Fine Jewelry

The Bracelet Everyone Is Wearing Right Now

What exactly is a tennis bracelet? CHARLIE BOYD explores the history of the ultimate festive gift – and speaks to the contemporary designers who are reinventing it

Trend-setters are not always the most obvious candidates for the job. Such was the case for Chris Evert, the 18-time Grand Slam-winning American tennis player and three-time Wimbledon champion, who became a jewelry icon in the 1980s. Jewelry was a staple of Evert’s on-court style but it was during the 1987 US Open that her name was truly cemented in fine-jewelry circles. After one particularly enthusiastic shot, Evert’s diamond bracelet was flung from her wrist and she refused to play on until it was found – upon which, the term ‘tennis bracelet’ was born.

While the name was new, the trend for diamond line bracelets, or ‘eternity bracelets’ as they were previously called, began in the 1920s. Women would pile eternity bracelets up their wrists as part of their highly embellished ‘flapper’ style of evening dress. Their popularity rose again in the 1960s and ’70s, once more influenced by fashion’s free-spirited evolution and a movement that led to the birth of timeless and iconic jewels with simple but impactful designs – this was the era during which Cartier designer Aldo Cipullo created the ‘Love’ and ‘Juste un Clou’ bracelets, while Tiffany & Co. launched its world-famous ‘Diamonds by the Yard’ design.

It is no surprise, then, that the seismic shift towards casual dressing over the past two years has brought the tennis bracelet back to the fore. “A tennis bracelet is one of those classic, can’t-go-wrong pieces to purchase for yourself or give as an extra-special gift,” says Jennifer Meyer, a designer known for her ‘everyday’ diamond designs. Meyer experiments with unusual stones, such as turquoise, and has designed a cuff version that can be stacked up in different gemstone iterations.

“It is a truly versatile style,” agrees Fernando Jorge, whose sculptural gold and diamond designs feel expertly curated. “I have added rhythm through the sizing and spacing between the diamonds – they become larger and closer together towards the middle,” he explains. Jorge prefers tennis bracelets to be styled with eclectic gold bracelets, such as chains and bangles, and he sets the diamonds in his designs with meticulous care – creating a dramatic crescendo of stones at the heart of each one.

Indeed, the sculptural simplicity of a tennis bracelet is what makes it so compelling. “What I find so appealing is its symmetrical and repeating nature,” says Catherine Sarr, founder of Almasika. “It has an effortlessly elevated quality that allows for jewelers and wearers to reimagine and reinvent it year after year,” she adds. Sarr’s ‘Harmony’ tennis bracelet features a strand of marquise diamonds that evokes a sound wave, encased in 18-karat gold. “I would advise customers to choose a tennis bracelet that flows with your body’s shape – and the contours and curves of your wrist – so that it becomes an everyday piece you never take off,” she says. “There is also something really special about a singular tennis bracelet when paired with a little black dress – it embodies a philosophy of ‘less is more’,” she adds.

“A tennis bracelet pairs beautifully with the right watch or can be incorporated in a great mixed stack with beads, string or whatever other eclectic wrist game you’ve got going on,” says Jade Lustig, founder of New York-based brand Jade Trau. “My rule of thumb is that comfort comes before anything else. If you’re not a bracelet wearer, start with something small that is easy to wear regularly,” she suggests. Trau wears her own tennis bracelet every day and crafted it from a parcel of diamonds that her grandfather cut and polished in his diamond-cutting factory over 40 years ago. “It brings me infinite joy, both aesthetically and sentimentally.” The very best kind of gift.

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Tennis bracelets continue to be as popular on the court as they are off it, as worn here by Serena Williams