Classic tennis bracelet: small stones in simple line settings. But that simple look is now being reinterpreted with new materials, design advances and other changes.
Customers want different styles of style, according to Elise Walker, founder and CEO of the California boutiques that bear her name. “Jewelry is getting really sexy, so people think of it in a fashionable way,” she said. ‘Not just a long-term investment method.’ (naturally, original tennis bracelet — which fell while Chris Evert, who wore it, was playing at the 1978 US Open — wasn’t exactly an investment either).
One result is that tennis bracelets no longer pair diamonds exclusively with gold or platinum. Consider the ceramic, in multiple colors, used in this 14k yellow gold folded tennis bracelet (starting at $3,998) by the Los Angeles-based firm. Designed by Adina Reyter. Each element is divided into the shape of a heart, with colored ceramics on one half and white pavé on the other.
“Sometimes, with stones, there are different shapes of them, and with ceramics, you get the same color and tone” every time, said Mrs. Ritter.
Even the gold settings have been updated. Eva Zuckerman, founder and creative director of New York-based Eva Ferenn, dips white gold for her tennis bracelets into black rhodium to give it a tougher, more raw look.
Ms. Zuckerman said the black gold highlights the stones as well. “So when I use it with diamonds, it’s really a graphic contrast and it has a lot of pop,” she said.
Semi-precious stones and minerals, such as labradorite and lapis lazuli, are also used, as they are more easily and affordable than precious stones. And some jewelers are fond of them, like Natasha Umezzi, the British chancellor on financial and cybercrime.
Ms. Umezzi said she was looking for a topaz aqua tennis bracelet to add to her Swarovski crystal bracelet because the color, she said, “reminds me of the sea, so it might have a different effect” and more subdued.
The industrial look, achieved by incorporating the shape of everyday hardware into the tennis bracelet, is driving the design changes. For example, Uniform Object, a New York-based online jeweler that opened in September, offers an 18-karat gold, emerald or white diamond tennis bracelet featuring a diamond-encrusted spring-loaded clasp.
Created with 3D software, the bracelet’s design has thick, rounded edges that hold the stones, creating a “more intense look” than that of traditional pieces, said David Farrugia, the company’s founder and creative director.
Attaching the clasp to the bracelet proved difficult, he wrote in an email, explaining that the bezel and spring clasp should blend in with the overall design and “flex like the rest of the bracelet.” The emerald design, $12,950, is now sold by jewelry retailer Twist, which has online sales in addition to its Portland, Oregon, and Seattle stores.
Designers also added more layers of stones to their creations. Los Angeles-based designer Susan Callan plans to launch a double-row tennis bracelet at The… Haute Couture Show in Las Vegas From 9 to 12 June. One version will have a line of 18 karat gold baguette shapes attached to a second line of diamond baguettes. The idea was to “make an expensive diamond to look casual and elegant at the same time,” Ms. Callan said, adding that the gold “sets the diamond’s color a bit.”
A pink and gold sapphire version will also be on display, she said, and other combinations, such as emerald, gold, sapphire and gold, will be planned.
For social youth residing in London coffee caseMulti-brand tennis bracelets have more impact than the traditional single-line design. When he’s a dinner guest, he said, he wears a three-tiered diamond tennis bracelet by Lorraine Schwartz, purchased at Harrods.
“It’s very eye-catching, and I kind of like to keep it for private things,” he said. “And not to over-wear a piece, because it loses specialty to me afterwards.”
While Mr. Kiss also owns six classic tennis bracelets from Cartier and other designers – pairs of diamonds with white gold or platinum – he said he’d love to wear Lorraine Schwartz’s bracelet with a black Tom Ford tuxedo or a black lace-up belt – and – a white Proenza Schouler suit . He said the bracelet was a “beautiful piece”. “It fits, and I feel cheerful and fun.”
Even the bracelet’s gem shapes are changing, with gems forming decreasing sized flowers in Sophie Bille Brahe, colorful hearts in Emily P. Wheeler and rectangular ovals in Nakard, the Nak Armstrong spread line.
said Mr. Armstrong, who works in Austin, Texas. “We just went back and forth until they got it right.”
However, designers are divided over whether reinventing such a classic piece is more difficult than creating a new design.
“It is very difficult to reinvent something simple,” Mr. Armstrong said. “I had to remove the bells and whistles, and focus only on the finer details of how big this setup is, how thick the frame is going around the stone, and how close it is to it—thinking about what the final look is going to be on the metal.”
But for Ms. Ritter, the reinterpretation is less difficult. “It’s easier to have an enterprise in whatever you do,” she said. “Imagine you have to invent a car for the first time. But once you design it, you can always improve it from there.”
Twist co-founder Paul Schneider said technology is driving many changes in tennis bracelet design. “It’s fairly complicated when it comes to how the different pieces relate to each other, how the stones are installed, and technology has really changed that,” he said, citing increasingly accurate diamond-cutting machines and advances in computer-aided design systems.
Re-examining the design of the tennis bracelet has also led artisans to make some innovative innovations. Ms. Wheeler, who is based in Los Angeles, said that she only made hard cuffs and bracelets, but once she started making tennis bracelets, she was encouraged to try other soft bracelets. “I didn’t quite appreciate how the modern collector today stacks so many bracelets, perhaps with a watch” on the other wrist, she said, adding, “I didn’t quite appreciate how a thinner bracelet unfolds so beautifully and smoothes it aesthetically.”
Matthew Harris, founder of Matthew New York, combined the prong setting with a track, or channel setting (the gems were set in a row with metallic strips on either side), to turn the classic tennis bracelet design into his own. This technique requires a great deal of precision, he said.
However, even as jewelry designers reinvent the tennis bracelet, they say the basic shape still resonates.
Mr. Farrugia from Uniform Object compared it to a big cuff, like Elsa Peretti’s orthopedic cuff for Tiffany & Co. He described tennis bracelets as “strong, classic and ambitious statement pieces, and a lot of jewelry houses have their own style.”
For Mr. Harris, wearing the design is almost like wearing a cross, he said. While “a tennis bracelet has no religious affiliation,” he explained, “it’s almost sacred to have a tennis bracelet in my family.”
But perhaps the best comparison is big hoop earringsMr. Armstrong said. Like these pieces, he added, the tennis bracelet is “a simple idea that has become an item, you know, that every woman should have in her wardrobe.”