Kuk nut is otherwise known as coquilla nut. This oily, hazel-brown nut has a remarkably hard, durable shell that truly comes alive when polished. Solid like the earth’s soil, kuk has a grounding quality often ascribed to the shades it holds.
DID YOU KNOW?
The kuk nut actually looks like a small coconut, and that is also where its name comes from. The Portuguese word coquilho means “small coconut.” It is also called cohune.
Did you know?
This rock-hard nut is yielded by a South American feather palm, the Attalea funifera. It is a tree that is mainly found in dry forests along the north-eastern coast of Brazil and that can grow up to 15 meters in height.
DID YOU KNOW?
RARE LIKE GOLD
In the 1990s, kuk became depleted and was therefore considered very rare. Only in the early 2000s a new source was discovered in Brazil. Before, it was thought to be available in West Africa only.
For centuries, master artists have shaped kuk nut into ornamental pieces. During the 1800s specifically, it was carved into smaller objects such as boxes, needle-cases, figurines, egg cups, umbrella handles, candle sticks, nutmeg graters, and other trinkets. An English taste-making journal, Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics, praised it in 1812 stating that “whatever has been formed from ivory, may be produced from the shell of the coquilla, whose beauty will not fail to attract, while the price of the article will satisfy the purchaser.”
THE ISLAMIC TRADITION
Kuk nut has traditionally been shaped into beads, and Islamic prayer beads in particular. It was specifically valued in the Ottoman tasbih trade. As kuk became a rarity, kuk tasbihs were sold by the gram. Believed to have disinfectant properties, it has been said that the kuk tasbih was known as the tasbih of medical doctors in Ottoman Turkey.
We have noticed something remarkable about this material. The more the beads run their course through the devotee’s hands, the more the color of the kuk nut changes. The more time passes by, the intenser its hues get. Kuk prayer beads also have a special characteristic that you have to hear. As a bead drops and hits another, it gives a clicking sound that is so appealing, meditative properties have been attributed to it.