A lover of handmade jewelry, Donna has been crafting (and wearing) unique pieces of statement jewelry since she can remember.
I love repurposing unexpected items into beautiful jewelry pieces. When I found that my Dad had a bunch of old skeleton keys, I couldn't wait to find a way to use them to make something new. A recycled skeleton key can become the perfect centerpiece to hang combinations of beads and trinkets to create a uniquely stunning necklace. This is a surprisingly easy project if you are familiar with using pliers and jewelry making supplies.
Although I used an old skeleton key, you can buy new decorative keys at most craft stores and online. Beads and jewelry hardware are also available in craft shops and online.
Materials for Making a Skeleton Key Necklace with Beads
- necklace chain to hang your key from - the length of chain depends on how long you want your necklace to be. I used a chain with some beading detail, but you can also use a plain chain.
- a closing clasp - if your necklace chain does not already have one.
- a skeleton key - my key is an actual key, but more decorative keys are available at craft stores. I also used another small key to hang from my necklace.
- beads - you can use a mix of small and larger beads, or use all the same beads.
- jump rings - to use to put your necklace together. When buying your jewelry supplies, you may want all your hardware to have the same finish (gold, silver, brass) for a unified appearance.
- head pins - these pins come in assorted lengths. I always buy the longest ones I can find. You can always cut them down in length if you need to.
- a good pair of needle nose pliers and wire cutters
- (optional) small jewelry items or trinkets to hang from your key - I used a small metal star and figure to mix in among my hanging beads, but you could add a small lock or heart pendant if you want.
- (optional) a piece of bendable wire (about 8 inches long) - this can be twisted between your hanging pieces to keep them from sliding along your key. You can also use a strip of fabric, a piece of yarn, or some embroidery floss.
Directions for Making a Skeleton Key Necklace
1. The first step in creating your skeleton key necklace is to make the beaded fringe pieces that will hang from the key. Using your head pins, start to stack your beads on each pin, leaving at least about a 1/2 inch at the top of the pin bare. You will need this space to form a loop.
Your choice of beads will really create the appearance and theme of your necklace. For instance, you can choose dark colored beads to create a Goth look for your necklace, or a mixture of colors and materials for a more bohemian look. Adding pieces of household or hardware items can create a Steampunk theme for your necklace. I suggest staying away for large beads or heavy items as they will make your fringe pieces wider and crowded, and they might not hang straight from your key.
I made an odd number of fringe pieces with a central piece that was longer, but you can make as many fringe pieces as you want as long as they will all fit along the length of your key. You can attach other jewelry items like small pendants to your head pins using jump rings. I hung a small key from my center fringe piece, but you could also use a small lock or pendant. To hang these items from your fringe, make a small loop with your pliers at the bottom of one of your head pins. Then use a jump ring to attach your decorative item to your fringe. You can place your beads along the remaining length of your head pin.
2. Next, using your wire cutters, trim any excess length from your beaded head pins so you only have about 1/2 inch of bare wire. Use your needle nose pliers to create a loop at the top of each piece of beaded fringe.
Note: If you've never made a loop with needle nose pliers, you may want to have some extra head pins handy to practice with before starting with your fringe. A few practice pieces will help your learn the best way to form your loop.
3. Now attach each piece of fringe to the shaft of your key using jump rings. Open each jump ring enough to slide your fringe on and fit it around your key. To open each jump ring, push back on one side of the opening while holding the other side steady with your pliers.
When you close your jump rings, make sure the gap is completely closed so your fringe does not fall off.
4. (Optional) Take your piece of bendable wire, fabric, or string and tie or twist it around one end of your key. I twisted my silver wire around and through the handle end of my key. If you are using wire, be sure to tuck in the end so it does not catch on your clothing.
Once the end is attached, wrap your wire or string along the length of your key, capturing each fringe loop in one of the twists of your wire. With each wrap of your wire or string, you want to secure your piece of fringe against the length of the key so it won't slide back and forth as you move. When you reach the end of the key shaft, make a few more wraps or tie off your material to secure the end.
If you are using wire or thin string, you can thread small beads on your material as your wrap it along your key. This will add some additional detail and color.
5. The last step is to attach your chain to your necklace using more jump rings. On the handle end, you can attach your chain either to the handle or to the length of the key. On the other end, attach your chain along the key shaft before the head of the key.
You may need to shorten your necklace chain to get the right length. You can use your wire cutters to cut your chain. Use your needle nose pliers and jump rings, if necessary, to attach your clasp to your necklace chain.
Your finished necklace will be a unique and personal piece of jewelry that you should be proud to wear and display.
Donna Herron (author) from USA on April 18, 2018:
Hi Poetryman - Sorry, I haven't used any sea glass in my jewelry, though I would like to. Using sea glass generally involves drilling through the glass in order to hang it or attach it. I don't have a drill for that, but maybe in the future. I have a couple of pieces of sea glass that I'd love to use for jewelry. Thanks so much for the suggestion!
poetryman6969 on April 15, 2018:
Your creativity is always appreciated. I need to look through your stuff to see if you happened to use sea glass as mentioned elsewhere. I would like to see that.
