When looking at what old safes are made of, we would have to go back to Egyptian times. The Egyptians were the first people to value their belongings to such an extent that they felt the need to secure them for future use and they kept their important documents and valuables buried deep in pyramids, so I guess you could say the first safes were made of stone.
Jump forward to the 15th Century and strongboxes were widely used as a method of security. These were primarily made of oak, this being considered the strongest of woods at the time and would have had cast iron bindings to hold them together. Locks would have been simple affairs, easily picked or broken.
The 19th Century saw the first ‘modern’ style safes being produced. These were primarily constructed of iron and their inner walling would have been made from stone, plaster, alum or even asbestos as a way of combating fire and providing strength. Given that iron is a very good conductor of heat, these safes did not provide much protection from fire and would not come anything close to the sort of protection given today.
Testing arrived early in the 20th Century and brought about radical changes in the way safes were constructed. Although this resulted in better protection for our valuables, these safes would not provide adequate security from being broken into or protection from fire today.
Important testing factors such as how long a safe will withstand an attack, how hot a fire burns, what the safe will protect and for how long are a fairly new idea. As these tests need to be carried out under laboratory conditions, today’s safes are rated according to a standardised system and all AiS Approved and Eurograded Safes have to perform to the same stringent testing regardless of manufacturer.
Modern safes are usually made from steel. However, early Egyptians would be happy to know that their idea to protect their belongings using stone has been given a modern twist and some fire safes today protect their internal space from fire and heat using concrete in the walling. Proof if it were needed that sometimes things are best left unchanged.