Nickel has been found in metallic artefacts dating back more than 2,000 years. It was first identified and isolated as an element by the Swedish chemist, Axel Cronstedt, in 1751. In the 19th century, it came to prominence in plating and in alloys such as “nickel silver” (German silver) in which it is alloyed with copper and zinc. This alloy was named for its colour and does not contain any silver!
Nickel's name comes from the Saxon term 'Kupfernickel' or Devils' Copper, as the 15th century miners thought the ore looked red-brown like copper but it was too difficult to mine and they also believed it was poisoning them (actually it was arsenic doing this!).
Coins in the USA first used nickel alloyed with copper in 1857. The “nickel” was not pure nickel but in 1881, pure nickel was used for coins in Switzerland.
Stainless steels were discovered early in the 20th century and nickel was found to have a very beneficial role in many of the common grades, a situation which continues to this day. Alloys based on nickel were found to have excellent corrosion resistance and high temperature resistance, which made them suitable for chemical plants and also allowed the practical realisation of the jet engine. As a result of these developments, nickel enjoyed a very strong growth of demand in the 20th Century and continues to do so.
Nickel Metal - The Facts
Where & Why Nickel is Used