Clare Coulson: 50 years of the peace symbol

Roundup: Talking About History

[Clare Coulson has been The Daily Telegraph's Fashion Editor since January 2005, after three years as Fashion Writer. She has written a guide to stylish living, House Rules, and is working on a second book.]

The British artist Gerald Holtom, creator of the CND sign, penned a solemn note to Hugh Brock, editor of Peace News, before its first public outing on a London peace march in 1958. "I was in despair," he wrote, explaining how the symbol came about. "Deep despair. I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya's peasant before the firing squad. I formalised the drawing into a line and put a circle round it."

Holtom died in 1985. If he had been alive to see this month's Vogue or Tatler, he might have been surprised to see an advertisement for Tiffany & Co in which Lily Cole wears a platinum and diamond peace sign pendant. Half a century after its creation, this potent ideological symbol has become one of the world's most recognisable designs - and one of its most commercialised too. With 4.8 carats of round-cut diamonds set into platinum, the Tiffany pendant has a price tag of £2,550.

Holtom, who was a conscientious objector during the second world war while working on a farm in Norfolk, would probably not have been too impressed. But Tiffany is not alone in cashing in on the design, which has adorned Fendi bags, limited-edition Volkswagen cars and Madonna's favourite Ed Hardy T-shirts. This autumn Barney's, the chic New York department store, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the peace sign with its Peace and Love holiday extravaganza...

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