Vegetable Ivory

An Eco-Friendly Alternative to Elephant Ivory

The most common source of ivory in the world for many years is elephant ivory. Nowadays, the decreasing number of elephants (due to widespread slaughter for tusks), the growing concern for depleting elephant population, the ban on ivory trade, and the rising cost of ivory have led to the use of natural alternatives to and imitations of elephant ivory. One of the popular substitutes for ivory is the vegetable ivory. It is a special seed from Hyphaene Phytelephas, a palm tree that grows in the rain forest of the Amazon.

Also known as Tagua in South America, this alternative ivory has the same hardness and creamy color as real ivory, which is why it is considered the only substitute that’s completely sustainable for elephant ivory. Why is using ivory from a South American palm tree 100% sustainable? First and most importantly, it keeps elephants from being slaughtered for their tusks. Thus, it helps in stopping the extinction of elephants. Second, it does not require cutting down trees for farming, making it environmentally sustainable. It is possible to harvest the seed without damaging the tree or any wildlife. Lastly, it gives the South American economy a real boost because it provides jobs for thousands of people in that area.

The Tagua plant produces ivory about three times a year, and this can last for many centuries. It can produce about 16 heads every year, with each containing 20 seeds. Tagua seeds are hand collected when their fruit pods, which hold the seeds, becomes ripe and falls. After the seeds have been harvested from the forest floor, they must be left to dry totally so that it will achieve the required hardness. The seeds are usually dried for about six weeks by exposing them to the sun. Once the Tagua seeds have hardened, their brown skin must be removed. Then the seeds can be cut, carved, dyed, or polished to make small attractive jewelry items such as blocks, discs, beads, and droplets. Aside from jewelry items, Tagua seeds are also made into figurines, buttons, toys, pins, and other small products.

Its beautiful color makes Tagua one of the commonly used materials for creating fashionable jewelry. Since it is lightweight and durable, Tagua is perfect for making earrings, necklaces, and other similar jewelry items. The advantage of using this kind of ivory is that it does not age—its color and shape will never change. That is why its value increases as it gets older. This is in contrast to true ivory that tend to stain or change in color over time.

The best thing about using jewelry from Tagua seeds is that they won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Unlike other types of ivory, this alternative ivory is less expensive.
Using vegetable ivory for jewelry and handicrafts is an eco-friendly and cost-effective alternative to true ivory, which comes from elephant tusks. Consider this type of ivory if you need ivory but care about the diminishing population of the earth’s elephants.

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