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patPatrick Tan

Patrick Tan prides himself in being honorable in both business and relationships, hence his trademark motto of ‘all it takes is a simple handshake in business’. His long relationship with his business associates is a testament of his belief. To date, Patrick has developed a wide network of business contacts, customers and friends from the region and internationally through his Tahitian Pearl business. Coming full circle, it was in fact such ‘handshake’ relationships that allowed him to start his own business in the Tahitian Pearls back in the late 1980’s.

Patrick first encountered the Tahitian pearl during a visit to French Polynesia in 1988. He was charmed by the culture and kindness of the people, and the natural beauty of the black pearl that he decided to start his own business in this line. His journey into the Tahitian pearl business began with a friend’s introduction of Aline Baldassari Bernard (currently the President of the Tahitian Pearl Association of French Polynesia since May 2014) during an auction in Papeete, Tahiti. Aline was with S.C.E.A of Maori Perles at that time, a company that progressed to become the second largest producer of Tahitian pearls during the 1990s and the main supplier to Patrick and the Japanese pearl manufacturers he represented. That personal friendship remains till today even though business relations ended in 2005. At the same time, Patrick had the opportunity to meet Mr Kayuza Okuda, President of Okuda Pearl Trading in Tahiti and a business friendship was forged with a handshake. Patrick primarily represented Okuda Pearl, a major manufacturer of Akoya and Tahitian pearls in the 1990s, and acquired pearls from various Tahitian pearl producers for them. At its peak, Okuda Pearl Trading was manufacturing between nine to ten thousand strands of Tahitian pearl necklaces a year, probably the most in Japan at that time. Today they still sell to some of the top retail jewelers around the World. Eventually, Patrick was able to meet the ‘Pearl Emperor’ himself, Mr Robert Wan.

Patrick collaborates with RWAN and organized three private exhibitions in Singapore with them so far. The premiere event was in 2008 where RWAN held a private exhibition at the Shangri-la Hotel Singapore with a Private Banking group based in Singapore. Subsequently two events were also organized with an up-market magazine brand in Sentosa Cove in 2010 & 2012. This collaboration offered Patrick the opportunity to sell some of the most unique and beautiful Tahitian pearls in the world from the ‘Pearl Emperor’. Today, Patrick holds some of Robert Wan’s unique and finest collection in Singapore, especially pearls from the island of Marutea Sud. The pearls from this island are easily distinguished from all other Tahitian pearls. They are unique with in terms of the powerful combination of bigger sizes and superior lustre.

Today, Patrick focuses much less on the wholesale manufacturing business but instead provides a premium service to source for bespoke Tahitian pearls and sell directly to end clients – the very people who would wear and treasure his beautifully alluring pearls. Indeed, Patrick’s great passion for Tahitian pearls can be seen in how he speaks of them and his knowledge and network with the Tahitian pearl farmers is a fountain of wealth for pearl lovers and aspiring pearl owners alike.

