Turn Old Antique Skeleton Keys Into Modern Décor With These Decorating Ideas

Updated on December 21, 2017
Heather Says profile image

Heather Rode has backgrounds in retail sales, management, and communications. She enjoys photography, baking, and selling antiques.

Vintage and feminine in a shell-shaped dish with a handful of inexpensive pearl beads.
Vintage and feminine in a shell-shaped dish with a handful of inexpensive pearl beads.

Where can I find them?

Skeleton keys are actually pretty easy to find. Etsy has a ton, but some are reproductions. If you're looking for the real deal, hit up antique stores. I'm on a 3+ month adventure to collect about 90 vintage skeleton keys for my wedding. My wedding reception is in the lounge of a historic haunted hotel, so we're using keys in place of escort cards for seating arrangements. I could have been done by now, but this is an expensive adventure, and it's easier on my pocketbook to get about 30 at a time.

I like to de-germ my keys and dry thoroughly
I like to de-germ my keys and dry thoroughly

Bring a friend...

Unless you have an entire day to waste, bring a friend and ask for help. Antique stores are a labyrinth of dead people's dust. Most of the ones I frequent have hundreds of cabinets and each cabinet is rented by a different person and filled with their own unique junk. Many times, I have asked for help and even the owner can't help me because they just don't know what is where. Other times, I have received great help. Bringing a friend makes it easier when you have another pair of eyes, especially if you have to find keys on your own.

Tie with black ribbon and hang from hooks!
Tie with black ribbon and hang from hooks!

Let's make a deal!

If you're buying more than a dozen, brush up on your haggling. I make small talk with whomever is helping me and I'll say "Wow, these are beautiful. How long have you had these in your store?" It's usually a long time. So I reply with, "Wow, well I'd love to take some off your hands and free up that space for something else you could sell. And I say "some," but I need about 20, if the price is right. How low can we go for these?"

I have seen skeleton keys priced between 1 and 10 dollars per key; it depends. In my area, the skeleton keys are about $3 but I always get them to go lower when I buy about 2 dozen in one trip. They usually have clock winding keys mixed in, which are beautiful, but priced usually between $5 and $10. They sometimes have railroad keys mixed in, which are large and thick and start about $10. It depends what project you have in mind.

Find out if your antique stores have Facebook pages, websites, and/or mailing lists. All of mine do and I get e-mails and coupons when they have special after hours events or sales. This has saved me even more money on my precious keys. Bring some items with you for store credit or trade so you don't even have to take your wallet out.

Don't spend more than $7 on just a regular old skeleton key unless there is something truly special about it.  Be familiar with return policies just in case you change your mind and shop around a bit before dropping money.  If you start early in the day and hit a few shops before purchasing anything, you can get an idea of who has the best deals and still have time to go back and make your purchase.  Some antique stores will even hold items for you for a few hours.  Just don't say you're leaving to shop the competition!  I use the "I didn't bring enough money with me" excuse.  I ask them to hold my items while I "hit the bank and eat lunch."  Wink wink.

Fill a jar or vase with your beautiful keys!
Fill a jar or vase with your beautiful keys!

Display them!

Turn them into beautiful art!

Here are some neat ideas to display your great antique skeleton keys:

  • Hang them on hooks
  • Fill a jar with them
  • Display in a candy dish
  • Decorate a picture frame with them
  • Turn them into jewelry
  • Make a skeleton key windchime or mobile
  • Use as decorative ceiling fan pulls
  • Display inside lantern

Heather Says: I LOVE old skeleton keys. I've had fun collecting them for my wedding and I'll feel sad when I have to say goodbye, but all of our close friends will have one to remember us and our special day.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • Sunshine625 profile image

        Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

        I never thought about using skeleton keys for unique décor ideas! great ideas Heather. I see these keys at yard sales and flea markets, now I just might buy some. Thank you Heather for sharing with us!

      • Angela Brummer profile image

        Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

        I love this idea I am a fan of antiques! Very pretty! I have shared this on twitter and google+ and with hub follers.

      • Wendy Finn profile image

        Wendy Finn 6 years ago from UK

        This is such an interesting idea. I must start hunting! Well written and great advice on negotiating too - I'm always so bad at that :-)

      • acliff profile image

        acliff 6 years ago from New York City

        This is a great idea - I love antiques and have a few old keys. Thanks!

      • doodlebugs profile image

        doodlebugs 6 years ago from Southwest

        These old keys are such beautiful objects. You can sometimes find them at rummage stores and garage sales. I think wind chimes made from them are beautiful.

