Designers / Industry

How We Got Here: Sarah Mahsa and Joy Haugaard Say Sisterhood Is Lionheart’s Secret Power


Sarah Mahsa is grateful for the many women in her life: Her sister and best friend, Joy; her mother, who brought her to New York, a city Mahsa loves; and, perhaps most of all, her grandmother, whose jewelry collection she describes as mesmerizing.

Back in Copenhagen, the suo’s grandmother taught the future jewelry designer what “playful fashion” could be. Here was a stylish, modern woman who knew jewelry’s power as both adornment and empowerment.

“Always a gold-leaf brooch on her coat, a pair of rose gold earrings, a delicate gold chain with a chunky charm falling at the perfect length,” Mahsa recalls. “We would watch her in awe as she would always finish styling herself with her jewelry. She would always smile and sort of wink to us and say, ‘And now, I express myself’ as she added a final touch—her bird ring on her finger.”

Sisters Sarah Mahsa (right) and Joy Haugaard say they are stronger together. The coronavirus pandemic brought them back in the same city to grow their jewelry brand Lionheart as a team.

Mahsa and her sister, Joy Haugaard, took those early influences and have channeled them directly into their jewelry brand, Lionheart. From Haugaard’s first rough sketches to their collaborative jewelry company today, creating something side by side brings them happiness.

“It’s more than just a shiny piece of metal around your neck—it really is a form of self-expression, an heirloom, a memory,” Mahsa says of her personal jewelry collection as well as the pieces Lionheart produces.

Their story starts in Denmark—because, truly, you cannot separate these sisters for much of their tale. They grew up in the second largest Danish city, Aarhus, until around age 10, when they moved to Copenhagen. Aarhus was like a fairy tale, Mahsa says, like places in the Astrid Lindgren books the duo read and loved. Her strongest childhood memories are staging her own plays and her sister on horseback. The family immigrated to New York when the sisters were teenagers.

“Moving to New York was the biggest life-changing experience for us,” Haugaard says. “It was challenging to say the least, but in the most magical way. There was so much art around us. So much color, so much flair. We dove right into it.”

Bio tourmaline ring
Now this is a statement: Lionheart’s Bio cocktail ring features a 3.72 ct. t.w. tourmaline that certainly feels like you are bringing all the glamour and drama to the party ($2,085).

Haugaard and Mahsa got their first jobs in jewelry at a retail store. Their later teen years saw them separate for the first time: Mahsa moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting and theater; Haugaard stayed in New York, working for a variety of jewelry companies for more than 15 years.

Haugaard says those decades in jewelry turned into something even bigger by 2020.

“The Lionheart brand really blossomed and sort of took off during 2020. That was the year I was finally able to bring all of my sketches and vision to life,” Haugaard says. “I want every person to see a piece that reflects their style, and perhaps even symbolizes something special and unique to them. I am inspired by our past and the memories that have followed us up until now.”

When the COVID lockdown happened, the sisters decided they wanted to be closer in both personal and professional ways.

“I think there was a huge shift in everyone’s lives. I decided that I was always sort of destined to stay close to Joy,” Mahsa says. “As sisters, we were best friends. And as co-workers, we were always partners. So it seemed fitting to move back to New York and see what she was pouring her heart and soul into.”

Lionheart came to life during this phase, Mahsa says, with Haugaard’s sketches becoming fully realized.

Lionheart Jewels
Lionheart uses turquoise in a nod to spirituality, as it is a gem that symbolizes good health, prosperity, and protection.  A good example is Lionheart’s Bubbles Raggi statement necklace ($13,398) that comes in 18k yellow gold with diamonds and turquoise. 

“It’s not work for her. Lionheart is who Joy is,” Mahsa says. “There has been a lot of creativity mixed in with sleepless nights. Her passion for Lionheart and what she wants to share with the world is incomparable. Building something from the ground up is never easy, but she’s doing it wholeheartedly.”

Lionheart, which is named after their favorite Lindgren fantasy novel, seeks to be a brand their grandmother would love: playful, individualistic, ethical, and inclusive.

“We want every person to see a piece that reflects their style and perhaps even symbolizes something special and unique to them,” Mahsa says. “More than anything, Lionheart is a brand that ignites beautiful memories within an individual. We craft each piece with an intention to bring joy to that person and to allow them to look in the mirror and say, ‘And now, I express myself.’”

Haugaard agrees. “Lionheart is a brand that ignites beautiful memories within an individual. We craft each piece with the intention to bring joy to that person.”

Top: Sarah Mahsa (left) and her sister, Joy Haugaard, are the collaborators behind Lionheart, a brand inspired by the jewelry-loving women in their lives as well as their homes in New York and Copenhagen, Mahsa says. (Photos courtesy of Lionheart)

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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