The Being Behind the Boutique: Kyle

For the full soundtrack of the cover song at the beginning of this video, visit Sweet Rosebud.

img_0320Scarlett Begonia is a fair trade boutique based out of Nashville that Kyle and her husband Jack were inspired to start after spending time traveling in South America. They were “totally impressed by the cultures and crafts (and) dreamed up (the) idea of maybe someday having a business.” In 1981 that dream came true. The shop now features work from artisans all across South America (Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala & Columbia), India and Indonesia, and their inventory ranges from art and decor pieces like masks and root carvings, to clothing and jewelry. Their jewelry collection is extensive, ranging from intricate metal and glass pieces crafted by local artisans, to gorgeous natural plant-based jewelry crafted from the seeds of acai berries, pambil, achera, tagua nut, and even coconut shells. The remainder of this piece will explore one of these plants in more detail, the tagua, also known as vegetable ivory.

What is tagua?

Tagua nuts come from a South American palm plant whose scientific name means “plant elephant” (Phytelephas). The name’s origin can be traced to the white interior of the nut which resembles elephant ivory, prompting some to call it vegetable ivory.

What part of the palm plant are tagua nuts?

It’s as though the palm plant knows it’s carrying something valuable like vegetable ivory, because the nuts are hidden inside layers of casing.

img_0324img_0322The outer most is the skin and fruit of the plant called the “pericarp,” which can be seen in the image on the right, as a spiky textured exterior. The nuts are further encased in something resembling an egg-carton, and covered in a thin layer of brown skin, which, when pealed away reveals the white ivory interior. While tagua nuts are the “seeds” of the palm plant, technically, it is the white interior of the seed called the “endosperm” that is used for most tagua-based jewelry and crafts. The endosperm is the part of a seed that stores and provides nutrients for the growing plant.

What makes tagua environmentally friendly?
Because tagua nuts can be collected after they’ve fallen off of trees, this prevents deforestation in regions where it is harvested. Further, as an alternative to elephant ivory, tagua is more sustainable, and when tagua seed jewelry is purchased at a vendor like Scarlett Begonia, it is ethically sourced and fair trade.

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