If you know who Justin Bieber is, chances are pretty slim that you’ve ever used or even seen a bonafide skeleton key. Being born in the 80’s, and living in a house that was built in the 40’s, I had the distinct pleasure of old and squeaky everything, including, yup you guessed it, door handles that only rattled open with the twist of an actual skeleton key. Although the keys were long gone by the time we moved in, I remember looking through the keyholes and wondering what kind of stone age relic fit that oddly shaped receptacle. It wasn’t until after college that I got my hands on an antique skeleton key and realized just how fascinating they were. It was so cool and ornate. A real relic of a bygone era.
Of course I’m not alone in my appreciation for the small pieces of iron. I think it’s safe to say that each and every person on this list has a far deeper appreciation for skeleton keys than we do. But don’t take our word for it. Below we’ll take a look at a small sample of the beautiful and breathtaking skeleton key tattoos that have recently been inked.
This dotwork ribbon.
And key to be exact. As metal ages, it develops a unique texture known as “pitting,” which is usually one of the first things experts look for when determining the age of an antique. For some reason, when we think of old skeleton keys, we often picture them hanging from some sort of silk or velvet ribbon. (Photo: Oliver Whiting)
This sketch style skeleton key tattoo.
Sketch style tattoos are really popular right now. And few do it better than the venerable Inez Janiak. Inez specializes in sketch style works, so if there’s a particular design you’re contemplating, if you wait long enough, chances are it will eventually be inked by one of the best in the business. (Photo: Inez Janiak)
This winged key.
Surprisingly enough, winged skeleton key designs aren’t as rare as you would think. Ever since the “chamber of keys” debuted in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, a wide variety of flying key inspired art has been created. (Photo: Marla Moon)
This ornamental key.
If you’re looking for something feminine with an elegant and naturalistic vibe, then this ornate skeleton key definitely fits the bill. So delicate and dainty you can hardly even tell it’s a key. The body and tip of the key are decorated with a small vine that wraps around the shaft. (Photo: Shpadyreva Julia)
These matching skeleton key tattoos.
The skeleton key is a common component of many lovey-dovey couple tattoos. However, it usually accompanies a lock, ’cause, lock and key, key to my heart, you get it right? This pair of identical matching keys is a welcome deviation from the boat loads of lock and key tattoos we see on an almost daily basis. (Photo: Mr. Koo)
This watercolor skeleton key.
No list would be complete without at least one watercolor design on it. Everything looks good with the addition of a few blotches of colorful and dimensional watercolor ink—especially when the main element is completely void of color. (Photo: Yesilbas)
This sketched key.
Here we have another sketch style design by the talented Brazilian tattooist Felipe Rodrigues Fe Rod. He uses just a hint of watercolor technique to compliment his free-flowing lines and achieve that distinct style he’s so well-known for. Love this design? Keep scrolling for another awesome example of his work. (Photo: Felipe Rodrigues Fe Rod)
This nature themed skeleton key.
Straight from the pages of a fairytale fantasy book, Julia’s skeleton keys were so pretty that we decided that featuring more than one design wouldn’t be out of line. (Photo: Shpadyreva Julia)
This simple key.
Sanghyuk introduces a little simplicity into the mix with this unornamented key. Most skeleton keys in fact looked like the one above—built for function pure and simple. The more elaborate skeleton keys with the fancy head designs were few and far between. (Photo: Sanghyuk Ko)
These dragonfly wings.
You’ll notice this key has a very antique appearance both in design and execution. Engraving, woodcut, and cross-hatching are all terms that have been used to describe this particular style of design. (Photo: Mindaugas Bumblys)