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Is Chrome a metal or color?

Chrome is a term that is used to refer to both a metal and a color. The metal chrome is sometimes known as chromium, while the color chrome refers to a shiny, metallic grayish-blue color. In this article, we will explore the definitions and uses of chrome as both a metal and a color.

Chrome as a Metal

The metal chrome, also known as chromium, is a chemical element with the symbol Cr and atomic number 24. Some key facts about the metal chrome include:

  • It is a steel-gray, lustrous, hard metal that takes a high polish.
  • It has a high melting point of 1907°C.
  • It is odourless and tasteless.
  • It is used to produce stainless steel by coating steel with a thin layer of chrome.
  • It is resistant to tarnishing and has high corrosion resistance.
  • It is widely used for electroplating and as a protective coating.

Chromium was discovered in 1797 by the French chemist Louis-Nicolas Vauquelin. He isolated elemental chromium from the mineral crocoite. Here are some of the most common uses of chrome as a metal:

Uses of Chrome Metal

  • Metallurgy: Chrome is added to steel to increase hardness, toughness and corrosion resistance. This produces various chrome/steel alloys including stainless steel.
  • Plating: Chrome is electroplated onto objects like car parts, appliances and bathroom fixtures for an attractive, protective surface coating.
  • Pigments: Chromium oxide pigments are used in paints, inks, and glass.
  • Tanning: Chrome compounds are used to process and tan leather.
  • Wood treatment: Chrome is used to protect wood from decay and infestation.

Chromium is considered a transition metal. It is the 21st most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. Most chrome is produced through chromite ore mining. The top producers of chromite ore today are South Africa, India, Kazakhstan and Turkey.

Chrome as a Color

In addition to being the name of a metal, chrome is also a term used to describe a color. The color chrome refers to a metallic grayish blue color that resembles polished chrome metal. Other names used for this color include:

  • Chromium
  • Chrome green
  • Iron blue

The first recorded use of chrome as a color name in English was in 1831. It was originally called “chrome green” and was first used as an artists’ pigment. Here are some key facts about the color chrome:

  • It is meant to evoke the gleam of polished chrome metal.
  • It is considered an “industrial color” associated with mechanical objects like cars and motorbikes.
  • It creates a slick, polished look when used in graphic design or web design.
  • It is a popular color for automotive painting.
  • It has a grayish blue tone but ranges in shades from pale silver to dark gunmetal blue.

Chrome Color Codes

In design software, chrome is coded with RGB or hex color values like so:

Name RGB value Hex code
Chrome 192, 192, 192 #c0c0c0
Dark chrome 80, 80, 80 #505050
Polished chrome 201, 201, 201 #c9c9c9

As you can see, the hex code for generic chrome is #C0C0C0. This is a medium light gray color. Dark and polished chrome variations go darker or lighter.

Uses of Chrome Color

Here are some of the most common uses for the color chrome in design:

  • Cars: Chrome trim and accents are used on cars and motorcycles.
  • Appliances: Refrigerators, stoves, and other appliances often feature chrome details.
  • Fashion: Chrome is used in clothing, shoes, jewelry, and accessories.
  • Graphic design: Chrome is used to create a polished, techy look.
  • Web design: Websites may use chrome backgrounds, buttons, logos, and themes.
  • Equipment: Chrome can be found on industrial equipment, tools, and hardware.
  • Furniture: Chrome is used in chairs, tables, lamps and other home decor.

Overall, chrome color carries strong associations with speed, technology, and modernity. It creates a sleek, streamlined aesthetic.

Relationship Between the Metal and Color

So how exactly are the metal chrome and color chrome related to one another? Essentially, the metal was named first. Chrome the color got its name because it resembled polished chrome metal surfaces.

The lustrous grey-blue color is meant to evoke the look of smooth, shiny chrome on an object like a motorcycle, toaster, or bumper. When chrome plating is applied, it gives items a characteristic chrome color while also protecting the surface.

While chrome metal and chrome color are strongly linked, keep in mind that today chrome paints and pigments contain no actual chromium metal. The color is simply intended to simulate the appearance of a chromed surface.

Is Chrome Toxic?

Chrome metal and chrome pigments have some toxic hazards associated with them that are important to discuss. Metallic chromium is not particularly hazardous. However, hexavalent chromium compounds have risks.

Hexavalent chromium (Cr6+) is used in chrome plating, dyes, and other applications. When inhaled over long periods, hexavalent chromium can cause lung cancer in workers. Proper safety precautions are essential when working with chrome compounds.

In terms of chrome pigments, modern paints use safer chromium oxide-based alternatives today. Old chrome paints contained more toxic forms of chromium that have been phased out. Always check chrome paint ingredients for safety.


In summary, the word chrome has two different meanings. As a metal, it refers to chromium which is used in steel alloys, plating, and more. As a color, chrome refers to a glossy greyish-blue used in products, graphics, and designs to evoke a polished metal aesthetic.

While directly connected in origin, today’s chrome color contains no real chrome metal. But its sleek, technological associations derive from the look of shined chrome surfaces. When used properly, both chrome metal and color have valuable applications across many fields.