Donna Herron (author) from USA on January 19, 2017:
Sea glass would be a wonderful addition to this necklace design. Thanks for sharing your suggestion and comments. I appreciate it!
GreenMind Guides from USA on January 18, 2017:
These are great! I make jewelry with se glass. It's really fun!
Donna Herron (author) from USA on November 18, 2016:
Hi Karen Ann - the metal star and female figure came from an old pair of earrings that I took apart. I had the other beads in my jewelry supplies. You can buy inexpensive charms in the jewelry making area of most large craft stores. If you're looking for higher quality charms, check out etsy.com. You can search under things like "silver heart charm" etc. Hope this helps! Thanks for stopping by!
KarenAnnM on November 17, 2016:
Where do you find your trinkets? I have been looking for some charms for bracelets.
Donna Herron (author) from USA on June 02, 2016:
Thanks, Monisha! So glad you like it. Thanks for your comments!!
Monisha Jayesh from Kerala on June 01, 2016:
A key transforming into a necklace!!
Didn't ever think of it!!
Its hopeful as long as people like you remain in this world to recycle whatever people like us put in garage or bin...
I was in search of a rusting key for a day after I read this!!
Donna Herron (author) from USA on January 25, 2016:
Thanks! I love mixing old and new materials together to create a unique piece of jewelry. Thanks for stopping by!
Myfoundobjects.net on January 24, 2016:
This is exactly the cool kind of project that I want to do. What a great way to mix beading and Found Objects. My kind of project!
Donna Herron (author) from USA on January 20, 2016:
Hi Kailua-KonaGirl! So glad this project has inspired you, and I'm jealous of your collection of keys. I hope you make something you really love. Thanks for your comments and pin! I appreciate it!
KonaGirl from New York on January 20, 2016:
So cute and you've really got my creative juices flowing! I have old keys and was looking for a way to use them. Thanks for the tutorial. Pinning to my DIY Jewelry board.
Donna Herron (author) from USA on January 16, 2016:
Thanks, Glimmer Twin Fan! I really do love this necklace and had fun pulling out my collection of beads and odds and ends to put it together. I hope you find your box of keys - there's so many interesting craft projects you can make with them. Thanks again for your wonderful comments!
Claudia Mitchell on January 16, 2016:
You've been busy Donna! This is gorgeous and my husband has a box of old keys (I just can't remember where we put them). I can see this with a solid colored sweater as a back drop. I bet you get a lot of compliments on this necklace.
Donna Herron (author) from USA on January 12, 2016:
Oh, too bad! I hate when I've passed up or thrown out something I wished I'd saved. Luckily, my Dad never gets rid of anything :) I think I get half of my craft supplies from him (for free!). Hope something else that's even better comes your way! Thanks, as always, for your sweet comments and support!
RTalloni on January 12, 2016:
Such a cute jewelry project! Thanks for sharing your tutorial here.
Years ago I stupidly reject a box of wonderful old skeleton keys at a remote flea market. I knew they would be valuable for crafting, but I wasn't focusing correctly and walked away. They were 5 cent each and I should've bought the entire box. Have collected a few since then and your idea is inspiring so maybe one day...
Donna Herron (author) from USA on January 10, 2016:
Thanks, Ntina, for your kind words and support. I appreciate it!
Ntina on January 10, 2016:
I think this is absolutely amazing! So creative and unique! Love it!
Donna Herron (author) from USA on January 07, 2016:
Hi Vivian - You're very welcome! So glad you like this project and tutorial. Thanks for stopping by!
Vivian on January 07, 2016:
WOW WOW, I love skeleton keys (don't know why), love beads and charms.
This is just a great way of putting it all together and look great.
Thanks for doing that for me.....
Donna Herron (author) from USA on January 07, 2016:
Hi Rachel - Friendship beads are a great idea, especially if used in combination with a photo locket or some other personal item. Thanks for the great suggestion! I appreciate your comments and support!
Rachel L Alba from Every Day Cooking and Baking on January 06, 2016:
Hi Donna, What a nice idea and so pretty. I could see kids adding "friendship" beads to this. Thanks for sharing. You have a talent to be seen.
Blessings to you.
Donna Herron (author) from USA on January 06, 2016:
Wow, Kristen, that means a lot! I appreciate your kind words and support. Thank you!
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on January 06, 2016:
Donna, what a lovely crafty idea! I love it! It's so inventive and so creative and decorative too. You're the queen of cool crafty ideas here, Donna.
Donna Herron (author) from USA on January 06, 2016:
Thanks, Sally! I like making my own jewelry. I get to create exactly what I want, and I don't feel guilty splurging on myself. Looking forward to your next creative idea! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!
Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on January 06, 2016:
That is fun. You always manage to come up with such creative ideas.