Capt. Tom Eimer, Equestrian and Island Jewelry Artist, revives for us the near lost art of Paniolo, or Hawaiian
Cowboy, Horseshoe Nail Jewelry.
Tom has been fascinated with cowboys and cowboy life since he was a boy. When he was 14 years old, Tom
began to work with the common horseshoe nail, creating and assembling each piece, wrapped in steel, copper or
brass wire. A decade later, he began to create horseshoe nail duplicates cast in 14K gold and sterling silver,
wrapped in gold or silver wire.
Originally a native New Yorker, Tom recently took early retirement after a long, successful career as a
tugboat captain in the Caribbean on the island of St. Croix. When he was not escorting ships into the
harbor, he could usually be found creating beauty at his jewelers’ workbench. He was called back to
service as a sea captain around the Hawaiian Islands, and chose to settle in beautiful Hilo, bringing
decades of jewelry artistry with him.
Tom lived on St. Croix, one of the US Virgin Islands for 34 years prior to settling in Hawai’i. He enjoys
the local Hawaiian culture, art, music, and food, surrounded by island bliss. He is an ocean lover who
frequently dives or kayaks from local beaches. When not creating his beautiful jewelry, Tom plays a
variety of musical instruments, and can often be found playing piano or melodica around the island.
Tom’s craft honors the heritage of the Hawaiian Cowboys, the Paniolos, which can be found on the
northern slopes of most of the Hawaiian Islands, and in fact throughout all of the Hawaiian Islands.
By the 1830s, ranching was an important part of the Hawaiian economy. On a world tour, King
Kamehameha III was impressed with the skill of the Mexican-Spanish Vaqueros. He asked the King
of Spain to send Vaqueros to Hawai`i to train the Hawaiians in ranching. With their highly trained
ponies, intricate high-horned saddles, and lariats, the Vaqueros demonstrated handling and
horsemanship as an art. In talking with the Hawaiians, the men introduced themselves as “Español”
The closest the Hawaiian tongue could come to that was “Paniolo.”
Capt. Tom’s other designs, including his Octopus, Monstera, and Honu sets, are a reflection of daily
life on these beautiful islands. Above and below the sea, his works are treasures to have and to hold
in Sterling Silver and 14K Gold.