Safes, strongboxes and coffers have been a necessity for as long there have been valuables and people who have wanted to steal them. People have been locking away valuables for centuries and hiding them for even longer. However, the first iteration of what we would consider to be a modern safe didn’t occur until the 1800s. English locksmiths, Charles and Jeremiah Chubb created a security safe that could resist thieves and burglars and their invention was officially patented in 1834.

The first fire safe was invented a few decades later by American inventor Henry Brown and was designed to keep papers safe from fire and other accidents.

Today, however, we have made significant advancements in manufacturing strong and element-resisting safes. Modern safes are made with sophisticated materials and interesting abilities.

Biometric Unlocking Technology

Keys and security codes are safe and easy ways to lock and unlock your home and commercial safes, but what if you could quickly unlock your safe with a swipe of your finger? Well, you can with safes that have biometric technology. Safes like the Safewell SW-50FPN Biometric Home Fingerprint Safe allow you to use your own fingerprint to unlock your safe by swiping it over a scanner on the lock.

Some biometric safes allow you to register multiple fingerprints so that you can let family members gain access to your safe. In fact, some safes can register up to 20 fingerprints, which is ideal for company safes. If for whatever reason you can not use the scanner a backup override key or security code is often available.

A Safe That Can Float?

You might think that a safe is a big, cumbersome and heavy and you’d be right. Safes are heavy both by design and as a byproduct of making thick, sturdy walls to prevent break-ins. It is also harder to walk off with the whole safe when it is so heavy. So if that’s the case, can a safe really float?

Yes. Burton Aquasec Fire/Water Safes are actually buoyant. The size three model, which is the largest size, weighs in at 64kg and yet, when the waters rise so will it. This is incredibly helpful for boaters who want to keep documents and other water sensitive materials safe aboard their vessels. When a boat sinks, typical safes plunge down to the bottom of the ocean or whatever body of water it happens to be in. The Burton Aquasec will rise to the challenge of keeping your valuables at the surface.

It can also be bolted down if you would prefer it to be less movable. If so, it is completely waterproof; nothing is going to seep in and ruin important documents, CDs or external hard drives that you want to keep secure.

Heat Resistant Materials

What’s more difficult, building something that is resistant to heat or flame? Flames are intense, right? It has to be a challenge to keep something from burning up. Well, actually, making an object that is resistant to fire is pretty easy. Think about what fire actually is. In essence, it is a simple chemical reaction and as we learned in secondary school, some things react with chemicals while others do not. So to make something fire resistant, all you need to do is find some inert material that doesn’t burn.

Heat on the other hand, is much harder to protect against. How can this be? If it resists fire it resists heat right? Not exactly. For instance, metal doesn’t burn. In extreme heat it can melt but a house fire would have to burn longer and hotter than normal in order to melt a quality metal safe. However, metal is extremely vulnerable to temperature change. That is why a metal park bench will be very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter.

An object doesn’t have to be on fire to be affected by heat, if that were true, grilling would be the only cooking method. But ovens and stoves cook food by heat and, in the same way, your birth certificates, living wills and passport are cooked on the inside of a metal security safe when it is heated up by fire.

So what materials are heat resistant? How about one that was forged by volcanoes themselves? Perlite is a mineral that is made of volcanic glass with very high water content. When it is heated to between 850-900 degrees Celsius the water that is trapped inside vaporises and is released. This causes the perlite to grow to over seven times its original size. Materials like this and vermiculite (another mineral with high water content) are mixed with concrete to make an extremely fire resistant insulation in many of today’s fire safes.

Modern Day Alloys

In the beginning, safes were made of thick wood or perhaps some basic metals. However, typical metal and wooden safes wouldn’t be able to stand up against modern safe cracking techniques. Modern safes use hardplate steel that is resistant to wear and tear. Many safes and vaults use alloys that include tungsten carbide which is designed specifically to protect against drilling. When a drill is used, the drill bit will break apart before the walls of the safe.

Some bank vaults use a copper alloy that is embedded into vault doors and walls in order to defend against cutting torches. As opposed to the heat resistant materials that are used in smaller safes, copper is an excellent conductor of heat. When a torch is used the copper conducts heat so that it spreads out and dissipates. Plus, vaults are typically big enough that heating from a small source like a torch isn’t enough to heat up the interior and damage the contents.

Safes Kept In a Safe Place

The most effective safe is the safe that a burglar never even sees. These safes have two levels of defense: on top of being sturdy and difficult to crack they are also hidden out of sight. They are typically embedded into walls and floors or disguised as other less appealing household items.

Safes have come a long way since the wooden coffers from centuries past. Today, we can rest a bit more easily knowing our valuables are as safe and secure as they have ever been.