Its source is totally natural, but it is however known as the ivory of the new era; this is the internationally famous Tagua nut. This hard and round seed is obtained from the Phitelephas Aequatoriales palm, which name is a derivate from its location. This palm tree can only be found in Latin America -especially in Ecuador, Colombia and Panama- very close to the Equator. The Rainforest allows this plant to grow easily and its origins are attributed to the Amazonian region. In Ecuador, there are two regions where this particular specie grows; Manabí and the Amazon.
The indigenous cultures created Tagua art and they also created a trend in Ecuador. With the raw seeds, artisans carved the material and create beautiful jewelry, house ornaments, souvenirs and even some practical objects. Thanks to its fine and strong texture, very similar to ivory but totally sustainable, this has been an export product since the 19th century. Many fashion emporiums have used this material to make clothing and complement it with Tagua buttons. In Ecuador, it is very common to find all kinds of handcrafts –like key chains, bracelets, necklaces, rings, carved animals, massage instruments, and more – even in different colors.
The unpeeled Tagua has a brownish color and it is white inside, but it is possible to color it when you boil it with colored water. Thanks to this process, the variety of pieces that can be found is infinite. Each seed is different, so a handcraft can never have the exactly same exact shape or features.
Another interesting fact is that only female palms produce Tagua, so it is not necessary to harvest male palms. This abundant specie grows easily; so the extinction of Tagua is not a danger or concern. Its demand in European and North American countries has also been growing in the recent years.
The imagination of every artisan flies when working with this material. The details that we can find on every piece -even when it is such a hard material- are truly fascinating. When this seed is used nothing gets wasted; its leftovers, known as Tagua flour, are used to feed pigs, birds and cattle.
Advantage Travel works in Manabí and the Amazon, so we give our guests the opportunity to buy these precious handcrafts from local artisans. The products presented in our tours come from native communities of the surrounding areas, who sell their products at very convenient prices compared to exports. When you buy a Tagua souvenir in any city, you are promoting the economy of the community and specially the development of local families.