There’s tennis — like Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the sport that made Serena Williams the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) — and then there’s the tennis bracelet, which is “a great piece of jewelry that comes with a great story,” according to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). But are the two related?
In the 1987 U.S. Open, professional tennis player Chris Evert was playing in a game when she suddenly stopped mid-match and asked the officials for a time out. Why? Because the clasp on her diamond bracelet broke and the bracelet fell off her wrist, and she wanted to find it before continuing to play in the game. When asked about it later on in an interview, she called the missing piece of jewelry her “tennis bracelet,” and that’s how the iconic name got its start.
The bracelet that Evert was wearing during the game was a line bracelet set with diamonds. Now, tennis bracelets traditionally featuring diamonds, and can also be set with colored stones or a combination of diamonds and colored stones. Since the on-court incident involving Evert, “the tennis bracelet is still a fashion accessory for the sophisticated set” and sales of the bracelet — both gemstone tennis bracelets and regular ones — “exploded and became forever known as the tennis bracelet,” GIA said.
GIA experts made a few suggestions so you can wear your bracelet without worrying about losing it, like Evert:
“In addition to the clasp, add a safety catch on the side of the bracelet for added protection.
Have the tennis bracelet routinely checked by a jeweler to make sure the clasp, safety catch, and mountings are secure.
If it’s a diamond tennis bracelet, Keep the diamonds sparkling with periodic cleaning.”
Of all the jewelry that you could wear during a tennis competition, a tennis bracelet is appealing not just for practicality. It’s flexible, lightweight, and a diamond bracelet might shine enough sparkle to distract even the fiercest opponents. Evert is also not the only tennis player to ever wear a tennis bracelet. Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams have been known to sport the style on-court and in fact, in 2002, Williams wore a $29,000 tennis bracelet to a game.
Outside of the court, they’re perfect to wear on your wedding day, when you’re a guest to a formal affair, or even on a daily basis. They’re also great for stacking. Vogue explained, “In all widths and weights, featuring gemstones real and not-so, vintage or brand new, don’t be afraid to line them up from wrist to elbow.
Tennis bracelets were always in style, but there’s a debate about when the term was coined.
Town & Country magazine reported, “though some jewelry fanatics maintain that this term was coined in 1987—when the incident [with Evert] occurred—there is evidence to suggest that perhaps it was related to Evert’s choice to don the piece in the ’70s. The popularizing of a low-key luxury item also falls in line with the general fashion shift of the era.
“The seventies brought about a time in which wearability was centered around throw it on with anything—not just for special occasions…So, it would be more than logical that when Evert, who was wildly popular—and fashionable—started wearing a style of jewelry that had existed since the ’20s, the oh-so-extra aura of playing in jewels then prompted a renaming.”