Discovering Vegetable Ivory

In 2002, at the heart of London, we started using the only natural substitute for ivory in the world without knowing it. 

After selling our Tagua nut jewellery (a seed from the Amazon tropical rain-forest) in London for a few months, I discovered a beautiful and very old piece of Tagua sitting in an antiquary. When enquires about, the shop attendant introduced it as a scrimshaw made out of vegetable ivory, but I recognised it was the same Tagua nut I was using to make my jewellery. As a result, I decided to go deeper and started to research the material.

After many readings and explorations I ended up visiting the Natural History Museum of London again, this time with the main objective of finding the place where they were exhibiting the Tagua nuts. I found them sitting next to real elephant ivory, and they were presented as vegetable ivory (also know as Tagua, Yarina, or Corozo).  

I also found out that it was used during the Victorians to replace small bits of ivory in the making of buttons, walking stick handles, drawer handles, and it even seems to be that the Queen Victoria herself had a dress of which it’s buttons were made out of our exotic material. 

Nowadays, many examples of  vegetable ivory are exhibited in museums around the world, and many pieces are used everyday to decorate women globally.

Featured Posts