Each NODOVA jewel is designed with the tagua in mind, a pearly-looking seed known as "vegetable ivory". This seed is the fruit of a palm tree, the Phytelephas, originally growing in South America, in the Amazon rainforest and along the west coast of the continent. The fruit of this palm tree is called mococha, a shell covered with spikes and hiding the famous seeds within it.

This fruit has long been exploited, on a global scale, before falling into oblivion during the second half of the 20th century.


Even before the arrival of Europeans on the American continent, the Kishwa populations (one of the most important ethnic groups in South America, of which the women of the cooperative with whom we work are part), already exploited the tagua. by drinking it (when the seed is not yet ripe, it is in the form of a sweet dairy product), or by sculpting it to make small statuettes or jewellery.

In the middle of the 19th century, it is possible to find the first traces of export of the seed to Germany. The Germans are indeed the first to exploit the interesting properties of the seed: its lightness and ease to work. It is then used to make buttons (which until now were made of animal ivory, mother-of-pearl or wood) or small decorative items, even white piano keys.

First jealously exploited by German manufacturers, who also hide its origin to limit competition, the tagua trade will skyrocket internationally at the beginning of the 20th century, mainly following the creation of the Panama Canal in 1914, facilitating exports from South America.

Unfortunately, this boom will be short-lived: World War II will have a negative impact on the export of the seed, its main importers being European (mainly Germany and Italy). But it was really the boom in plastic after the war (cheaper and more malleable) that quickly made this material obsolete and caused the collapse of its trade.

Once intensely exploited, the palm tree now grows wild. Only a few farming families living on the edge of the Amazon rainforest are still involved today in harvesting the seed for almost exclusively local productions (animal sculptures for tourist markets).


Since the end of the 20th century, facing the climate emergency and ecological awareness around the world, the search for alternatives to replace pollutants has taken off. The tagua suddenly regains interest. It is by seeking to rehabilitate this material that our adventure began in 2011.

This seed indeed offers many advantages and interesting properties.

  • Easy to work, like wood, it is nonetheless very resistant, even cut into thin strips (hence its use for buttons).
  • Its lightness, coupled with its soft texture, makes it a comfortable material to wear.
  • Its appearance, very close to ivory, naturally makes it a substitute for animal ivory, the trade of which is now prohibited.

At NODOVA, we also appreciate its rendering once tinted, a feature very little used. The seed in fact absorbs the dyes, thus causing rings to spring up in the mass which give it the appearance of treated wood.

Finally, working with tagua has enabled us, at our level, to help the local trade of this seed in Ecuador and to create jobs by founding the Kishwa cooperative.

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