Tagua nut also know as vegetable ivory is a product made from the very hard white endosperm of the seeds of certain palm trees. Species in the genus Phytelephas (literally "elephant plant"), native to South America, are the most important sources of vegetable ivory. An early use of vegetable ivory, attested from the 1880s, was the manufacture of buttons. Before plastic became common in button production, about 20% of all buttons produced in the US were made of Tagua nut.
Vegetable ivory has been used extensively to make dice, knife handles chess pieces and jewelry. It is a very hard and dense material. Similar to stone, it is too hard to carve with a knife but instead requires hacksaws and files. Vegetable ivory is naturally white with a fine marbled grain structure. It can be dyed; dying often brings out the grain.
Here at Semilla Designs we source all of our Tagua nut from a small family run workshop in Manta, Ecuador.