Never heard of tagua beads? You are in good company - I hadn't either. Well, ever since Fabrizio Vera of contacted me about a giveaway, I've learned lots!

Tagua nuts are the seeds of ivory palms (Phytelephas) found in Central and South America. Their scientific name means "plant elephant". That's because the nuts are so hard, they can be carved just like elephant ivory. They are also easily dyed.

Elephant ivory is no longer traded nor should it be so tagua nuts are a wonderful alternative hence their other common names, vegetable or plant ivory. They are also environmentally sound as the palms are not harmed in any way.

Harvesting the economically viable nuts provides not just a living to those who live the area but it also discourages the cutting down of rain forests to make way for farms. Yep, tagua nuts save elephants AND the rain forest!

Tagua palm treeTagua Palm via Wikipedia

One of the questions I had for Fabrizio was whether the beads were fair trade. Apparently I was not alone. Not only do their customers ask this, some have turned up to inspect their factory! He was honest and said he did not know much about the trading within the rain forest areas as it is informal and not yet regulated. He added, " A family gathers 2 pounds of nuts, gets a boat across the river, gets to the town and sell it to local merchants." From that point though, trading is traceable.

Their workers are treated well. The factory looks well equipped as you can see from the pictures Fabrizio sent me.

Raw Bead Warehouse and the Shaping Machines

The Polishing and Dyeing Machines

Drying beads and the Quality Control ladies!

Finished tagua and coconut necklace
See here for the  video tutorial

EcuadorianHands is giving away a $15 gift certificate towards a few of  the jewelry kits shown here. There are cell phone charms, bracelets and simple necklaces. Remember any of these can be disassembled or made into different designs mixing in some of your own bead collections.  I have selected a couple of kits which I liked :

To win the certificate, all you you have to do is make a comment below. Extra entries if you become or are a blog subscriber or follower or also on my Facebook Fan page or Twitter. Please say so in the comments. The giveaway ends in a week's time at 6 pm EST Monday, December 13. I will pick the winner randomly and announce the results as soon as possible after. So be sure to come back and check!

Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
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