Jewelers who play pickleball say interest in pickleball jewelry has increased as the fitness phenomenon has become one of the nation’s fastest-growing sports, with men and women picking up pendants, bracelets, earrings, and other pieces to show off their paddle prowess.
Pickleball—described as a cross between ping-pong, badminton, and tennis—was invented nearly 60 years ago but has recently exploded in popularity across age groups throughout the United States. An estimated 36.5 million people in the U.S. played pickleball in 2022, according to the Association of Pickleball Players, and pickleball participation has soared an average of 158.6% over the past three years, said the Sport & Fitness Industry Association, which issues an annual report on pickleball statistics.
So perhaps people might wear a pickleball bracelet right next to their tennis bracelet? That’s what Mary Weber-Rupert, founder and jewelry designer at Five Star Jewelry Brokers in Austin, Texas, says. Weber-Rupert started playing pickleball during the pandemic and now plays three to four times a week.
“I had heard about Chris Evert coining the term tennis bracelet during a U.S. Open in 1978 when her diamond bracelet broke while she was playing and was lost on the court. When asked, she told the press she was looking for her tennis bracelet. Tennis bracelets became so popular. As the sport of pickleball started becoming more and more popular, I thought about how people would enjoy wearing pickleball jewelry while playing,” Weber-Rupert says.
“A paddle seemed like the perfect choice to me. However, I felt like the pickleball ball looked more like a soccer ball, so we spiced things up and added diamonds, citrines, and pearls instead. I wanted it to be a design that was easy to see, but not too big to wear on the court,” Weber-Rupert says.
Irina Rachow, owner of Everwild Designs in Encinitas, Calif., developed the PickleBelle collection to celebrate her love for the game and offer jewelry that allows others to do so in style. She says the collection is selling well and she loves adding new designs, everything from bracelets to earrings to cufflinks.
“I got into pickleball in 2020 when I was introduced to it by a close friend who had just started playing during lockdown and knew I would love it. It was a way to feel connected with friends in an outdoor setting when we had plenty of time on our hands, and as the learning curve was so short, I was able to get the hang of it in under five minutes,” Rachow says.
“I am a designer at heart, and like many people I am intrigued by miniature things—perfect replicas of everyday objects. As pickleball is so popular, it was a completely natural jump to create pretty jewelry that embodied the tools of the sport—perfect pickleball paddles and balls,” Rachow says. “Being a sport, I incorporated movement, like a pickleball swinging in front of a jeweled paddle or a paddle with an impact starburst ‘chasing’ the pickleball up the necklace chain.”
With pickleball fans rallying for the sport to join the Olympics, Rachow expects interest will continue to rise. She hopes people who began playing during the pandemic will help make pickleball jewelry more than a trend.
“It used to be dominated by the older folks, but a recent survey shows that the No. 1 growing age group in pickleball is 18- to 25-year-olds,” Rachow says.
Top: Five Star Jewelry Brokers in Austin, Texas, is one of the jewelers selling pickleball-inspired fine jewelry as on-trend accessories for the popular game. (Photo courtesy of Five Star)@jckmagazine
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