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This football pendant in 10K gold with 1.29 carats of diamonds sold for $970 plus the buyer’s premium in October 2019. Image courtesy of Fine Jewelry and Coin Liquidator and LiveAuctioneers.

Bid Smart: Sports-themed jewelry has won a growing legion of fans

This football pendant in 10K gold with 1.29 carats of diamonds sold for $970 plus the buyer’s premium in October 2019. Image courtesy of Fine Jewelry and Coin Liquidator and LiveAuctioneers.
This football pendant in 10K gold with 1.29 carats of diamonds sold for $970 plus the buyer’s premium in October 2019. Image courtesy of Fine Jewelry and Coin Liquidator and LiveAuctioneers.

NEW YORK — Jewelry provides the finishing touch for all occasions, from fancy dinners to a trip to the mall. While these pieces, whether they’re for daily wear or strictly for gala functions, reflect prevailing jewelry styles and materials, they can also say something about the wearer’s hobbies and interests. Sports-themed jewelry is a distinctive niche that has a growing legion of fans.

Wearing jewelry while playing sports is common now. One of the most prominent examples of jewelry appearing on the sports field happened in the 1970s, when Chris Evert tweaked the look of a tennis player. Professionals typically wore a pair of sweatbands on the court, one on each wrist. Evert slid a sweatband on her right wrist but circled her left wrist with several delicate, narrow diamond bracelets instead. When one of them flew off her arm during the 1978 U.S. Open, stopping play until it was found, the piece became known as a tennis bracelet.

Professional baseball players, in particular, are known to adorn themselves with thick, hard-to-ignore gold necklaces, and high school-level baseball players in the United States might soon join them. Once forbidden to wear decorative jewelry during a game, the younger players can wear what they like as of spring 2023. And, of course, the winners of major contests such as the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup and the National Basketball Association finals receive championship rings to mark their achievements.

A vintage aquamarine and diamond ballerina brooch, depicting a lady dancing in a ball gown, achieved $18,856 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2022. Image courtesy of Elmwood’s and LiveAuctioneers.
A vintage aquamarine and diamond ballerina brooch, depicting a lady dancing in a ball gown, achieved £15,000 (about $18,856) plus the buyer’s premium in December 2022. Image courtesy of Elmwood’s and LiveAuctioneers.

Skating, skiing, tennis, equestrian events, fencing and golf — name a sport, any sport, and enterprising, inspired jewelers have commemorated it as only they can. Dance-themed jewelry is beloved not only by dancers but those who used to dance, or know a dancer, or simply enjoy watching dance performances. Depending on the materials and gemstones used, prices can range from less than a hundred dollars to well into the thousands. A fine example of the form is a vintage aquamarine and diamond ballerina brooch, depicting a lady dancing in a long dress, which made £15,000, or about $18,856, plus the buyer’s premium in December 2022 at Elmwood’s.

A group of equestrian-themed jewelry, featuring motifs of horseshoes, trotting horses and a show jumper leaping a fence, went for $1,500 against an estimate of $600-$800 in November 2022. Image courtesy of Rago Arts and Auction Center and LiveAuctioneers.
A group of equestrian-themed jewelry, featuring motifs of horseshoes, trotting horses and a show jumper leaping a fence, went for $1,500 plus the buyer’s premium against an estimate of $600-$800 in November 2022. Image courtesy of Rago Arts and Auction Center and LiveAuctioneers.

Equestrian jewelry, ranging from horseshoe-shaped pendants to stirrup-shaped earrings and even lockets in which to place a photo of a horse, has a healthy market of its own. A group of equestrian-themed pieces that included motifs of horseshoes, trotting horses, and an image of a show jumper leaping a fence, estimated at $600-$800, went for $1,500 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2022 at Rago Arts and Auction Center.

People can buy football jewelry that showcases their favorite NFL team’s name or logo, and there are even companies offering necklaces inset with a piece of an actual game-used football. Sentimental football jewelry also extends to football-shaped pendants that can be customized to feature a particular player’s name and jersey number. Serious game-time bling can take the form of a diamond football pendant in 10K gold, bejeweled with 1.29 carats of small diamonds, which sold for $970 plus the buyer’s premium in October 2019 at Fine Jewelry and Coin Liquidator.

A set of vintage Bakelite sports-themed dangling charm pins realized $950 plus the buyer’s premium in July 2021. Image courtesy of Ripley Auctions and LiveAuctioneers.
A set of vintage Bakelite sports-themed dangling charm pins realized $950 plus the buyer’s premium in July 2021. Image courtesy of Ripley Auctions and LiveAuctioneers.

Since the 1920s, Bakelite has been a favorite medium of costume jewelry manufacturers. Affordable and colorful, it lends itself well to use in whimsical pieces. Long before Pandora charm bracelets kicked off a charm-collecting craze in the 2000s, Bakelite charm pins were big. A grouping of vintage butterscotch Bakelite dangling charm pins in the form of ice skates topped with a knit cap and another set with three baseball-themed pieces realized $950 plus the buyer’s premium in July 2021 at Ripley Auctions.

Of course, sports-themed jewelry is not just for women; men have embraced it wholeheartedly. Designed for the dapper gentleman who golfs is a small collection of golf motif jewelry that together attained $900 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2018 at Rago Arts and Auction Center. The group featured a pair of Hermes sterling golf ball cufflinks and a pair of reverse carved and painted crystal intaglio cufflinks and a stickpin depicting a golfer. Rounding out the collection was a 14K gold club tie clip and a pair 9K gold ball and club cufflinks.

A lot of golf motif jewelry brought $900 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2018. Image courtesy of Rago Arts and Auction Center and LiveAuctioneers.
A lot of golf motif jewelry brought $900 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2018. Image courtesy of Rago Arts and Auction Center and LiveAuctioneers.

Sports jewelry lets the wearer make a fashionable statement about a pursuit they love, and can allow them to take pride in a favorite team or athlete. Whether your budget favors the bleacher seats or the luxury box, appealing examples exist to suit every style and taste.

Sports-themed jewelry