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The material was cheaper than ceramic or metal, so exporting tagua became a major industry in Colombia and Ecuador beginning around 1900. By the second half of the 20th century, demand halted with the popularization of plastic. Today the material is mostly forgotten in the United States.
Tagua is making a comeback though, this time as a decorative novelty.
While Ecuador now has a burgeoning tagua trade, Colombia's resources are only starting to be retapped. In Bogota, I visited La Tagueria, a factory in the city's gritty industrial zone. Forty employees process about 10 tons of tagua annually into colorful, intricately carved jewelry and decorations.
Tagua, sometimes called "vegetable ivory," is "the only plant product that produces a material this white, durable and pure," says factory owner Alain Misrachi.
Today tagua is more expensive than plastic, but Misrachi says it is a valuable alternative crop that helps preserve the region's tropical forests. The palm grows in the wild at lower elevations across Colombia, so there is no need to start tagua plantations. Locals collect fruit from the forest floor year-round after it falls from the tree, and the seeds are then extracted and dried.
Our latest designs (earrings) from Colombia are featured in the slideshow above. Each pair of earrings was styled with clothing from our boutique. To shop each design, simply click on the picture. We currently have them on sale. The earrings were sourced from a fellow maker in Florida who hails from Colombia. She, like us, shops directly from traders in her home country.
What green fashion are you sporting or selling? Tag us!! We'd love to regram and retweet them. We are @LHoCreations on most social media platforms.
This article was originally penned by Kenneth Fletcher for the Smithsonian. Read the full article through the link below.
Fletcher, Kenneth. “Colombia Dispatch 8: The Tagua Industry.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 28 Oct. 2008, www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/colombia-dispatch-8-the-tagua-industry-88312416/.