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. Tahitian cultured pearls are beginning to fascinate the most daring entrepreneurs, starting with Koko Chaze, an opportunist in the positive sense of the term.
He crossed paths with Domard and, like him, he believes that cultured pearls have their place in Polynesia. Didier Sibani had arrived in Tahiti a few months earlier. At the time, he was working with Mr. Dragacchi, a jeweler from Papeete. While fishing for tiger sharks in the Marquesas Islands to mount the teeth on jewelry – highly prized by the military – he met Koko Chaze in Manihi. Thanks to him, he learned the basics of managing a pearl farm. The negotiations with the Japanese for the sending of grafts were quite difficult, but the 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, with the help of Koko, whom he had helped establish.
He quickly launched his first farm and produced SIBANI pearls, Reine Pomare. Very beautiful pearls, indeed. A beauty recognized by the Japanese themselves. All that remained was to build their reputation. It became quite obvious: despite the beauty of the Tahitian cultured pearl, it had no market. So we have to create one. What could be better than creating jewelry lines dedicated to this new splendor harvested from the Polynesian lagoons? Despite his love of the sea and his fascination with the cultivation of the pinctada margaritifera, Mr. Sibani's passion for jewelry making knew no bounds as the jewelry world took an interest in the Tahitian pearl and the 'bought.
Since 1972, he has been creating jewelry specially designed for these pearls with an unusual diameter (8 to 10 mm, compared to 6 mm for Akoya pearls from Japan), with original colors, as well as an incomparable luster and orientation.
With his friends Jean-Claude Brouillet and Salvatore Assaël, he then decided to promote the Tahitian pearl throughout the world. For Didier Sibani, there is no doubt that the Tahitian cultured pearl is the most beautiful of all pearls. His mission is to promote it through jewelery and to this end creates his own company “Sibani Perles Joaillerie”. He travels the world and attends 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 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 jewelry had a rather lukewarm reception which quickly gave way to real enthusiasm. Salons follow one another: Basel, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Las Vegas… For Didier, “The Tahitian pearl must conquer the world”. Sibani boutiques multiplied, everywhere using the same leitmotif: “Every woman in the world should wear a Tahitian pearl”.
The 1980s and 1990s saw exceptional development for the Tahitian cultured pearl. Suddenly, in 1985, the oyster beds fell ill due to several factors, leading to the scarcity of Tahitian cultured pearls. Their price skyrocketed to 9,000 francs per gram (the current equivalent of USD75). Everyone wanted to get their hands on "a black pearl".
As president of the section of French foreign trade advisers in Polynesia and vice-president of the Asia-Pacific zone for twelve years, Didier Sibani presented the Tahitian pearl in French embassies and representations around the world. Beyond his international commitments, he took special care of his jewelry, guaranteeing its finesse and perfection at all times. The quality of this commitment earned it the prestigious Fondexpa prize in 1995 – Grand Prix for export – in the arts and crafts category, awarded by Mr. Alain Madelin, French Minister of Trade and Crafts. Only one among the many distinctions won by Didier Sibani.
In the 1990s, the SIBANI brand was present worldwide in no less than 60 stores and 300 employees. It has become the leading luxury group in Polynesia. He was represented in Paris at the Hôtel de Crillon under the “Nilo Perle” brand. At that time, the Tahitian cultured pearl was barely 20 years old. It was essential to master its marketing, better define its quality and promote its excellence in 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 for organizing the trade and marketing of the Tahitian pearl”. The same year, Mr. Sibani created the BEEP, “Bureau of Expertise and Evaluation of the Pearl”, inaugurated by Mr. Edouard Fritch and Mr. Georges Puchon, then respectively Minister of the Sea and Minister of the Economy. This professional laboratory was designed to check the quality of Tahitian pearls and streamline their local and international development. With the creation in 1993 of an Economic Interest Group called GIE Tahiti Perles, the Tahitian pearl has become better controlled, better promoted and better known.
In recognition of his 30 years of dedication to the Tahitian cultured pearl and the tireless promotion of this exceptional jewel, Didier Sibani was made Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur by President Jacques Chirac in 2001.
Today, Didier is still involved in pearls and jewelry. After devoting 50 years to the Tahitian pearl, how could he stay away from his passion? Having achieved his goal, he sold most of his "showcase" businesses in order to enjoy a more relaxed life. However, he continues to have a strong contribution to the creation of new jewelry lines. He is also happy to give presentations on pearls and jewelry at fairs and hotels in Polynesia in order to, as he says, "talk about his baby", thus combining passion and pleasure.
While it is important to highlight the magnificent work of the pearl producers, it is equally essential to remember that the Tahitian cultured pearl owed and still owes a large part of its success to the few Polynesian and international pioneer jewelers who succeeded to raise it to the same status as the most beautiful gems in the world.