The Illawarra's most scenic landmarks are becoming magnets for starry-eyed lovers as the global "love lock" craze gathers pace.Padlocks engraved with the names of loved-up couples have sprung up in clusters around the world over the past five years as public testimony to their bond.In the Illawarra, the locks have been affixed to Sea Cliff Bridge, the Illawarra Fly, Mt Keira look- out and Wollongong's Blue Mile.Some couples throw away the key; others hold onto it for nostalgia's sake - or perhaps as a contingency plan.Wollongong's Gala Trophies has reported a spike in demand for its engraving service since Sea Cliff Bridge opened in 2005."We've done heaps. There are always people getting married or engaged, or anniversaries," owner Gareth Leyshon said."We even had a lady from overseas come in, ... she was going to attach it to the bridge."Mr Leyshon and his wife Diana were inspired to create their own love lock, but are yet to hang it in public.Italians claim credit for the worldwide fad, after the romantic practice appeared in two novels by author Federico Moccia.But its origins have also been variously ascribed to Hungarian students in the 1980s and ancient Chinese custom.Whatever the roots, it has now spread to bridges, lookouts and monuments from Germany and Russia to Japan, South Korea and the United States.The town of Lovelock, Nevada, has taken it one step further, appointing itself as the United States' "official love-locking destination" and providing heart-shaped padlocks to tourists.But not everyone is enamoured with the public show of love. In some overseas jurisdictions, authorities view it as vandalism and have set about removing the padlocks as fast as they pop up.Others have provided chains at popular love lock locations to prevent damage to monuments.A Wollongong City Council spokesman said the padlock practice did not contravene by-laws and the council would not be removing them.Tourism Wollongong chairman Matt Davidson said the Illawarra's fondness for love locks could translate into dollars."It's not going to be a major strategy but it could be something that we could leverage," he said."We will do anything to drive new visitors to the region, and if it takes something like that to showcase our blue skies and blue seas, then sure."