By  on October 16, 2006

NEW YORK — It's been quite a year for the art world, with paintings being sold for eight-figure sums, and Sara Benda is getting in on the game with her own twist.

The Tehran, Iran, native, who worked in the 20th-century design and jewelry departments at Christie's auction house in New York, has launched an enterprise that fuses art, commerce and accessorizing with her new jewelry firm, Afsoun.

The Manhattan firm specializes in lesser-known jewelry pieces of high-profile and in-demand 20th-century designers, architects and artists such as Marc Newson, Kiki Smith, Ron Arad and Hervé van der Straeten.

Pieces from Newson include industrial-looking silver bangles sliced at the perimeter to reveal bright lacquer lining, while Arad's stiletto earrings match his aesthetic with coiling white spheres that slide up and down the metal base.

Although many of the one-of-a-kind jewelry styles are signed by their designers, the costs pale in comparison with the prices that the creators fetch at auction for their larger works, which can go into the millions. Afsoun's retail prices range from $195 to $3,500, and Benda views her offerings as great accessories but also as a gateway for future collectors to kick-start their collections.

Benda plans to add more well-known artists to her portfolio and also is adept at spotting new talent, as she did with Anna Ruth Henriques, whose Japanese-inspired mother-of-pearl pendant discs are hand-painted with insects and topped with faceted rock crystal.

"It's a fusion of fashion and art," said Benda, who is married to art dealer Marc Benda. "It's for everyday girls who want something that's not going to be in department stores and you're not going to see it on anyone else out there."

Afsoun — Benda's Persian name, meaning "charmed" — will host trunk shows and attend art fairs.

"People come in and they want to know the history of a piece and where it came from," she said. "These little objects are miniature artworks."

James Zemaitis, director of 20th-century design at Sotheby's, said, "Many 20th-century contemporary designers began by making jewelry."

Zemaitis noted that Alexander Calder was famous in the Fifties, both for his jewelry and larger works."What Sara's doing is such an unsung niche," he added. "I think it's great."

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