The history of jewelry is full of apocryphal tales—and the story of how the diamond line bracelet, a jewelry staple dating to the Art Deco era, came to be known as a “tennis bracelet” is one of them.
Most versions trace the moniker to tennis star Chris Evert, who famously lost a diamond-and-gold line bracelet—traditionally a flexible form of wristwear featuring a row of square-cut gems set in white metal—during an early round of the U.S. Open one year and halted play while she looked for it. “No one knows who first called it a tennis bracelet—it certainly wasn’t Chris Evert,” says Marion Fasel, founder and editorial director of the jewelry website The Adventurine. Fasel recently tracked down the tennis champ, who said the match in question almost certainly took place in 1978—not 1987, as numerous accounts indicate.
As the U.S. Open plays out this week, designers are taking advantage of the iconic style’s courtside reputation to prove that while the tennis bracelet is a basic addition to any woman’s jewelry wardrobe, it’s anything but boring.
Take Athens-based Nikos Koulis. His luxe take on the tennis bracelet is loaded with emerald-cut diamonds swathed in black enamel. Other jewelers—from Eva Fehren to Robert Procop to Maria Canale—subvert tradition by replacing diamonds with colored stones, mixing shapes and sizes or mounting gems in yellow, rose, or blackened gold.
What unites their varied efforts is the tennis bracelet’s essential wearability—the key, Fasel argues, to its timelessness. “Even though it’s just a line of stones,” she adds, “it’s jewelry at its purest.”