Moondance Gallery - Jewelry Glossary
Fruit of the ivory-nut palm (Phytelephas macrocarpa), which flourishes in tropical America from Paraguay to Panama.
The female palms bear large woody, burrlike fruits, each containing several seeds about the size of hen's eggs. The immature seeds are gelatinous and edible. They mature into white, cream to dark caramel coloured nuts that are very hard. Known in the trade as vegetable ivory, the substance is used as a substitute for ivory and has long been carved into curios for tourists.
Tagua became a commodity of considerable importance in the mid-19th cent. when African ivory began to grow scarce. Great quantities were exported to the United States and Europe for the manufacture of buttons, dice and other small articles. It was largely supplanted by less expensive synthetic materials, although the demand has been rising in recent years.
Tagua is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, order Arecales, family Palmae.
Amber is the fossilized resin of ancient trees which forms through a natural polymerization of the original organic compounds. The resin has gone through a number of changes over millions of years. Most of the world's amber is in the range of 30-90 million years old. The result of this metamorphosis is an exceptional gem with extraordinary properties, used by both craftsmen and scientist.
The world's two current major deposits of amber; the Dominican Republic and the Baltic. Two separate tree types produced the original resin. The Baltic source tree has been named Pinites succinifer. In appearance it would have probably resembled a pine or spruce tree and the forests in which it grew were sub tropical in nature. The Dominican amber would come from Hymenaea protera which had its origins in Africa. Close relatives of this tree (Hymenaea verrucosa) still exist within the sub continent of Africa and on some of the West Indian islands.
Semi-fossilized resin or sub-fossil amber is called copal.
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