      • profile image

        AnnaStephens 6 years ago

        What a great hub, and congratulations on your forthcoming wedding. I particularly like the idea of suspending them from black ribbon - very gothic and eerie.

        Great hub.

        Anna

      • Heather Says profile image
        Author

        Heather Rode 6 years ago from Buckeye, Arizona

        Thanks everyone for checking out the hub and all of your great comments! Today, I finally finished buying the rest of my skeleton keys for my wedding next Saturday. We have 80 right now (one for each guest)! As we (my groom and I) sit down to decide which guest will get what key, we wonder what city each key originally came from? When was it made? Who used it? Who lost it? What did it open or keep locked up? Who did it keep out? Where is its soul mate keyhole after all these years? So much history and intrigue! I love all of your stories and love that we share this in common!

        -Heather

      • The Dirt Farmer profile image

        Jill Spencer 6 years ago from United States

        I just love these. And your decorating ideas are simply great!

      • Jean Bakula profile image

        Jean Bakula 6 years ago from New Jersey

        Hi HeatherSays,

        My Dad was a Sheriff's officer years ago, and he had a large collection of really old and unique keys they gave him. I always wanted to make a piece of art with them, but could never decide what to do. You have inspired me to make a piece to hang on the wall of the bedroom I am redecorating! Thanks for the motivation!

      • greatstuff profile image

        Mazlan 6 years ago from Malaysia

        Congratulation on your nomination. we have lots of old keys..so now I know what to do with them.. Thanks for sharing

      • Eileen Hughes profile image

        Eileen Hughes 6 years ago from Northam Western Australia

        What a novel idea

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

        I love antique keys also. I found my first set of keys in an antique shop in Key West and spent $100. I have 2 groups in frames. You have some great ideas and I enjoyed you hub.

      • Terri Meredith profile image

        Terri Meredith 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

        Wow, I thought I was the only one with a thing for antique skeleton keys. I own about 200 of them and yes, I have them displayed. Some are in a mason jar on an antique sideboard, some are hanging on a huge old jailer's iron key ring, and some are actually hanging out of the locks of a few antique furniture pieces with locks. Great hub!

      • grinnin1 profile image

        grinnin1 6 years ago from st louis,mo

        Always have had a thing for old keys, but never knew what I would do with them. Now I know. Thanks- great hub!

      • ChristinS profile image

        Christin Sander 6 years ago from Midwest

        congrats on your hub nugget nomination. I love these old keys too and have picked them up for décor. We live in an old farmhouse :)

      • Kenorv profile image

        Kenorv 6 years ago

        Interesting hub. Congrats on your hubnugget nomination.

      • robie2 profile image

        Roberta Kyle 6 years ago from Central New Jersey

        what a very cool idea-- I love it. I'm off to the flea market to see what they've got asap.

      • Hillbilly Zen profile image

        Hillbilly Zen 6 years ago from Kentucky

        What a cool idea! Thanks for all the info, and congratulations on your wedding and your nomination!

      • Deborah Demander profile image

        Deborah Demander 6 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

        Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination.

        What a great idea. Would totally fit into my décor. Eclectic.

        Namaste.

        P.S. Happy wedding!

      • fancifulashley profile image

        fancifulashley 6 years ago

        This is a very creative idea. I like how you not only point out projects that can be done with skeleton keys, but you also alert the readers on where they can find the keys and how to get good deals.

      • AnaisLynn profile image

        AnaisLynn 6 years ago from Kalispell, MT

        I love skeleton keys and used to make jewelry out of them.....never thought of using them in these ways. Awesome ideas! :-D

      • ripplemaker profile image

        Michelle Simtoco 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

        This is really cool! Thanks for the idea!

        Congratulations! Your hub has been nominated on the Hubnuggets! Join the fun right here: http://koffeeklatchgals.hubpages.com/hubnuggets6/h...

      • cjcarter profile image

        cjcarter 6 years ago

        I pick up antique keys at flea shops sometimes! I like that they have character, but I never knew what to do with them! Thanks for the tips.

      • prektjr.dc profile image

        Debbie Carey 6 years ago from Riverton, KS, USA

        I have the skeleton key my grandparents used for their back door when I was a kid. It is very special and I love your ideas for using them to decorate! I will use that one for a ceiling fan pull in my bedroom! Thanks for the interesting hub! Voted up and interesting!

      • princesswithapen profile image

        princesswithapen 6 years ago

        Very interesting and I love the idea of using antique keys for decoration purposes. I am going to begin my search for these keys right away!

        Great hub, Heather.

        P

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is used to quickly and efficiently deliver files such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisements has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)