Lustrous silvery metal obtained from lead chromates by smelting or aquaceous electrolysis. It was first produced c. 1797 in France and was named chrome (Gr.: ‘colour’) due to the pigments observed in its compounds. It is widely dispersed in natural deposits as dark brown to jet black chromite, the largest producer being Albania. Rarely used in its pure form, it is usually plated on to base metal above a coat of nickel, by a process that was first mentioned in 1854. As chromium is resistant to corrosion, it was used in World War I for projectile covers, although it was not until 1924 that it was commercially produced in the USA and Germany and later in Britain. The decorative potential of its colour and brilliance was quickly and enthusiastically recognized by the innovative designers of the 1920s and 1930s. Lighting fixtures, clocks and such decorative articles as figurines and car mascots were also chromium-plated. Chromium was utilized with superb effect in jewellery, both by French avant-garde designers and in cheaper mass-produced work where it was often combined with plastics. It continued to be used after World War II but has gradually declined in competition with stainless steel.
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