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Giving a key incorporated into a jewelry piece is an old tradition. Key necklaces and pendants have been around for decades and a popular present for a family member, good friend or a romantic partner.
Apart from being a beautiful piece of jewelry, whether it be a plain silver or gold key necklace or one with a more intricate design, what exactly is the spiritual meaning of keys? Well, as we discovered, this amazing talisman carries far-reaching significance from good luck, to assistance in new unchartered adventures to a lifting of spiritual barriers.
When charm bracelets were in vogue, a key charm hanging from a jump ring on a bracelet was one of the most popular charms to give for special occasions like an 18th or 21st birthday – often with 18 or 21 designed into the charm. There have been key icons like the famous Tiffany key necklace, which most people seem to have seen and know about, but don’t necessarily know the symbolism of the key pendant necklace and what it means.
But why? What is the symbolic meaning of a key emblem?
We’ve talked many times about how jewelry offers a perfect opportunity to carry and wear emblems that carry meaning for the wearer (and the person who may gift an item of key jewelry). It stands to reason that, as with many meaningful signs and symbols, the key amulet was made in precious metals.
The key has many different meanings. For centuries, signified a person of respect and standing, someone who can be trusted with responsibility, the keeper of the door as it were.
Even the bible made reference to someone having the key teaching authority.
A key was also seen as a good luck charm, to help open doors to new opportunities and doors to better things, a bright future.
As if all that weren’t enough, a skeleton key is said to bring you all you wish for.
Let’s take a closer look at these meanings behind the key necklace trend and see where they originated and what this stylish accessory means.
What Does a Key Necklace Mean?
Biblical References to a Key
Peter is generally considered the first Pope of the Catholic Church and this is referenced in the bible in Matthew 16 as him being the gatekeeper of heaven, “…I give you the keys as the kingdom of heaven …”.
The Key Holder In Ancient Times
The origins of the meaning of the key can be traced back to the middle ages when only distinguished persons and those in authority, social standing and knowledge held the key to places which were otherwise out of reach to lesser mortals.
These important people included priests, noblemen and high-ranking officials. They were the ones who held a special trust with the rulers.
The Key In Ancient Egypt
Keys were a highly revered symbol in ancient Egypt and were incorporated into artwork and rituals.
The Ankh, which is a symbol reminiscent of both the cross and a key, was believed to offer the key to the afterlife and unlock the door between the physical and spiritual realm. But it not only offered openings the better places but also bestowed good fortune.
Keys in Roman Times
The God Janus was the “Keeper of Thresholds” – allowing passage between one place and another, better place and signifying passage between one phase and another. Janus was the two-faced Roman God of Gates and he held a key in his right hand. He was the God of New Beginnings (the name of the month of January originates from his name). He had two faces – one for looking at the past, the other looked to the future. Hence he was worshipped during the transition from childhood to adulthood, at harvest time and at times of marriages and deaths.
This could be the beginning of the belief that keys were given at times of great transition (see later).
The Key to the City
The Key to the City refers to medieval times, when towns and cities were walled and the gates to the city was locked and guarded.
Only a few people held the key and could come and go as they saw fit.
This signified huge social standing, displaying they were a friend of the city and should be treated with honour and respect. These were the people who, at the time, had a “successful career” and had reached achievements of the highest importance. Hence, the key carries with it all these attributes and significance.
A Key Symbolised Authority, Trust, Social Standing and Power
Those who held the key to doors that others just could not open were the ones who held the power and authority. The fact that they were one of the few, perhaps the only one, entrusted with the key to the door which held all the secrets and knowledge meant they were someone very special indeed.
They had the freedom of movement that others just didn’t possess. Therefore a key is a symbol of trust and a symbol of authority and this is wonderfully symbolised in jewellery.
14k Yellow Gold Key to My Heart Key Necklace – 16 Inch
from: Black Bow Jewelry Co.
A Key for Coming of Age
Later a key was often given to those who had reached the age of being responsible enough to have acquired the privilege of being allowed to hold the key to the family’s home. A key necklace, therefore, was a perfect choice to mark the occasion.
As this normally happened at age 18 or 21 – thereby signifying that they can now be trusted to be responsible and in the family – it makes a great gift for an 18th or 21st birthday present. Almost like a coming of age ritual.
The Tiffany & Co key pendant in sterling silver became iconic as a great choice for a daughter on one of her coming of age birthdays.
Keys at Times of Transition
As we can see from how keys were held only by very important people throughout history, by those who held the power to grant riches.
For those passing from one phase of life to another, keys were given for good luck and prosperity at times of, for instance, birth, marriage, coming of age, love, new home, or a new job etc. Presented to someone on their next “big step” into new unchartered adventures was a great way to wish someone well.
It sent a message and rich meaning of new horizons and a brighter future and that, as one door closes another one opens.
A Key as a Symbol of Freedom
It stands to reason that the person who held the key to the lock of the door was they one who had freedom. Hence carrying a key carries with it the rich symbolism of freedom, new unchartered adventures and a new life.
The Key is a Symbol of Good Luck
In the Far East a key has been known as a symbol of good luck, as is it seen to represent good luck in Chinese culture.
The “skeleton keys” are believed to bring you all that you wish for in life, like a universal key. Many people look at antique key designs to carry or wear as the as a skeleton key necklace.
The Key as Symbol of Security and Protection
In Egyptian culture the key is seen as symbol of protection. The basic function of a key is to keep something that is precious safe and secure so this makes perfect sense to us. These were often worn on a chain necklace for safety and security.
Giving someone a piece of jewelry with a key design which suits their personal style is, therefore, a beautiful symbolic gesture and an ideal gift idea.
Key necklaces and pendants are often given on milestone birthdays or are passed down by family members as a family keepsake.
A key-shaped pendant is also a thoughtful gift between best friends.
A Key as a Symbol of Love
Keys are often seen with a heart and a lock as a symbol of a romantic relationship. The romantic meaning behind this is that the wearer holds the power of the key to the givers heart and displays the deepest feelings.
It’s a very heartfelt statement and a great honour in itself.
Given to someone for whom you have a romantic interest a lock and key pendant is the perfect necklace to give to your heart of hearts.
Key Symbol Jewelry Designs
Keys have been designed into fine jewelry and, from the sterling silver Tiffany key pendant to a golden key necklace, even platinum and diamonds – key necklaces and pendants are available in a variety of styles.
They can be purchased as a simple key pendant for inner strength, personal growth, good luck or good news. Or you can go for a key and lock necklaces or bracelets for the more romantically inclined.