Joyeria Semilla meaning Seed Jewelry is a small fair-trade workshop in the Andean town of Villa de Leyva, Colombia. Girasol Taborda, a local artisan and social entrepreneur, started the workshop in the mid-1990s.
Joyeria Semilla’s objective is three-folds; to create new jobs, revive Colombia's handicrafts sector and to motivate locals to better manage their natural resources. Working primarily with socially and economically disadvantaged youths, single mothers and people with disabilities in the area, almost all of the artisans begin without any previous training or work experience. The company offers free training in product design, technical training and marketing to new members. Joyeria Semilla has trained them in the craft of jewelry-making.
Joyeria Semilla jewelry is unique because it uses natural plant seeds. These plants are indigenous to the region and hence, have a unique selling point. Joyeria Semilla takes special care to purchase seeds from sources where plants and trees have little commercial value. Since Joyeria Semilla has assigned a price tag to these underappreciated plants, locals have begun to reassess their value and protect the plants and their habitat as a renewable resource. The seeds that are mainly used for the production of jewelry include Chocho, Wairuru, China wairuru and the Orkko wairuru. These seeds are said to be essential ingredients for traditional medicines and magical practices since ancient times.
This jewelry craft has helped the artisans at Joyeria Semilla to earn a better income and work in a safe environment. These artisans are skilled in using locally available seeds to make beautiful and exclusive jewelry. The economic benefits from this trade has helped the artisans provide better living conditions, and basic amenities such as food, shelter, education and health for their families
Tagua is the seed of an endangered species of palm trees that grow in the tropical rainforests of South America. When ripe tagua seeds fall to the ground and are sun-dried for 4-8 weeks, they become extremely hard and are ready to be carved and dyed. Natural tagua nuts, sliced into half moon shapes and dyed are strung together to create this trendy bracelet.
Handmade by artisans at the fair trade organization Joyeria Semilla, known for creating jewelry from materials readily available in their environment including seeds, natural fibers and leaves. Joyeria Semilla’s objectives are to create new jobs, revive Colombia's traditional handicrafts and to better manage their natural resources.
Tagua, also known as vegetable ivory, is a seed from an endangered palm tree that is found in tropical rainforests located along the Pacific coast of South America. Apart from being a renewable and natural resource, tagua shares many similar traits as elephant ivory, hence its name vegetable ivory. Colombia is second only to Ecuador in the production and exporting of tagua nuts.
These seeds grow in pods called cabezas, when ripe, these cabezas fall to the ground. The pure cellulose, milky substance inside is edible in liquid or semi-liquid (jello-like) form by both people and animals. It is high in protein and sold in fruit-stands along roadsides.The nuts are collected and sundried for 4-8 weeks before being processed. The circular grain of the tagua seeds makes it denser and more resilient than animal ivory, and an ideal medium for creating beautiful pieces of jewelry and other unique items.
The steps involved in processing a tagua nut include, cutting, polishing, carving and dyeing. The sundried nuts are cut / sliced into shapes as required for the jewelry. Any cracks or voids in the nut are filled with white glue. Then the tagua pieces are sanded and polished with a high-grit buffing compound. Holes are drilled into the surface to enable stringing for necklaces and bracelets.
Tagua can be dyed in various ways. The natural shades of rich browns and yellow are achieved by boiling/burning the nut in hot oil. The length of boiling time determines the depth of the hue. Fermenting unpeeled tagua in the rain is another alternative to achieving brown hues in nut. Colored Tagua is achieved by boiling the nut in water that contains either plant-based or commercial dyes.
Dependence on the tagua harvest encourages local artisans to protect and conserve the rain forest. In some indigenous cultures each member of a clan would be given a tagua nut to wear around their neck, believing that the wearer of the nut would be protected by the love of his family and friends.