Nickel (Ni) – part of a series on metals commonly alloyed with stainless steel to form varying grades of material.

Nickel is an element, and it has an atomic weight of 58.6934. Nickel sits in the periodic table between cobalt and copper - atomic number 28. It is a beautiful color being mainly silvery-white with gold tones.

A piece of the chemical element nickel (Ni). Nickel is resistant to corrosion and is used pre-eminently as an alloying metal in nickel steels and nickel cast irons.

A piece of the chemical element nickel (Ni). Nickel is resistant to corrosion and is used pre-eminently as an alloying metal in nickel steels and nickel cast irons.

There is an abundance of this element on Earth. Nickel is the 23rd most common element in the Earth's crust at around one part per hundred but the metal is 100 times more concentrated below the Earth's crust, than in the crust itself.

The inner core of Earth, around 2,400km across, is thought to be a solid sphere consisting of an alloy of iron and nickel. Nickel makes up about 20% of the inner core.

The Earth's outer core is about 2,260 km thick and is the only liquid layer of the Earth. The outer core is also thought to compose mainly of iron and nickel with the nickel content again, around 20%. The movement of this outer molten core gives the Earth its magnetic field, which makes life on Earth possible by shielding us from cosmic radiation.

Discovery of nickel

The name nickel is from the German word, 'kupfernickel', which loosely translated means 'devil's copper' or 'copper demon.' German miners mining copper were the first to discover nickel bearing ore, but at the time no-one could extract anything useful from it apart from a green pigment to color glass.

In 1751, around 100 years after the initial discovery, a Swedish alchemist, Baron Alex Fredrik Cronstedt began studying the mineral found in this ore. He was trying to isolate copper but was unsuccessful. However, he did eventually separate a new silvery-white metal which was later named ‘nickel’. He was the first person to refine and isolate nickel, and in doing so, discovered a new element.

Major deposits of nickel

30% of the world's available nickel is found and mined in Canada, in an area called the Sudbury Basin. This vast store of the material was unearthed in 1883. The current theory is that around 1.8 billion years ago a colossal asteroid, thought to be similar in size to Mount Everest, slammed into the Earth depositing the nickel.

The Sudbury and Wanapitei impact craters in Ontario, Canada were created by asteroids crashing into the earth billions of years ago. The nickel-rich Sudbury Basin is the large, elliptical structure (60 x 30 km).

The Sudbury and Wanapitei impact craters in Ontario, Canada were created by asteroids crashing into the earth billions of years ago. The nickel-rich Sudbury Basin is the large, elliptical structure (60 x 30 km).

The rest of the Earth's nickel is thought to come from smaller asteroid collisions and may also have welled up from the interior of our planet.

Nickel in humans

Nickel is also a mineral that humans need to consume. We only need around 150 micrograms a day to ensure good health. We get it from many sources, including dry tea leaves. Each kilo of dry tea leaves contains about 7.6 milligrams of nickel.

Nickel is not benign, and it can cause harm to humans if they are exposed to an excessive amount. Objects with a high content of the metal such as jewellery and watch cases, even coins, can cause irritation to the skin when combined with sweat.

Industrial uses of nickel

Nickel is a very durable, lustrous and ductile metal. It has many uses, but at least 50% of the world's production of nickel is used to produce various grades of corrosion-resistant stainless steel. These stainless steels are then routinely utilised in a multitude of modern industries, including the automotive and aerospace sectors.

Nickel is also alloyed with other metals to give extremely hard-wearing metal alloys. The ability to withstand extreme environments means engineers can use these alloys in rocket engines and other extremely hostile environments. It is the ideal metal to form these so-called ‘superalloys’.

NASA space shuttle and launcher rockets heading into space after take-off. Nickel and other metals are used to create high strength metal alloys for construction.

NASA space shuttle and launcher rockets heading into space after take-off. Nickel and other metals are used to create high strength metal alloys for construction.

The nickel alloy 276 has some truly remarkable characteristics. It is an amalgam of 57% nickel, 16% chromium, 16% molybdenum and smaller amounts of other metals. This alloy, unlike stainless steel, is corrosion resistant against hydrogen sulphide gas. This ability means items made from these alloys can be used deep underground, deep within the Earth's crust where this gas often occurs.

World production of nickel

In 2018, global production was 2,300,000 tons. Indonesia and the Philippines accounted for 40% of that total and other large commercial operations can be found in Canada, Cuba, Australia, Russia and South Africa. The silvery, goldish tone of nickel is still very sought after with a substantial chunk of world production (9%) used to plate other objects.

Nickel is a very popular choice as a color alone - of the x number taps we produce for OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) per annum x % are nickel-colored.

By Richard Storer-Adam
Managing Director of Double Stone Steel Ltd.

As chemical elements metals make up twenty-five per cent of the Earth’s crust and have been since Copper was first used 11,000 years ago.

The process of anodization and its early applications in aviation through to modern day consumer electronics - Double Stone Steel

The process of anodization and its early applications in aviation through to modern day consumer electronics

Richard Storer-Adam explains how metals are altered through anodizing and the anti-corrosive benefits and coloring options this process provides to product manufacturers.

The applications of Cor-Ten steel - from its beginnings in the US railroad industry to the worlds of art and architecture - Double Stone Steel

The applications of Cor-Ten steel - from its beginnings in the US railroad industry to the worlds of art and architecture

Richard Storer-Adam runs through how this weathering steel alloy quickly moved beyond transport uses to give a distinct, rusted look to some iconic buildings and sculptures.

