Maria Mizrahi combines semiprecious gemstones and different materials such as silver and seeds with Tagua Nuts to create colorful jewelry with a funky, whimsical flair.
Born in Colombia, she studied Industrial Design at the Xaverian University and specialized in "arte orafa" at the Riachi Institute in Florence, Italy. About ten years ago she moved to Boston with her family and I lives in Newton MA where she has her jewelry studio, Baloka.
Before starting Baloka, Maria was in charge of the opening of the Peppers and Rogers Group operations in Colombia, worked for IBM as an international consultant for Latin America in the Digital Printing Division and was the VP of marketing for Grafiletras. However, after moving to the USA she decided to exit the corporate world to combine her passion for jewelry design with the love to her native Colombia by using a unique native seed called Tagua in most of her designs.
Maria has been chosen by the jury of Newton Open Studios in several occasions and has exhibits in several art venues around New England, including The Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton MA, and The Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown, MA.
She was showcased at "The Newton Tab" in an article called "Little things that make a big difference" and talks about her efforts to use her art to help sustain the rain forest.
Baloka is a small company based in Newton, MA. We are devoted to preserving forests and the environment, assuring that the people with whom we work can make a good living. But our goal is also to introduce you to a life style that's ethnic, eclectic and exotic.
Our primary mission is to develop markets for products made from renewable forest resources (like Tagua Nuts) which can be harvested in a sustainable manner without damaging the forest ecosystem, while providing rain forest inhabitants and third world artisans with a fair means of economic subsistence.
With so much of the world's rain forests in peril, it is critical to the long-term survival and health of our planet that we do all we can to preserve them. While they comprise only 2% of the earth's land mass, they are home to more than 50% of all known animal species and 80% of the earth land vegetation. Unfortunately, this equation is degenerating all too quickly.
Baloka products can be purchased online from our eCommerce site Baloka.com. Each jewelry piece is hand crafted and made to order, and because of the natural irregularities of our raw materials, each piece is unique.
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The Tagua nut (pronounced Ta- qwa or Tah-gwa) or otherwise known as vegetable ivory, is the extraordinary fruit of an ivory palm tree that grows deep in the South American rain forest, in the pacific coast of Ecuador, Peru and Colombia
This Nut has been used to make buttons, carved objects like piano keys and chess pieces, and jewelry since the 19th century. When finished, the objects have the sheen and feel of ivory.
As the nut is referred to as “vegetable ivory” it is therefore the sustainable alternative to ivory that is derived from animals. Moreover, the responsible cultivation and harvesting of Tagua may actually contribute to rain forest conservation in South America
The purchase of a piece made with Tagua Nuts supports the employment of 35,000 native people.
The income received from the Tagua palm cultivation is a strong incentive for the native growers to maintain the trees, plant new ones and even replace illicit cultivation of crops like coca. Hopefully this will help stabilize not only the rain forest but the country's political and social situation.
The yearly harvest of one Tagua Palm is equivalent to the Ivory of one female elephant.