next steps, the tagua nuts are dried, hand-picked and sorted by size, before they are handcrafted by an artisan using a grindstone. The beautiful results are little drops that will soon become part of a handmade tagua raindrop bracelet.
In order to colour the tagua nuts, the tagua pieces are soaked into a hot pan of organic vegetable dyes, rinsed with cool water and laid out to dry. What makes the tagua bracelets so smooth and shiny is the tumbling afterwards. At last, the pieces are assembled by hand et voilá – a piece of organic jewelry is born.
Here you can watch the entire process:
© Video via Organic Tagua Jewelry
And on top of it all… They’re Good to People, to Elephants, and to the Planet
There are various aspects about the tagua nut bracelets that make them so remarkable and fabulous.
The making process is entirely sustainable and eco-friendly: Harvesting the tagua nuts is 100% sustainable because the palm trees are reproducing every single year. In addition, left over materials of the tagua palm tree nut is salvaged and used to feed livestock of the village where all jewellery is produced. Furthermore, only organic vegetable dyes are used to give the tagua bracelets their striking colours – no chemicals, no environmental harm.
© Photo via Organic Tagua Jewelry
Another aspect that makes them truly adorable is the fact that they are entirely handmade and the production is supporting the local communities. One of the main goals of the brand Organic Tagua Jewelry is to ensure a fair and a regular income for the artisans in Ecuador. The founder, Soraya Fetzner, has always had a vision to give back to the craftspeople in the country she grew up in. The relationship with the artisans is very special and direct because she still lives in the village. The brand itself describes the artisans as their friends and neighbours.
© Photo via Organic Tagua Jewelry
The tagua bracelets are manifesting a culturally modern design, revealing the beautiful vibrant colours of an Ecuadorian lifestyle. Who would have thought that these little dancing raindrops represent a beautiful fusion of social and environmental impact. Look good, feel good and do good at the same time? The answer is right here.