The tagua nuts are way fun. Does anyone know where to get some.
Todd Schowalter, who is a fossil dealer at gem shows, is also a tagua
nut carver and you should be able to purchase nuts from him. His
business name is Fossils Plus: P.O. Box 50186, Irvine, CA
92619-0186; 949-643-2615, fax 949-643-8704.
Todd gave a program on tagua nuts for my rock club last November and
here are some excerpts from the program review in our newsletter,
written by Julia Varney (one of our members):
"The tagua nut, a cousin to the coconut, is a vegetable "ivory"
produced by a species of palm known as “phytelephas” which grows in
the rain forests of South and Central America. In the young and fresh
state the fruit is eaten by animals. When they fall to the ground,
the nuts decompose and new palms are “born.” When fully ripe, the nut
hardens and becomes a valuable resource which has been used
commercially for many years in the making of carved buttons, and as a
substitute for elephant tusk ivory.
“The tagua palm produces many spiny pods, each containing 5-6 nuts.
Nuts must be fully dry before being shipped out and the drying can
cause cracking, especially in the bigger nuts. The carver also has to
watch out for the small spaces which once held live embryos. Todd
uses a small, hand-held, battery-powered Dremel “mini-mite” tool with
various steel burs (first coarse, then fine) for his carvings. He
uses very fine (1500 grit), worn-out sandpaper for polishing, and he
warns not to get the nuts wet which could cause swelling and then more
cracking as they dry.”