The actress, whose new Aurate jewelry capsule drops today, tells PEOPLE which pieces she kept from Olivia Pope's accessories collection on Scandal
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Kerry Washington Aurate Holiday Collection; Credit: Aurate
Credit: Aurate

Jewelry holds a special place in Kerry Washington's heart. In fact, the actress values it so much, that she actually keeps a piece of jewelry from each of her characters' wardrobes when she wraps filming a TV show or film.

"I really use jewelry when I'm thinking about what's most important to a character. So for one character, I might wear a necklace with a cross on it. When I was doing American Son for Netflix, I was playing a mom and we custom-made a necklace with a 'J' for my son's name. For Olivia [Pope] from Scandal, I saved some of her earrings. I think about it a lot when I'm preparing a character," Washington, 44, tells PEOPLE.

While she typically saves the jewelry for the "memory," Washington says "every once in a while" she will put on an old piece from one of her characters.

The star's long love of jewelry carries over into her business life too. Washington became an investor in the female-founded jewelry label Aurate last year and created her third capsule collection with the brand for the 2021 holiday season.

Kerry Washington Aurate Holiday Collection; Credit: Aurate
Credit: Aurate

The AURATE x KERRY Be the Lead Collection (available now!) features rings, earrings and necklaces with Art Deco and Old Hollywood inspiration made from sustainably sourced gold finishes with touches of topaz. Washington's idea was to design pieces that brought some sparkle back into women's lives after a challenging year and a half amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It really was, how do we create a collection that encourages people coming out of these really challenging months to feel like they can step into being the lead of their own lives and claim some glamour and celebration," Washington says.

Kerry Washington Aurate Holiday Collection; Credit: Aurate
Credit: Aurate

Washington turned to styles from the roaring '20s when conceptualizing Aurate's 2021 holiday capsule.

"We were really gravitating toward the return to party, celebration and glamour that happened a century ago," she says.

One star from the era she channeled in particular was Josephine Baker. "She was the original hyphenate. At a time when it was not common for a Black woman to do this, she really was able to step into being the lead in her professional life as a performer, but also in her personal life. She was incredible," Washington says.

Kerry Washington Aurate Holiday Collection; Credit: Aurate
Credit: Aurate

Washington loves how the Aurate pieces "add a little bit of edge, but in a very classic, elegant way." As someone who considers jewelry the most "personal" item to wear, designing pieces that can be worn "in so many different ways" was incredibly important for the star.

"I think one of the things that I really love about jewelry is how intimate it is, right?" Washington says. "It's one of the only parts of fashion that we sleep in, bathe in, and that we wear every day, all day. It also mark significant events in our lives. There's something very special about it."

Shop the AURATE x KERRY Be the Lead Collection now at auratenewyork.com.