Jewelry designer Ambyr Childers with business partner Kate Bosworth.
It was boredom, really, that led to Ambyr Childers’s fine jewelry line. The actress behind the eponymous line had just wrapped her second season of Showtime’s Ray Donovan, and found herself with too much time to think about the broader future of her acting career. Though she now stars on the NBC series Aquarius alongside David Duchovny, Childers started designing jewelry, sketching necklaces and rings, to alleviate her anxiety between gigs. That downtime just happened to coincide with Childers receiving her tribal card for the Choctaw, a Native American tribe based in Oklahoma, which galvanized the project.
“It was a sign that I should use my heritage and use what I’m learning about myself and who I am as a person,” says the Los Angeles-based Childers. “I decided to start a jewelry company. I was like, ‘I have no idea how this is going to work out.’ I knew nothing about the industry, but whether I succeed or fail, I did learn something new about a different industry—it’s not easy.”
Gold feather earrings from Childers’ fall collection.
Childers didn’t just get her tribal card, she also developed a strong relationship with the Choctaw, who in turn became involved in her jewelry line, Ambyr Childers Jewelry, which officially launched in February. Two collections in, her fall line is wholly inspired by Native American symbols and imagery.
“The fall collection pieces, which we’re launching now, were actually named by the tribe,” she explains. “I sent them my sketches and they would sit down at a council and come up with names. It’s all in Choctaw. I love that the tribe has been so supportive. So many tribes had different symbols and meanings and I’m always going back to them and checking. My goal is to always have that undertone of the Native American feel.”
Celebrity fans like Emma Roberts, Vanessa Hudgens and Maria Menounos have flocked to the simple, classic and impactful jewelry featuring large stones like coral and lapis, thanks in no small part to Childers’ official collaborator: Kate Bosworth. “Kate is a friend,” Childers notes. “Obviously she’s very big in the fashion world. She saw my jewelry one night when I was wearing it at a dinner and she said she wanted to be a part of the company. I decided to bring her on. I still run the company by myself, but she’s there as a supporter.”
A gold ring from Childers’ fall collection.
Childers now balances running her company with her busy acting career. She’ll start filming season two of Aquarius, on which she plays real-life Charles Manson follower Susan Atkins (who later became infamous serial killer Sadie Mae Glutz), in the fall. And she says her role gives her a completely different creative outlet than her line—although it’s not without its own fashion element: “If I could time travel, the first stop would be the ‘60s,” Childers says. “We’ve got really great costumes. The Manson girls had a community closet so they would all share the same clothes. Some of it is scraps of fabric sewn together, we wear hardly any makeup, and our hair can be as dirty as we want. At some point they were putting dirt on us! It’s really fun.”
The jewelry business might not be an easy game to get into, but Childers is grateful for the mental peace it’s brought her: “It’s a great outlet for me to be creative,” says the mom of two. “I don’t really have the chance to practice my art when I’m not on set, so it’s a great way to keep that side of the brain thinking. I’ve always said ‘I’ll never make a piece I wouldn’t wear.’ I just want to be able to share these pieces and make them unique and have them represent who I am as an actress, as a person, and as a mother.”