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Who Actually Invented Keys?

Hey there! Want to know who came up with the idea of keys? Discover the fascinating history behind this everyday object.

Who Actually Invented Keys?

History of Keys

Early Locks and Keys

The history of keys dates back to ancient times, where locks and keys were invented by the Egyptians and Greeks. These ancient civilizations understood the importance of keeping their valuables secure, such as jewelry, money, and food. The Egyptian locks were made of wood and consisted of large wooden pins that could be lifted out of the way with the key. Meanwhile, the Greeks developed a lock and key system that allowed them to protect their most valuable items. They crafted their locks and keys from metals such as iron and bronze, which made them more sturdy than the Egyptian locks.

The Medieval Key

During the medieval era, European metalworking improved, and keys became more elaborate. The level of craftsmanship involved in creating these keys was spectacular. The medieval keys were not only secure but also intricate works of art that often featured ornate designs such as flowers, animals, and crowns. They were made of various metals, including bronze, iron, and silver, which made them more durable and less susceptible to rusting. These elaborate designs made it a challenge for thieves to pick the lock, and thus they were more effective in protecting the precious items.

The Modern Key

The modern key is a significant improvement from the previous designs in terms of efficiency and convenience. The Industrial Revolution brought about mass production, and the manufacturing of keys became faster and more efficient. Modern keys have a complicated design that includes intricate ridges and bumps that match the locks, enabling them to fit precisely. These keys are easy to duplicate with the help of machines, which made it easier for locksmiths to duplicate them and provide spare keys. The materials used in creating modern keys have also improved, with more durable metals such as titanium and steel being used to ensure long-lasting use.

In conclusion, the history of keys shows us the evolution of security over time. From the simple wooden pins used in ancient Egyptian locks to the intricate designs of modern keys, the advancements made in creating keys have revolutionized the way we secure our valuable possessions. Today, we live in a world where the mastery of locksmiths, combined with the use of modern technology, ensures that our belongings are safe and secure.

Types of Keys

Keys have been in existence for thousands of years and have undergone many transformations over time. There are numerous types of keys in use today, and in this section, we will explore the most commonly used ones.

The Pin Tumbler Key

The pin tumbler key is the most widely used type of key and has been in existence for centuries. It operates by pushing pins located inside a lock upwards to align them at the shear line, allowing the lock to rotate and unlock. The pin tumbler key's design comprises two main elements: the key blade and the lock cylinder. The key blade has a series of ridges and grooves that match the lock's internal mechanisms. Each groove corresponds to a different pin position to allow them to align at the shear line, unlocking the lock.

Patented in 1848 by Linus Yale Jr, the pin tumbler key remains the most common key type used in residential and commercial buildings globally. They are easy to duplicate, making them an affordable and accessible option for homeowners or business owners.

The Skeleton Key

The skeleton key is another type of key that has been around for many years. It gets its name from its design, which consists of a cylindrical shaft with several slots cut into unknown lengths or depths. The slots allow the key to bypass the locks' internal mechanisms and operate the lock. Skeleton keys were prevalent in the 18th and 19th centuries, and they were used to unlock a wide range of doors and cabinets.

Over time, locksmiths would make skeleton keys that could open multiple locks, making them a valuable tool for stealing. In today's modern world, skeleton keys are used less regularly, but they still exist for antique furniture collectors or as props in movies, plays, and escape rooms to achieve an authentic vintage feel.

The Electronic Key

The electronic key is a recent invention that has revolutionized the locking industry. It uses an electronic code to unlock a lock instead of the traditional metal key. These types of keys are commonly used in cars, hotels, and commercial buildings. The electronic key has an electronic chip embedded within that communicates with the lock's sensor and allows it to operate, granting access to the locked area.

The electronic key's design has made it a more secure option, as it is difficult to duplicate the electronic code required for access. In addition, it can log each entry, allowing owners to keep track of who accessed a specific area at what time. Modern electronic keys have features such as remote control, automatic lock/unlock, and panic button, making them more convenient to use than traditional metal keys.