Patrick TanPress: Sunday Plus 1996

When Mr Patrick Tan’s fire-fighting systems installation business got burnt by recession, he flew off on a much-needed holiday in Tahiti in April 1988. There, amidst the fabled beauty of the South Pacific, the clouds of gloom parted to reveal the proverbial rainbow opportunity. A friend who lived there introduced him to some black pearl farmers, who later appointed him the agent for their lucrative business with Japan. So he gave up his former line and dived into the pearl business.
Today, Mr Tan, 40 sells up to 200,000 black pearls a year for two wholesalers in Japan and commutes between Singapore and Tahiti. He declines to disclose exactly how much money that added up to for his business, but he drives a Jaguar, a car that does not come cheap. He certainly agrees with Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who had said at Singapore Press Club and Foreign Correspondents Association dinner talk last month that the rainbow of opportunities for young Singaporeans lie abroad in East Asia.
Although Mr Tan found his a bit further east and farther out, he echoes that advice: “Go for it. As the saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Just persevere in your dream and you can find your pot of gold, though not necessarily in Tahiti.” He claims to be one of the few Singaporeans dealing directly with the second and third largest producers there. “Luck and timing are very important to be successful in business,” he says, as he fingered his lucky mascot – a black pearl pendant dangling from a gold chain around his neck. The pearls are produced by the black lipped oyster, which shelters in pure waters of Polynesian lagoons. A nucleus or part of a shell is inserted into an oyster as an irritant and the pearl then takes 18-24 months to grow. Though called black pearls, they actually range in colour from peacock green to silver-grey and dark purple, says Mr Tan. Some of them even reflect light with a rainbow like effect. Getting started selling them to Japanese took more than just lucky rainbows, however. It took persistence, hard work, a lot of research into the black pearl business and countless faxes in Japan and Tahiti.
“I finally got their business with just a handshake. There was no need for contracts,” he says. “Now they have become more like friends than business associates. “In 1989, I sold my first consignment of 4000-5000 pearls, worth over $300,000, to Japan and started making money immediately,” he recalls. That year, he also switched to representing the Japanes black pearl wholesalers, and has been the agent for two of them since then.
Now, he and his Japanese associates are planning to set up shop to sell Tahitian pearls here next year. “Prices are not becoming more affordable for Singaporeans, due to increased pearl production, and the affluent can afford them easily,” he says. Still, they are not cheap. A single black pearl costs anything from US$200 (S$282) to US$10,000,depending on the size and quality, while a pearl necklace can cost from US$20,000 to US$100,000 or more. The way to judge their quality is by their smoothness of the skin and the brilliance and lustre, says Mr Tan. Mr Tan, who has a daughter, Eliana, 13 and son Lance, nine, here spends half of each year in Tahiti and is away for three to four weeks each trip. But he enjoys the best of both worlds. “I relax when I am in Tahiti and get revitalized for the rat race here,” he says. He has also realized the Tahitian Dream, as well as the Singaporean one. He says: “It is not the five Cs – cash, condo, car, credit card and country club membership – but the five Ss – sand, sun, surf, scuba diving and skiing.”

Tahiti-Pearl-farm-islandMiracle of the Sea

Posted on December 7, 2012 by whatboomerswant
Tahiti must be a nice place to watch the sunrise and sunset. Twice a day every day, the entire sky is painted with hues of fiery red to the softest pink, splashed across a giant canvas of sleepy blues and turquoise glows. And the colours change with each second as if the sky is a magical silk cloth with millions of ethereal prisms reflecting the sunlight while our world rotates around us. As the sky continues to astound its audience with its spectacular show, the silent sea reflects the glory of the moment and below the sea, a miracle is happening. I’ve never been to Tahiti but my friend PT has. That’s how he described the Polynesian island while I can only imagine and try to write about it in the most romantic poetic way.
Most people who have been to Tahiti, have been there once. PT has been there countless times, travelling thousands of miles from Singapore to be back where the miracles of the sea are found – the Tahitian Black Pearls. Actually the pearls are not black like one solid colour. These pearls have a multitude of colours -dark as charcoal, reflective as silver and green like peacock feathers, making every single pearl unique. It is this uniqueness that makes the south sea pearls extremely rare and highly sought after. PT knows everything about the Tahitian pearls but he didn’t before until he went to Tahiti for a holiday. He told me an incredible story about how he discovered a whole new world of pearl farming. His interest and an astute sense for exquisiteness turned into a business supplying the exotic pearls to the most fascinating people around the world. I asked PT why anyone would want to invest in black pearls. He didn’t have to say very much, just showed the pearls and I understood. Each pearl is as lustrous as a Tahitian sunrise or sunset. It seems to hold all the wonders of a perfect day and a flawless world. Harvested from sapphire waters without changing very much of its appearance, it feels good to wear something so natural and pure. Oh! How I wish I could afford them...