What is Niobium?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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As one of the chemical elements that are considered to be transition metals, niobium is used in a number of different applications. From use in alloys that are ideal for large structures to use in electronics, niobium is found in many places and as part of a number of products. Here is some background on the history of niobium and how the element is used today.

First discovered by Charles Hatchett at the dawn of the 19th century, niobium was isolated from an ore sample that had been sent to England by John Winthrop, the first governor of Connecticut. Granted the name of columbium, the element was sometimes confused with tantalum, which has very similar properties. The designation of the name “niobium” for the element came about in 1846, when Heinrich Rose and Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac rediscovered the chemical element, and was able to more clearly define the specific properties than had been done previously.

The two names for the element were used interchangeably until 1950, when the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry settled the issue of the proper name for atomic number 41. Still, there are industries and organizations that continue to identify the element as columbium, especially metal associations and their member organizations and individual metallurgists.


Niobium, abbreviated as Nb, is a metal that is gray in appearance and ideal for use with steel to create an alloy that can be used in a number of products. Blends of steel and niobium have been used in the construction of pipes for water and sewage systems, components in various types of automobiles, and in the creation of welding rods. The element also is great for use in a number of stainless steel products, especially items for the home.

One of the most common uses for niobium today is within the production of optical lenses that are meant to compensate for vision problems. Adding niobium to glass has been demonstrated to provide a higher rate of refraction, which in turn makes it possible to create thinner and lighter corrective lenses. Along with use in corrective eyewear, the niobium application also provides effective lenses that are a part of optical testing equipment.

More recently, niobium has begun to attract attention as a metal that can be used in the creation of jewelry. The gray and blue hues of the metal make it an ideal setting for a number of stones, resulting in the creation of attractive ring designs. Since the metal can also easily be tinted, it is possible to create a niobium setting that will work with just about any color stone that is desired. Along with rings, pendants, earrings, and other forms of personal ornamentation have also been constructed using niobium as one of the metal compounds.


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Post 4

this is really cool! i looked up all this information just for science project but i didn't know niobium had a lot of information.

Post 3

I make niobium earrings that are great for people with sensitive ears.

Post 2

It holds up pretty well; since you can clean it with glass cleaning products, it takes a lot of wear and tear before there is any fading of the color.

Post 1

Does the color wear or rub off when used as jewelry?

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