50 years of dedication to the Tahitian Pearl
It all started about 50 years ago. Tahiti Faa'a airport was barely 9 years old. In 1967, Jean-Marie Domard had just returned to France, his mission in Polynesia largely fulfilled. Tahiti's cultured pearls were beginning to fascinate the most daring entrepreneurs, starting with Koko Chaze, an opportunist in the positive sense of the word.
He had crossed paths with Domard and, like him, believed that cultured pearls had their rightful place in Polynesia. Didier Sibani had arrived in Tahiti a few months earlier. At the time, he was working with Mr Dragacchi, a jeweller from Papeete. While fishing for tiger sharks in the Marquesas Islands to mount their teeth on jewellery—highly prized by the military—he met Koko Chaze in Manihi. Through him, he learned the basics of running a pearl farm. Negotiations with the Japanese to send grafters were quite tough, but the first few thousand pearl oysters were successfully grafted and the results were as good as expected. Koko Chaze and Didier Sibani harvested their first pearls in 1972. Didier then joined the Rosenthal brothers, whom with the support of Koko, he had helped to get established.
FIRST JEWELRY STORE
He quickly launched his first farm and produced SIBANI pearls, the Queen Pomare. Very beautiful pearls, indeed. A beauty recognised by the Japanese themselves. All that was left to do was to build up their reputation. It became quite obvious: despite the Tahitian cultured pearl being beautiful, it had no market. It is therefore necessary to create one. What could be better than to create jewellery lines dedicated to this new splendour harvested from Polynesian lagoons? Despite his love of the sea and his fascination for cultivating the pinctada margaritifera, Mr Sibani’s passion for crafting jewellery knew no bounds a vehicle to get the jewellery world interested in the Tahitian pearl and to buy it.
Since 1972, he has been creating jewellery specially designed for these pearls that boast an unusual diameter (8 to 10 mm, compared to 6 mm for Akoya pearls from Japan), featuring original colours, as well as an incomparable lustre and orient.
SHOWCASING THE TAHITIAN PEARL TO THE WORLD
Together with his friends Jean-Claude Brouillet and Salvatore Assaël, he then decided to make the Tahitian pearl famous throughout the world. For Didier Sibani, there is no doubt that the Tahiti cultured pearl is the most beautiful of all pearls. He set himself the task to enhance it through jewellery and created his own company, "Sibani Perles Joaillerie”, for this purpose. He travelled the world and attended trade shows to promote the Tahitian pearl, queen of the South Seas, within the industry. The tireless promotional work of Didier Sibani, Jean-Claude Brouillet and Salvador Assaël was essential to the recognition of the Tahitian pearl.
A few years later, it was indeed Didier Sibani who took over Jean Clause Brouillet's company "Tahitian South Sea Pearl Co".
In the early years, the world of luxury and fine jewellery reserved a rather lukewarm reception which soon gave way to real enthusiasm. Trade shows followed one another: Basel, Hong Kong, JCK Las Vegas... For Didier, "The pearl of Tahiti must conquer the world". Sibani boutiques were multiplying, using the same leitmotiv everywhere: "Every woman in the world should wear a Tahitian pearl."
Tahitian Native Jewelry, one of the boutiques,
created in the 1990s.
World of Pearls, created in the 1990s and located in Vaima Center.
ON THE RIGHT: the “Sibani Joaillier” boutique, Papeete.
A NECESSARY ORGANIZATION
In the 1990s, the SIBANI brand had a worldwide presence of no less than 60 stores and 300 employees. It became Polynesia’s foremost luxury group. They were represented in Paris at the Hôtel de Crillon with the "Nilo Perle" brand. By this time, the Tahitian cultured pearl was barely 20 years old. It was essential to control its marketing, better define its quality, and promote its excellence throughout the world. In 1994, Didier Sibani submitted a report to Mr Edouard Fritch, then Minister of the Sea (and current President of French Polynesia), "Proposals to organise the trade and marketing for the Tahitian pearl". In the same year, Mr Sibani created the B.E.E.E.P ,"Bureau d'Expertise et d'Évaluation de la Perle” (Office for the Expertise and Assessment of Pearls) , inaugurated by Mr Edouard Fritch and Mr Georges Puchon, then Minister of the Sea and Minister of Economy respectively. This professional laboratory was designed to check the quality of Tahitian pearls and to streamline their local and international development. With the creation of an Economic Interest Group in 1993 named GIE Tahiti Perles, the Tahitian pearl became better controlled, better promoted and better known.
In recognition of his 30 years of dedication to the cultured pearl of Tahiti and his tireless promotion of this exceptional gem, Didier Sibani was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour by President Jacques Chirac in 2001.
THEY MADE HISTORY
Today, Didier is still involved with pearls and jewellery. After dedicating 50 years to the Tahitian pearl, how could he stay away from his passion? Having achieved his objective, he sold most of his "showcase" companies in order to enjoy a more relaxed life. However, he still continues to have a strong input in the creation of new jewellery lines. He is also happy to give presentations on pearls and jewel- lery at trade fairs and hotels in Polynesia in order to, as he puts it, "talk about his baby", thus combining both passion and pleasure.
While it is important to highlight the magnificent work of pearl producers, it is no less essential to remember that the Tahitian cultured pearl has owed and still owes a large part of its success to the few pioneering Polynesian and international jewellers who have managed to elevate it to the same status as the most beautiful gems in the world.
A SINGLE OBJECTIVE, EXCELLENCE
The 1980s and 1990s saw an exceptional development for the Tahitian cultured pearl. Suddenly, in 1985, the oyster beds became sick due to several factors, leading to Tahitian cultured pearls becoming scarce. Their price skyrocketed, reaching 9,000 Francs per gram (the current equivalent of USD 240). Everyone wanted to get their hands on "a black pearl". Sibani did not become complacent.
As President of the French Foreign Trade Advisors’ section in Polynesia and Vice-President of the Asia Pacific zone for twelve years, he showcased the Tahitian pearl in French embassies and representations around the world. In addi- tion to these international commitments, he took particular care of his jewellery, at all times ensuring its finesse and perfection. The quality of this commitment earned him the prestigious Fondexpa award in 1995—Grand Prize for Ex- port—in the arts and crafts category, awarded by Mr Alain Madelin, the French Minister of Trade and Crafts. Only one amongst the many distinctions earned by Sibani.
Didier Sibani when he received
The Legion of Honor. 1995