Nickel is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Ni. It is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. Nickel belongs to the transition metals and is hard and ductile. Pure nickel shows a significant chemical activity that can be observed when nickel is powdered to maximize the exposed surface area on which reactions can occur, but larger pieces of the metal are slow to react with air at ambient conditions due to the formation of a protective oxide surface.
The use of nickel (as a natural meteoric nickel–iron alloy) has been traced as far back as 3500 BC. Nickel was first isolated and classified as a chemical element in 1751 by Axel Fredrik Cronstedt, who initially mistook its ore for a copper mineral. The element name comes from a mischievous sprite of German miner's mythology, Nickel (similar to Old Nick), that personified the fact that copper-nickel ores resisted refinement into copper.
Because of nickel's slow rate of oxidation at room temperature, it is considered corrosion-resistant. Historically this has led to its use for plating metals such as iron and brass, to its use for chemical apparatus, and its use in certain alloys that will retain a high silvery polish, such as German silver.