Once upon a time—in the summer of 1978, to be exact—Chris Evert unintentionally made jewelry history during an early round of the US Open. It happened when the tennis champion’s delicate diamond and gold bracelet broke and fell to the ground; play was briefly suspended so she could find it. At the time someone—and no one remembers exactly who—immediately and cheekily dubbed the jewel a “tennis bracelet.” Needless to say, the name stuck. Though many of today’s tennis stars—we’re looking at you Serena—wear more dazzling diamond jewelry on the court than certain actresses on the red carpet, at the time, this was big news.
Evert is widely believed to be the first woman to wear diamonds on the tennis court. But even if she wasn’t factually the very first, her mishap definitely brought to the spotlight the particular diamond bracelet style.
In this day and age would you even believe that the Chris Evert tennis bracelet bracelet, with all of its gems set in a row, used to be called a line bracelet? Today, some designers still use the classic terminology for the look that can be traced back to at least the 1920s.
During the art deco era, line bracelets generally consisted of square-cut diamond stones fit closely together in a row. They were nicknamed “service stripes” in reference to the decorations worn by the military denoting a certain amount of time spent in the service; they were given on wedding anniversaries and represented successful “tours of duty.” Applied to jewels, the term served as a lighthearted joke. Well-heeled women and glamorous Hollywood stars piled them on and often layered them with wide art deco diamond bracelets creating a seriously extravagant arm party.
During the 1970s, line bracelets sent a very different message. Generally speaking, the style was about low-key luxury. Fashions were becoming increasingly casual with wrap dresses, pantsuits and denim. Delicate diamond jewels were a chic way to elevate a look. Of course, Chris Evert took the concept one step further when she paired her diamond bracelet with a tennis dress.
“I never take mine off!”Jennifer Meyer
Over forty years later, diamond tennis bracelets have become an essential piece to wear daily. “I never take mine off!” exclaims jewelry designer Jennifer Meyer. Designer Anita Ko concurs that they go with everything and have the ability to make women feel “sparkly and sexy at all times.”
The biggest change from the past to now: the seemingly infinite number of tennis bracelets available.
The great Greek jewelry designer Nikos Koulis makes a bold tennis bracelet, with diamonds framed in black enamel.
Masterful minimalist designer Eva Fehren’s tennis bracelet is a lean line of black and white diamonds set in blackened gold.
The super creative Nak Armstrong’s eye-catching tennis bracelet is set with half-moon and tapered baguette diamonds.
Queen of the baguette diamond, Suzanne Kalan’s best-selling diamond tennis bracelets have the geometric gem set akimbo in a row.
Deborah Pagani makes her own stylish classic by transforming her signature bow link into a white gold tennis bracelet.
The dynamic design duo at Jemma Wynne subtly reimagined the tennis bracelet as a slider with an adjustable element that makes it possible to fit the piece just so on your wrist.
The covetable Jennifer Meyer tennis bracelets come in all-diamond styles as well as pieces punctuated with colorful gems.
What unites these looks and makes them all tennis bracelets? Well they all have a row of diamonds. But beyond that, there never was a hard and fast definition of the style. So go on, have some fun with them. And, like Chris Evert, don’t forget to literally play with jewelry.