Timeless, elegant, and incredibly versatile, the tennis bracelet is an accessory that deserves a place in the jewelry box of every woman (or man!). It’s something you can reach for when you want to elevate a casual outfit, or further enhance a formal ensemble.

If you’ve always wanted to know why it’s called a tennis bracelet, or what to keep in mind when shopping for one, then you’re in the right place. Read on below for our guide on (almost) everything there is to know about about this iconic piece of jewelry:

What are the characteristics of a tennis bracelet?

A tennis bracelet is always an accessory meant for the wrist that is a continuous string of gemstones, held together by a chain crafted out of a precious metal. Diamonds are most often used in tennis bracelets, usually paired with white gold for a fluid effect. For this reason, they were referred to as “diamond line bracelets” before the term “tennis bracelet” became popular. They may have also been called “eternity bracelets” for their visual similarity to eternity bands in design and silhouette.

The main distinguishing feature of a tennis bracelet from other bracelets is that the metals used to hold the stones together should be just barely visible. Modern designs on the piece now make use of precious metals other than white gold or platinum, such as rose or yellow gold, combining them with colorful precious stones such as sapphires, rubies, and emeralds.

What is the origin of the term, “tennis bracelet”?

The most enduring tale of why the tennis bracelet is called what it is involves female tennis player Chris Evert, also known as the “Ice Maiden”. An American former world No. 1 player, she was at the top of her game between the ‘70s and ‘80s, and was also viewed as a fashion icon at the time.

She was spotted wearing a diamond line bracelet while playing an intense match during the 1987 U.S. Open. According to various reports, the accessory fell from Evert’s wrist while in the midst of play, prompting her to request a pause for play so that she could search for it. Some sources quoted her to have said, “I dropped my tennis bracelet” at the time—and the rest is history.

What are some of the things I should keep in mind when buying a tennis bracelet?

Modern tennis bracelets come in a wide variety of styles and designs. In the past, a single loop of diamonds or gemstones was fashionable; nowadays, though, you’ll find tennis bracelets composed of two or more rows of stones. Narrowing down the style you want will make it easier to shop for one.

You’ll also want to pay attention to the stones’ settings. There are three common types:

  • The prong setting makes use of metal prongs to hold the stones in place, allowing light to pass through them.
  • The channel setting utilizes two rows of metal to form a channel, holding the stones in the middle.
  • In the bezel setting, metal surrounds the stones, similar to a watch face.

The settings don’t just dictate how the bracelet will look, but also how secure the stones will be on the piece. Choose a setting you’re comfortable with that suits your lifestyle.

Finally, you’ll have to decide what materials and stones you’d like used in your tennis bracelet. You can opt for the classic choice, which is diamonds and white gold, or go for something more unconventional, such as a sapphire tennis bracelet. Opting for a sapphire tennis bracelet gives you more room to express yourself and play with color.

We particularly like this Princess Mini Stack Dark Blue Sapphire Tennis Bracelet, set with a double layer of 2x2 millimeter princess cut dark blue sapphires alternating with baguette white diamonds. Available in white, yellow, or rose gold, it’s a lovely piece that holds a timeless yet modern appeal.

Alternatively, there’s our Bold Rainbow Sapphire Tennis Bracelet. Made with 9.38 carats of rainbow sapphire baguettes in various vibrant colors that can be set in either yellow or rose gold, it’s a whimsical piece that surely makes a statement.

How do I get the right tennis bracelet size for me?

It’s important to get the right size if you don’t want to lose your tennis bracelet in the same way that Chris Evert did. You can do this by measuring your wrist, either with a measuring tape or a piece of string or ribbon. To keep your bracelet from being too tight, add half an inch or an inch to the resulting length.

If you’re purchasing a tennis bracelet for someone else as a gift and aren’t sure what size they are, don’t worry! Start from 7 to 7.5–the most popular size for women. It can be easily adjusted later.

Looking to treat yourself or a loved one to a tennis bracelet? Look through our selections here.