Symbolism of the key pendant

The key icon represents opening doors of opportunities or holding the key to one's heart. When given as a gift, the key symbolizes wishes the sender wants to impart.

* The key to my heart: when given to a significant other.

* The key to success: when given to a graduate or someone celebrating a new job.

* You hold the key to your future: when given to someone dealing with new beginnings such as divorce, relocation or health resolutions.

* Key to prosperity: when given to a college graduate, job seeker or job changer.

* Key to a new home: when given to a first-time homebuyer

Source: Various Internet sites

Spotted: "Gossip Girl" star Leighton Meester sporting Tiffany & Co.'s crown key necklace in the first episode this season.

That televised image of the style-setting actress was enough to make the key pendant a lock for America's next fashion wave. Since its introduction by Tiffany last summer, the key necklace has unlocked a fashion fad that local jewelers say is the signature look of the winter season.

"They are the thing right now," said Roy Lovelace, manager of M.M. Schenck Jewelers. "They are very popular. There are a lot of variations, but the diamond styles in white gold are the most popular."

Bob Mason, owner of Rone Regency Jewelers in Brainerd Village, said he first saw the key necklace at a summer jewelry show. By October, he said, there was a local response to the fad. By Christmas, Mr. Mason sold every style in his store.

"It's a fashion statement; a lot of movie stars are wearing them in pictures, and that drives the demand," Mr. Mason said. "It (the age demographic of buyers) was pretty amazing because they stretched from 18-year-olds to 50-year-olds."

Get the look: The key pendant is a vintage skeleton key, usually done in white metal accented with diamonds, worn on a chain as a necklace. The key's bow features a design such as a heart, fleur de lis, clover, skull, filigree pattern, oval or circle. The bow or the key's blade will be studded with some type of bling.

How to wear the look: The key pendant is traditionally worn in an open neckline, seated at the hollow of the neck. During winter months, the key can be worn over sweaters on a long chain (at least 24 inches) so that the key hits between the sternum and navel.

Layering three keys is also a popular look. Wear them on graduated chains so the keys nest within each other. The linear look of one long necklace or three layered chains is slimming to the face.

Who's wearing it: Taylor Swift wore a vintage key necklace in her "Love Story" video. Jennifer Aniston was photographed wearing the Key to My Heart necklace. Demi Lovato wears the Urban Outfitters key necklace.

Other celebrities photographed in the look: Hayden Panettiere, Michelle Trachtenberg and Jessica Biel.

"The necklaces have diamonds on them, so they are not appropriate for girls younger than midteens," Mr. Lovelace advised.

Heavy metal: The key pendant is traditionally made of a solid white metal, although there are a few gold variations sold.

If white gold is too expensive for your budget, try a sterling-silver style. Instead of a diamond key necklace, buy a knockoff set with cubic zirconia. There is a style to fit every budget.

Stylish and edgy: The beauty of the key necklace is that it looks right with jeans or when accessorizing for evening. Slip one around your neck for an instant wardrobe update.