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Friday, March 9, 2012

Corozo Buttons - Tropical Palms Which Produce Seeds Which Become Your Buttons

Recently I was followed on twitter by a company called Corozo Buttons and after having a look at their website I invited them to talk to us about buttons. Raul Calderon from Corozo Buttons responded with a fantastic email which piqued my interest. Before Raul answers a few questions I put to him, here is a little background on Corozo Buttons .

Corozo Buttons has been a family owned company since it's humble foundation in the late 1800's when tagua or corozo was first developed for it's application in button manufacturing. 

Originally the company was known as "Tagua Handelsgesellschaft" or "Tagua Trading Company" and established in 1895 in Ecuador. These German manufacturers then took the corozo to Italy where Italian hand crafters carved the nuts into beautiful designs which were then marketed by the Germans. 

The Italians cottoned onto the success of this and eventually they too began harvesting corozo directly from the source and by 1910 they created the "Casa Tagua". Business thrived but in the years leading up to WW1 plastic manufacturing of buttons became prevalent and began to wipe out the trade of corozo. The Tagua Trading Company, which was owned by the Hellwig family, closed down completely, and Casa Tagua, barely scraped through the decades under the leadership of the original owners, the Zanchi family. 

The rebirth of corozo or tagua was not to come until the 1970's, after years of dwindling interest, when the use of natural materials became mainstream again. 

Unbeknownst to them, the two grandchildren from the two original German and Italian tagua families had been in an amorous relationship that united the two tagua companies. They decided to once again take the challenge of exporting tagua. Over time, the company evolved not just from producing tagua, but to creating finished buttons in corozo (tagua). Today the company is located in Panama City with its new name 'Green Ivory International' from which it trades as 'Corozo Buttons'. 

Tagua or corozo is a species of tropical palm of which the seeds, after being processed, are turned into buttons. These palms are found in northwest South America, starting from Northern Peru, and then leading into Ecuador, Columbia and finishing in Panama. Corozo is excellent for button making because it can withstand any mechanized action and can be lasered, cut,  burnt, bleached, dyed, tinted and polished to create breathtaking buttons which can, through these various techniques, can be completely personalised to your taste.

Here are some questions we put to Raul:

Do you only make buttons using tagua?

We deal almost entirely in corozo but we also offer several buttons in coconut.

What would be your favourite buttons for the following: a navy blazer, a white Panamanian resort styled jacket and a pair of casual trousers?

Navy Blazer: Oh man, there's only like a thousand to choose from! Personally, I think it would be something on the simple and elegant side such as E-410 or this model we made for Banana Republic once E-1114. 

Panamanian Resort Styled Jacket: When I heard the words Panamanian resort one thing immediately pops into mind: "COCONUT!". So, I would probably go with one from the coco line -  E-608 would be a great choice.

Casual Trousers: I'd say I would go with a classic like E-810. It looks great on everything.

What is your most prized button?

I think this would have to E-1203. It was made for my sister's wedding to be used as part of the invitation; it held the ribbon that closed the invitations. It was extremely hard to make and required a lot of sweat and tears from our factory staff; it was in a way, their wedding gift to her. It was a meaningful moment. 

Can you please explain to us the basic shapes we find in buttons and the different names people use in the industry?

Our buttons come in all shapes and sizes. We have square, round, triangles, hexagons, flowers etc.They can be concave, convex, hollow and we even make round beads for jewellery. After so many years of making buttons we've come across just about every shape imaginable. As far as the different names, they don't really have anything too out of the ordinary. There is something called a fisheye button which refers to a wedge shaped chunk that is missing (see image below). 

Here are some more images of Corozo Buttons that we thought you might like:

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