Sustainable Jewelry: Alexandra Mor Tagua Seeds Collection

There are a few jewelry designers that I continue to think about long after I have featured them. These are artists that seem to operate on a different wavelength and completely change the way I might think about a material or genre. Alexandra Mor is one artist whose aesthetic and mindset continues to captivate me.

Alexandra Mor Emerald Cut Smokey Quartz set on wood and Tagua seed ring. Photograph by Russell Star.

Inspired by a host of things–wildlife, the environment, Bali–Alexandra has released a new capsule collection that centers on sustainability in jewelry materials. This Tagua Seeds Collection, in connection with Vogue Italia, builds on Alexandra’s core artistic vision, but opens a new dialogue. It’s like a shaft of light illuminating a façade you knew was beautiful, but you can truly see the intricacies with this illumination.

Alexandra Mor Carved Tagua Seed cuff. Photograph by Russell Star.

Having met Alexandra, the beauty and thoughtfulness of this collection is in perfect keeping with the designer, her heart, and her integrity. This is High Jewelry of exquisite detail and her usual perfection of execution, vaulting the sustainable conversation into a different stratosphere.

Alexandra Mor Carved Tagua Seed and Carved Wooden Lotus flower Diamond Stud earrings. Photograph by Russell Star.

Alexandra was shocked by recent statistics that there is STILL such demand for ivory jewelry, and moved by the plight of elephants in East Africa, where poaching continues, despite government and private protection. She also relocated to Bali. This collection stitches together a global story, uniquely hers, that starts in Ecuador with sustainably grown and harvested Tagua seeds, and ends in Bali with the utmost respect for traditional Balinese workmanship and design motifs. But the impact of this chain extends to East Africa and their elephant populations, as 20% of every purchase from this Tagua Collection goes towards an elephant organization.

Tagua Seed. Photograph by Russell Star.

Tagua seeds look and act like ivory, allowing for traditional carving and polishing, but are totally sustainable. You can harvest multiple seeds from one Tagua palm: in a year a single tree can produce the total amount of ivory from one elephant in its lifetime. It’s a staggering thought.

Since making a number of trips to East Africa, and having spent time admiring elephants in national parks, sanctuaries, and in the bush, this is a cause close to my heart. When you watch elephant family structure and their complex communication with each other, you can’t help but be moved and realize how advanced—and vulnerable–they are.

A photo of a majestic elephant in Tsavo West National park, on our recent family trip to Kenya.

Alexandra brought this idea for sustainable luxury through capsule collections to Vogue Italia and provided the Tagua material to the other US Protagonist jewelry designers, including Coomi, K. Brunini, and Kristen Hanson Fine Jewelry. Alexandra’s Tagua Seeds Collection will debut at the Vogue Italia US Protagonists event during New York Fashion Week on September 6th at Spring Studio in Tribeca. I caught up with Alexandra to talk more about the initiative and her stunning new collection.

Alexandra Mor in Bali. Photograph by Ken Kochey.

Interview with Alexandra Mor

idazzle: There is a significant dialogue happening right now with responsible sourcing in jewelry. What was it that moved you to act on the ivory issue and its impact on elephants?
Alexandra Mor: I began to question the current material commerce pattern and the toll it takes on our planet and the creatures that inhabit it. After watching a documentary about the ongoing killing of elephants Let Elephants Be Elephants, I could not stop thinking about it. I felt so misinformed that the killing for ivory is still going on. I cannot imagine our planet without elephants; they are incredible and so similar to us humans. They carry so much of our planet’s DNA and wisdom. That led me to the understanding that something needs to be done. Historically, our industry has had a hand in promoting the ivory trade and so today we must actively support stopping it. Protecting the elephants is akin to protecting Mother Nature: the animals, the forests, and the communities who live in those areas. How? By actively caring, and by informing and educating retailers, designers, and consumers alike.

Alexandra Mor Pearl set on wood and Tagua seed ring. Photograph by Russell Star.

