Our beautiful tagua nut jewellery grows on the tagua palm that grows in South America (especially in Ecuador where we lived for 5 years). The botanical name for the palm is “Phytelephas Aequatorialis” or Equatorial Elephant Plant, as the tagua nut so closely resembles elephant ivory.
However, I would occasionally see the word “Spruce” tagged on the end of the botanical name. Why Spruce I thought? Well it turned out Spruce was Richard Spruce born in Yorkshire in 1817 who went on to become one of the greatest Victorian explorers. Spruce was a botanist who spent 15 years traveling in South America. It was during this time that he discovered one of the six Tagua Palm species that grow on the continent. This particular tagua species is the one that our jewellery is made from in Ecuador and so his name is sometimes tagged on the end of the botanical name
"Phytelephas Aequatorialis Spruce"
But where does Gin & Tonic come into the story? After 2 years of botanical collecting in Peru, Brazil & Ecuador, the British Government asked Richard Spruce to collect seeds and saplings of the Cinchona Tree. The bark contains quinine that helps fight malaria. It was hoped these could be propagated in India to alleviate malaria that the many British there suffered from.
Spruce spent some 2 years locating the trees in Ecuador and working with the local people. This resulted in thousands of Cinchona trees being transported from Ecuador to Kew Gardens and then grown in British Colonies such as India. The quinine from the bark of the trees helped millions in the fight against malaria. However, the British soldiers in India disliked the bitter quinine “tonic” they were ordered to drink - so it was mixed with their gin ration and so inadvertently inventing the cocktail gin-and-tonic!
So why not have a G&T and at the same time wear some stunning tagua nut jewellery and share this amazing story with friends and family - Go on! Click here to see the nuts themselves - they make a great ornament and conversation piece!
Blog written by Mark Williams