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Materials & Manufacturing

Locks and keys are known from the earliest historical times. At first they were made of wood, but those to be found today will be made of iron/steel, bronze/brass or zinc alloy, occasionally silver, often composites of different metals. A very common combination is a steel shackle with a brass case. Ancient locks are rare, and valued accordingly. Most locks found today will be at least partially machine-made, and will date from about 1800. They will be of three general types: lever, warded and pin tumbler. Handmade, primitive locks, such as simple screw-key and slide-key locks, are still being made today, and are not necessarily valuable. Considerable exposure to such items is necessary to develop an understanding of what is junk versus keepers.

A key mold

Door Lock with Key, German, 1620, Steel, 8 1/2" high x 10" wide.
These Renaissance door locks were visible from the inside of the door

Chestlock, Spanish, 17th Century Brass, 5 1/2 " high x 7 " wide.
Cover plate displays coats of arms with turrets, animals, trees, heads and a quarter moon.

Hardware store advertising tin from 1940-1950.