What was the catalyst to put these different threads–Balinese motifs and techniques, plus Tagua sustainability–together?
AM: After moving to Bali, I found new inspiration and a connection with meaningful practices from the rich Balinese culture and traditions of the island. Upon discovering that the elephant population was seriously threatened due to its demand in the decorative arts field, it inspired me use my role as a designer in meaningful ways. With so much ivory consumption today still being used, I knew there must be a way to merge my desire to embrace a more empathic view towards life’s creatures, with a gratitude for the gifts of the natural world, into my work.

Alexandra Mor Carved Subang Tagua Seed and Black wood Hoop earrings. Photograph by Russell Star.

You have a very defined, singular aesthetic that informs your work. Why was it important to you to incorporate traditional Balinese design motifs?
AM: I am currently and will always continue to create my signature brand in NYC. The intention with the Tagua Capsule Collection is not to replace my Signature Collection or brand design aesthetics, but rather use my voice in the industry and among collectors to initiate some important conversations about sustainable and mindful luxury. With that said, the Alexandra Mor Signature Collection has always used ethically sourced gemstones.
It was important to me that the collection respect Bali, where I am currently living. My inspiration for the collection came from the exotic beauty of traditional and handcrafted Balinese workmanship and heritage. From my time living in Bali and immersing myself into the culture and traditions, I was deeply inspired by Balinese design motifs like the Tree of Life, or Kayonan, Mala, and the Kalabubu, the head-hunters of Nias warrior necklace. The direction for the design of this collection focuses on the Balinese originality, and the almost-forgotten story of heritage and craft. It’s the first journey of that kind and I plan to create many more in the future that are inspired by indigenous heritage and cultures, and that will also help support my passion for sustainability, mindfulness and the environment.

Alexandra Mor Tagua Seed Bodhisattva of Compassion necklace. Photograph by Russell Star.

Your jewelry is usually made in NYC. Were there challenges to working onsite in Bali? Rewards?
AM: There is so much about my Balinese experience that connects with my spiritual and personal story as a woman and a designer. It was only natural to make my new collection entirely crafted and designed in Bali with my local team. The local craftsmanship, heritage, and spirit are highlighted throughout the collection. My local team consists of the best carvers available in the world, seated right in the island of Bali, as well as an amazing team of goldsmiths who use traditional 22 karat gold since the beginning of time. I’m honored to be able to share this creative journey and collaborate with the local craftsman in Bali. The reward of working with local team was magnificent and allowed me to expend my creative inspiration and learn new ways of jewelry making and techniques. Being in Bali also allowed me to collaborate with photographer Ken Kochey who is a New York-based photographer that has moved to Bali with his family. He fell in love with the Tagua project, and it’s all come together so beautifully.

Alexandra Mor Nepali Bodhi With 22 Karat gold beads, Baroque pearls and carved Tagua Seed Long Malla neckace. Photograph by Russell Star.

What is your vision for the Tagua Seeds Collection and its possible impact?
AM: I feel very strongly about connecting retailers, designers, and collectors alike and am currently working on creating a non-profit foundation called the Tagua Foundation. The goal of the Tagua collection is to create peace and harmony for collectors from all over the world, and to provide a natural inspiration through emphasis on the mindful and social interaction of life between people and the natural environment.
Additionally, I wanted to make sure to preserve the indigenous traditions of the local communities that will help realize the Tagua Collection. Many of the people in the Ecuadorian Amazon region who harvest the Tagua are women who do not have many opportunities to provide for their families. The Tagua nut will offer a necessary support for these women and will help drive economic growth, education, and empowerment. This will align with the synergy in Bali as well where Balinese master carvers showcase their artistry in pieces that will have a global audience.

It is so symbolic that a seed is at the heart of this idea. I can’t wait to see Alexandra and this new collection, and will be traveling to New York City to preview the collection at the Vogue event, follow along on Instagram!

Alexandra Mor Oval cut Garnet, Tagua and Diamond Ring. Photograph by Russell Star.

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