Skeleton Keys, Ornate Keys

Keys to a City

Keys to Success

Keys to the Kingdom

Small pieces of uniquely shaped metal symbolize “access to”…whether it be abstract, as in “keys to a city,” or actual, as in the key to your home.

Keys and locks originated in ancient civilizations, and have been dated as far back as 4000 BC. Genuine antique keys are quite collectible, although their value varies greatly, depending upon their age, scarcity, embellishments or details, their weight, shape and size.

Niche key collectors narrow the scope of their collections
according to where the keys were used, for example prison keys or railroad keys;
according to the metal used to make them, for example brass or iron; or
according to their detail or decoration.

Commemorative keys, like the three large ornamental keys shown here within the gold frame, are popular in home and office objects of art.  While collectors seek genuine antique keys, fairly abundant at auctions and flea markets, they need to distinguish them from inexpensive reproductions, favored by artisans.  ‘Vintage-look’ skeleton keys, which come with the disclaimer, “won’t open locks,” do make elegant wedding favors, and can be made into charming wind chimes, jewelry or framed wall decor.

The term ‘skeleton key’ derives from the fact that the key has been reduced to its essential parts, however, the name is often used to refer to any antique key, no matter how ornate, as long as there is a bow, a narrow shank or shaft, and a flat extension on one side, near the bottom of the shaft. Skeleton keys are still cut and sold at Anderson Lock for use in old residential locks, and for fine cabinetry.

And, every autumn, skinny skeleton keys accessorize Halloween haunted houses and dungeon-themed props.

Spoo-key!