Capt. Tom Eimer, Equestrian and Island Jewelry Artist, revives for us the near lost art of Paniolo ... the Hawaiian Cowboy ... horseshoe nail jewelry.

Tom has been fascinated with cowboys and cowboy life since he was a child. When he was 14 years old, Tom began to work with the common horseshoe nail, creating and assembling each piece, wrapped in steel 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.  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 and his partner Debby enjoy the local Hawaiian culture, art, music, and food, surrounded by island bliss and their dogs. They are ocean lovers who frequently dive or kayak 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 cowboy, the Paniolo, with his representation of their horse culture, present on the northern slopes of 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 lariets, 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 designs, including his new hibiscus, skin diver, and Honu turtle jewelry, 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.

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