Chromium (Cr) – The discovery of chromium, its origins and wide-ranging industrial and aesthetic applications - Double Stone Steel

Chromium (Cr) – The discovery of chromium, its origins and wide-ranging industrial and aesthetic applications

Richard Storer-Adam continues a series on metals commonly alloyed with stainless steel to form varying grades of material.

Richard Storer-Adam is Managing Director of Double Stone Steel Ltd.

Titanium (Ti) – a brief history of the origins and commercial applications of titanium - Double Stone Steel

Titanium (Ti) – a brief history of the origins and commercial applications of titanium

Richard Storer-Adam begins a series on metals commonly alloyed with stainless steel to form varying grades of material.

The Acid Etching process on stainless steel and other metals. - Double Stone Steel

The Acid Etching process on stainless steel and other metals.

An explanation of the truly ancient art of engraving, etching and intaglios on copper, mild steel, aluminium, brass and stainless steel by Richard Storer-Adam.

An introduction to hard-anodised aluminium coatings, their advantages and environmental implications for architectural cladding - Double Stone Steel

An introduction to hard-anodised aluminium coatings, their advantages and environmental implications for architectural cladding

An analysis of the color and corrosion properties of aluminium cladding, its maintenance and waste products.

An exploration of metals, elements and alloys. We look at how these naturally occur on Earth and how they are treated through processes of colouring, plating, etching, anodising and Physical Vapor Deposition to become materials and products used in industry, construction, art, decoration and jewellery.

The process of anodization and its early applications in aviation through to modern day consumer electronics - Double Stone Steel

The process of anodization and its early applications in aviation through to modern day consumer electronics

Richard Storer-Adam explains how metals are altered through anodizing and the anti-corrosive benefits and coloring options this process provides to product manufacturers.

The applications of Cor-Ten steel - from its beginnings in the US railroad industry to the worlds of art and architecture - Double Stone Steel

The applications of Cor-Ten steel - from its beginnings in the US railroad industry to the worlds of art and architecture

Richard Storer-Adam runs through how this weathering steel alloy quickly moved beyond transport uses to give a distinct, rusted look to some iconic buildings and sculptures.

Nitrogen (N) - part of a series on gases used during the physical vapour deposition (PVD) process - an innovative method for improving the performance of stainless steel - Double Stone Steel

Nitrogen (N) - part of a series on gases used during the physical vapour deposition (PVD) process - an innovative method for improving the performance of stainless steel

Richard Storer-Adam investigates the paradoxical role nitrogen plays in both saving and destroying life as a critical element in the manufacture of explosives, agri-fertilisers and airbags.

Oxygen (O) - part of a series on gases used during the physical vapour deposition (PVD) process - an innovative method for improving the performance of stainless steel - Double Stone Steel

Oxygen (O) - part of a series on gases used during the physical vapour deposition (PVD) process - an innovative method for improving the performance of stainless steel

Richard Storer-Adam explores the controversial discovery of oxygen, its importance to the human body and how it’s reactivity can be a vital component of metal manufacture.

Chromium (Cr) – The discovery of chromium, its origins and wide-ranging industrial and aesthetic applications - Double Stone Steel

Chromium (Cr) – The discovery of chromium, its origins and wide-ranging industrial and aesthetic applications

Richard Storer-Adam continues a series on metals commonly alloyed with stainless steel to form varying grades of material.

Richard Storer-Adam is Managing Director of Double Stone Steel Ltd.

Titanium (Ti) – a brief history of the origins and commercial applications of titanium - Double Stone Steel

Titanium (Ti) – a brief history of the origins and commercial applications of titanium

Richard Storer-Adam begins a series on metals commonly alloyed with stainless steel to form varying grades of material.

The true story behind some of the shiny finishes we have been creating in modern times and their eco- friendly alternatives.

Nitrogen (N) - part of a series on gases used during the physical vapour deposition (PVD) process - an innovative method for improving the performance of stainless steel - Double Stone Steel

Nitrogen (N) - part of a series on gases used during the physical vapour deposition (PVD) process - an innovative method for improving the performance of stainless steel

Richard Storer-Adam investigates the paradoxical role nitrogen plays in both saving and destroying life as a critical element in the manufacture of explosives, agri-fertilisers and airbags.

Oxygen (O) - part of a series on gases used during the physical vapour deposition (PVD) process - an innovative method for improving the performance of stainless steel - Double Stone Steel

Oxygen (O) - part of a series on gases used during the physical vapour deposition (PVD) process - an innovative method for improving the performance of stainless steel

Richard Storer-Adam explores the controversial discovery of oxygen, its importance to the human body and how it’s reactivity can be a vital component of metal manufacture.

Titanium (Ti) – a brief history of the origins and commercial applications of titanium - Double Stone Steel

Titanium (Ti) – a brief history of the origins and commercial applications of titanium

Richard Storer-Adam begins a series on metals commonly alloyed with stainless steel to form varying grades of material.

An introduction to hard-anodised aluminium coatings, their advantages and environmental implications for architectural cladding - Double Stone Steel

An introduction to hard-anodised aluminium coatings, their advantages and environmental implications for architectural cladding

An analysis of the color and corrosion properties of aluminium cladding, its maintenance and waste products.