The three types of keys outlined in this article are the most commonly used ones across the world. Each has its unique design, benefits, and drawbacks. Despite their different features, they ultimately serve the same purpose, allowing access to locked areas. Modern technology continues to bring innovation to the locking industry, and we can only expect more advanced key designs in the future.

Key Innovations

Keys have been in use for thousands of years, and they have undergone significant changes over time. Here are some key innovations that have contributed to the evolution of keys:

The Master Key

The master key system, also known as the grand master key system, is a type of key system that allows multiple locks to be opened with a single key. It was invented in the early 1900s by a man named Frank Best. The system consists of a hierarchy of keys, with the master key at the top that can open all locks in the system. There are also sub-master keys that can open locks within a specific subset of locks in the system. Underneath those keys are individual keys that can only open one lock.

The master key system is commonly used in commercial and residential buildings where there are multiple locks to be opened with one key. For example, a building manager can carry one key to access all the apartments in a building, while each tenant has a key that only opens their own unit. This system offers convenience and security for both the landlord and the tenants.

The Laser-Cut Key

The laser-cut key is a type of key that is cut by a laser instead of a blade. It was first introduced by Mercedes-Benz in the 1990s. Unlike traditional keys, the laser-cut key has a complex design that makes it difficult to duplicate. The key has a series of cuts and channels that are intricately cut into the key blade.

Due to their unique design, laser-cut keys are more secure than traditional keys and are less likely to be duplicated by unauthorized individuals. They are commonly used in high-security applications, such as luxury cars and expensive homes.

The Key Code System

The key code system is a type of key system that uses a unique code to create a specific key. The code can be printed on the key itself, or it can be stored in a database and used to create duplicates or lost keys. This system was first developed in the mid-20th century by various locksmiths and key makers.

Today, key code systems are commonly used in automotive locksmithing, as well as in the commercial and residential industry. The key code system offers a convenient way to reproduce keys and replace lost keys. The code can be easily looked up and used to create new keys without the need for an original template or key.


Keys have come a long way since the ancient wooden keys used in ancient Egypt and Rome. With the advent of new technologies and innovations, keys have become more secure, convenient, and efficient. From the master key system to the laser-cut key and the key code system, each innovation has contributed to the evolution of keys and has made our lives easier and safer.

Key Facts and Trivia

Keys have been an essential part of our daily lives for centuries. But have you ever wondered about the history behind the invention of keys? Here are some key facts and trivia that you may find interesting:

Key Rings

The key ring as we know it today was not always there. In fact, the first key ring was invented in the 19th century by a Russian. Interestingly, it was originally used to attach keys to a watch chain. It was made of brass and had a small metal loop at one end that could be attached to the chain. The other end had a larger loop that could hold the keys.

Over time, this simple invention evolved, and today we have a variety of key rings made of different materials and designs. Some have multiple rings for separating keys, while others come with built-in flashlights or whistles for added functionality.

The Most Expensive Key

Keys can range from being affordable to incredibly expensive. The most expensive key ever made was created for a hotel in Dubai. This 18-karat gold, sapphire, and diamond-encrusted key was designed by the world-renowned jeweler, Asprey, and cost a staggering $36,000.

The key was not only luxurious and beautiful to look at but also served a functional purpose. It was designed to open the Royal Suite of the luxurious Burj Al Arab hotel, which is one of the most expensive hotels in the world. The suite itself costs around $20,000 per night and is reserved for Dubai's elite and distinguished guests.

The Oldest Lock

Keys are useless without locks, and the oldest known lock dates back over 4,000 years. The ancient Egyptian lock was discovered in the ruins of a palace in Khorsabad, Iraq. It was a wooden lock made of small wooden pegs that fit into corresponding holes in the bolt, which kept the door securely locked.

Over the years, locks have evolved, and we now have a variety of locks with sophisticated mechanisms to keep our valuables safe. These include padlocks, combination locks, and electronic locks that require a key card or a code to unlock.

In conclusion, keys have come a long way from their humble wooden peg beginnings. Today, they come in various shapes, sizes, and materials, and serve a multitude of purposes beyond just unlocking doors. From key rings to expensive keys to the ancient locks of our past, keys have a rich and fascinating history that is worth exploring.

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