What are Tennis Bracelets?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

It's not often that a piece of jewelry is named for an accident, but such is the case with tennis bracelets. This jewelry got its unusual name from an incident involving professional tennis player Chris Evert during a match in 1987. Evert had been wearing an expensive bracelet featuring an inline string of individually-set diamonds. When the clasp snapped, she asked the officials to stop the match until the jewelry could be found. Since that day, bracelets featuring an inline array of diamonds have been called tennis bracelets.

Woman wearing a tank top shirt
Woman wearing a tank top shirt

Tennis bracelets are popular accessories for formal occasions due to their luster and sparkle. Individual diamonds (or reasonable facsimiles) are placed in square settings and then strung into a bracelet held together by a clasp. The settings and support wiring may be constructed from silver or other quality jewelry metal. The individual settings allow the bracelet to move comfortably while worn.

Other types of jewelry that have a very similar form are often referred to as tennis-style. Groups of different sized stones may be used in tennis-style bracelets, but the jewelry retains the inline look of original tennis bracelets. Classic bracelets tend to feature a uniform arrangement of diamonds and can be very expensive.

One important element of well-constructed tennis bracelets is the safety latch. The clasp of a typical bracelet depends on a springy metal latch meshing securely with a hook. Over time, this clasp style can become less reliable. Therefore, jewelry designers include a secondary security measure. The two most common styles of safety latches are chains and "figure eights."

The chain safety latch connects from one small stud to another on the other side of the main clasp. If the main clasp fails, the chain should hold the bracelet intact until it can be repaired. The figure eight safety latch is a small double loop of metal. One loop snaps over a small post on one side of the main clasp, while the other loop snaps over a similar post on the opposite side. Even if the main clasp separates, the figure eight loops will keep the bracelet from falling off.

Tennis bracelets should be custom fitted for maximum security and comfort. One that fits too loosely can become snagged and pulled. Overly snug bracelets can chafe the skin and become stretched to the point of breaking. An ideal fit allows one finger to pass easily between the bracelet and wrist.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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I love the princess cut diamond tennis bracelets -- they're just so beautiful. The square shaped cut of the princess diamond seems perfect for a tennis bracelet, making the settings of the bracelet flow very smoothly together. It's the perfect finishing touch for that extra special outfit.


Isn't it funny the way we come up with the names for things? I never knew that the tennis bracelet was named after a jewelry mishap during a tennis match. It seems a little risky to me to be wearing expensive jewelry like a diamond tennis bracelet while playing tennis.

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