Nuts for exotic jewelry: Naples couple successful with natural ivory products

Many Green Market visitors are nuts for Oxanna and Daniel Baracaldo’s natural exotic jewelry business.

The Baracaldos have carved quite a clever niche for themselves. They branched out in 2002, by carefully shaping sustainable palm tree nuts, also known as vegetable ivory, from South America to string together everything from bracelets to necklaces. Earrings and rings are first hand-dyed, and then carved by Oxanna’s husband and business partner, Daniel, for their family business aptly named “The Green Ivory.”

The ivory nut, also known as a Tagua palm seed, has a history dating back more than 100 years when South American ships would deliver 40,000 tons of ivory nuts to the United States and Europe. Many early U.S. infantry soldiers also wore buttons created from natural ivory on their uniforms, but the nut buttons were eventually replaced with synthetic plastic to trim manufacturing costs.

“I absolutely love them,” said Jhyll Guzman, of Naples, as she tried a necklace of carved ivory on for size while shopping with her daughter at the Collection at Vanderbilt. “They go with everything, and they’re super stylish, and they are all natural.”

Oxanna Baracaldo is quick to point out declining populations of elephants and whales all in a quest for fine jewelry.

“We wanted something different and animal friendly. When the seed is soft, many people in South America eat the seed. They make carve figurines, game pieces, and even foot massagers from it,” she explained to visitors stopping by her tent at the North Naples Green Market.

“When I first saw this necklace, I thought of my daughter who is in her 30s. She believes in being green. She can’t even stand a plastic bag,” Diane Garcia of New Town, Conn., said, as she decided between two styles of necklaces, one from dried and dyed orange rinds, and the other composed entirely of natural ivory.

After recently returning from the successful Blue Grass Festival at Seminole State Park, the Baracaldos were invited to show their natural necklaces, bracelets and jewelry at a festival on Immokalee Road.

From there, the Green Ivory will be featured at various open air markets between Bonita Springs and Naples.

For the Baracaldo family, their present vegetable ivory collection is just the tip of the palm frond.

“We are working on making women’s watches from the ivory, and combining it with carved coconut shells,” Oxanna Baracaldo said of upcoming pieces in progress.

More locations to discover the Green Ivory pieces include the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, the Von Liebig Art Center in downtown Naples, and Annie’s Garden in North Naples.

But the Green Ivory can mostly be found year-round at North Naples Green Market, located at the Green Market at the Collection at Vanderbilt every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and online at www.thegreenivory.com.

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