Jill Magid, The Proposal, 2016, 2.02-carat blue uncut diamond with microlaser inscription, silver ring setting designed by Anndra Neen, ring box, documents. Installation view, Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, Switzerland. Photo: Stefan Jaeggi.

A DIAMOND is the outcome of compression. Once considered unique to the earth’s mantle, the extreme heat and pressure that push carbon atoms into a crystal lattice can now be artificially replicated to manufacture diamonds on a mass scale. Most serve industrial needs, as abrasives for drill bits or semiconductors for LEDs, but a handful of companies have modified the process to unnervingly sentimental ends: converting the cremated ashes of loved ones into “memorial diamonds.” In 2005, Jill Magid commissioned LifeGem to turn her future remains into a one-carat diamond, to be incorporated into her work Auto Portrait Pending, which for now consists of contracts, a letter, and a gold ring with an empty setting. The work introduces into the art market a discomfiting intimacy. By collapsing the distinction between an artist’s body of work and her actual body—that is, by literally

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