ExplainerWhat is a tennis bracelet? The stackable diamond jewellery item Chris Evert made famous at the US Open is trending again
- A bracelet with a single row of diamonds, the tennis bracelet was so named after tennis star Chris Evert lost hers at the 1987 US Open
- Light, flexible and easy to wear and stack, tennis bracelets are considered ageless and genderless, and are coming back into fashion
When the #wriststack became a major trend a few years ago, it brought a jewellery favourite back into the spotlight – the tennis bracelet.
This staple – which in its most classic form consists of a bracelet made up of a single row of diamonds – has existed as far back in the 1920s, when it was more commonly known as an eternity bracelet. Since the 1970s, luxury jewellers like Cartier, Tiffany and DeBeers have incorporated it into their collections and it’s often spotted on high-powered women and celebrities.
It was only during the 1987 US Open tennis tournament, when American player and 18 times grand slam champion Chris Evert lost her diamond bracelet during a game, that it was rechristened the “tennis bracelet” in popular culture.
“Tennis bracelets are a classic jewel everybody should have in their collection because they are light, flexible and easy to wear,” says Valery Demure, a consultant and the founder of fine jewellery showroom Objet d’Emotion.
“They are also ageless and genderless staples, which makes them a safe purchase. They can be worn forever, passed down and never go out of style,” Demure adds.
The tennis bracelet’s growing popularity has also made as much of an investment piece as it is an object of desire. In fact, many women consider owning one a rite of passage, which is why there are countless tennis bracelet-inspired styles available, ranging from mass market to high-end offerings.
One of Swarovski’s bestselling designs, for example, continues to be its tennis bracelet featuring its signature cubic zirconia crystals instead of diamonds. Online jewellery retailer Blue Nile offers a whopping 65 tennis bracelet styles on its website.
Designers have jumped on the bandwagon and are giving this once simple design a fresh spin, adapting it to the needs and preferences of a new generation of wearers.
“We are seeing the younger generation wear very thin styles because they look cooler and are easier to match with their existing wrist stack. I get requests for hybrid styles featuring half a row of diamonds matched with a cool chain,” says Hong Kong-based jeweller Candice Luk.
Instead of the standard white gold and white diamond combo, designers have also experimented with other varieties of precious and semi-precious stones such as rubies, emeralds and even ceramic.
Demure highlights jeweller Suzanne Kalan, whose styles feature black sapphires, while rainbow-coloured sapphires have also become very trendy. White and yellow gold has been swapped with less conventional materials like black gold for a futuristic take on the trend.
The original featured round diamonds in a classic four-prong setting, but newer settings have started to appear.
Luk says bezel settings are popular because they tend to be more comfortable and have a vintage look and feel. Designers are also playing with a variety of diamond shapes, from emerald and pear to marquise and baguette.
With so much choice it’s no wonder that men have also embraced the trend. For his first Dior Men collection, Kim Jones and Dior Men’s jewellery designer Yoon Ahn created the Line bracelet, featuring multicoloured crystals. It was an immediate bestseller.
It’s now common to see men accessorising their tailored suits and other separates with sparkling bracelets and other arm candy.
For those who are looking to purchase their first piece, experts advise starting with the basics.
“This is likely to be an item you will wear often, so I advise my customers to begin with styles totalling one to two carats, or upgrading to three to five carats for the mid-range,” says Luk.
“Quality of diamonds doesn’t matter as much as size, especially since it’s all about wearability and design. 18K gold is the standard but if you want to cut costs, 14K gold also works.”
While online retailers offer extremely competitive prices, buyers should also consider working with a jeweller on creating a custom piece. This way they can maximise their budget, while personalising details such as setting, bracelet length, size and shape.
“I also encourage customers to be open to vintage pieces as there is a lot of inventory from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. Prices are comparable or sometimes even less than a newer piece.
“I also feel that the craftsmanship is higher quality, so it becomes an item they can and want to wear forever,” says Luk.