Skeleton keys, otherwise known as passkeys, are keys that have been used since Colonial times through the 1940s and did not fall out of popular use until after World War II as the pin tumbler lock became more prominent.
Today, skeleton keys are still used in fine cabinetry mainly due to their elaborate and eye pleasing designs, a fact so endearing that they can even be used in craftsy artwork or jewelry.
Nostalgia is furthermore a key factor in skeleton keys remaining in the minds of numerous people who can still remember their grandparents juggling a whole set of these keys to unlock everything inside and outside of their homes.
The term skeleton keys comes from the very fact that they resemble, well, skeletons, with the top seeming to be a skull. However, locksmiths will refer to the term as meaning that the skeletal structure is meant to be capable of bypassing numerous types of locks.
Skeleton keys can be filed or modified in such a way that they will open most warded locks or lever locks by passing through the wards without interference, and as such also frequently serve as master keys.
There is a very good reason why skeleton keys are used with vending machines or hotels, where guests can easily lose their keys, or when housekeeping needs to be performed.
Besides their attractive look and feel, skeleton keys also happen to be quite inexpensive, unless they were crafted to suit a king.
Collecting skeleton keys has become somewhat of a fad lately, and when worn as a piece of jewelry or as an accessory, the unusual and elegant look can readily turn into a piece of conversation at parties.
Victorian era skeleton keys are especially in demand due to the simple yet stylish design, and they come in all different sizes.
In today's fast paced world, skeleton keys have also been known for emotional relaxation, as owners travel back into simpler times.