In general, lock and key tattoos are considered “couple” pieces – one partner getting the lock, the other the key; however, they may be used amongst friends or relatives, and are also meant to represent self preservation, or – if the key is placed in a turning position in the lock – freedom. With the large variety of designs available in real life keys and locks, it is not surprising to find, though, that these designs are commonly used solely for their unusual artistic beauty.
Without question, heart-shaped lock and key tattoos are the most popular. In this style, either the lock, the key, or both may be in a heart design, and they may appear in many ways. For instance the lock and key may be in a steampunk style, the heart bearing large bolts and a rusted look, while the key may be large and heavily adorned. Another popular style depicts the heart lock and key as a piece of jewelry. These design typically feature a gleaming silver, or candy red heart – which may or may not be encrusted with jewels – while the key will generally be small, scrolling, and either silver or gold. Although these pieces may stand alone, they might appear as if dangling from a dainty chain or ribbon; they may also contain other important symbols. For instance, the lock may be surrounded by romantic-looking blossoms, while the key may look like a comet shooting towards the open lock.
Some people prefer lock and key tattoos that have a tougher appearance. These generally include heavier, more realistic designs like padlocks, deadbolts, rim or IC cylinder locks; while the key may be a skeleton, double or four-sided, abloy or paracentric design. For those who prefer more of a simple look, a plain keyhole may be used, while the key itself may have either a classic or modern style. These designs may also include text. Some of the most common text for lock and key pieces include names and dates, but you may also include quotes, words or sayings such as, “key to my heart,” or “safe from harm.”
As with any piece, lock and key tattoos are difficult to part with, so it is not hard to see how they can make for a beautiful tribute to love and total commitment – whether it be to a lover, a friend, or a relative. However, they are also a stunning expression of freedom, protection, and a guarded nature.