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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Deconstructing... the tennis bracelet

A "tennis" bracelet is the name given to a slender strand of diamonds worn aroudn the wrist. Here is how they got their unusual name

Tiffany Jazz diamond bracelet in platinum. Courtesy Tiffany & Co
Tiffany Jazz diamond bracelet in platinum. Courtesy Tiffany & Co

The tennis bracelet was, until fairly recently, known as an eternity bracelet. Made from a single strand of diamonds in a simple setting, it was favoured by fashionable (and wealthy) women of the early 20th century, who would wear two or three on each arm. Worn either as a flexible, articulated band that moved with the wearer, or as a rigid hoop, it was seen as a simple yet elegant addition to a lady’s wardrobe. In the 1920s and 1930s, it was given an uplift with Art Deco styling and experimentation with different diamond cuts, such as Asscher and emerald, to highlight the stones against a simple platinum setting. The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, however, made diamonds ostentatious, and eternity bracelets fell from favour in a new age of austerity.

In 1971, young American player Chris Evert burst on to the tennis scene, playing in her first Grand Slam, the US Open, at the age of 16. A stylish dresser on and off the court, Evert quickly became a favourite with public and press, with her sartorial choices – such as halter-necked tennis dresses – scrutinised by all. Ranked No 1 for seven years, Evert won 18 Grand Slam titles.

During the 1987 US Open, Evert played Lori McNeal in a gruelling quarter-final. Evert liked to wear jewellery, but on this occasion, the catch on her George Bedewi eternity bracelet broke open, and it was flung from her wrist. Realising it was missing, Evert halted play – something usually only acceptable for illness or bad weather – insisting the bracelet be found, it eventually was. The errant accessory was dubbed the tennis bracelet, a term that stuck, and the design changed as a result of that incident. Now, each bracelet comes with a safety chain to prevent similar accidents. Today, the link remains: players such as Serena Williams often wear a tennis bracelet on court.

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