During the mid-1800s, trade routes between Europe and South America started flourishing. Wooden sailboats were used to carry export goods and passengers. The sail boats were filled with sand in the bottom to add stability while traveling in a rough sea. But there was a major flaw to this strategy. The wooden ships would often rot or get destroyed around the hull which caused leaks and water got filtered onto the sand. The sand would absorb the water which made the ship sink. The sailors started looking for a substitute and got a solution for this flaw in the tagua nuts. Tagua nuts were heavy and plentiful and did not absorb water. These nuts were used as ballast for years in the ships and proved to be helpful.
Accidently one of these wooden ships with tagua nuts ended in Hamburg, Germany where an artist carried a few nuts with him and carved them into different shapes. Later he commercialized his creations, and it was a huge success. With time, the German businessmen began to make profits with these seeds. With the growth of tagua trade, the Germans found the main source of these nuts and built first-trading post in Manta, Ecuador, which was named as “Tagua Handelsgesellschaft M.B.H.” or Tagua Trading Company. The beginning of tagua industry took place in 1895.
The Germans exported these nuts to Italy where they were carved and returned to the Germans for commercialization. Later in 1910, the Italian traders found out the main source of these nuts and built the “Casa Tagua” or Tagua house in Manta near the German tagua trading company. With the advent of plastics, the demand for tagua suffered. The German and the Italian tagua company were forced to end the business. It was in the 1960′s and 70′s, tagua came up again as people started using natural products.
Coincidently the grandchildren of the Zanchi family who handled Casa Tagua and the Hellwig family who handled Tagua Handelsgesellschaft M.B.H were in a relationship. After six decades, later, the families got united and restarted the tagua business. The business started as a raw blanks exporter, but later evolved into button production which was later named as Corozo Buttons (Green Ivory International Inc.)