In 1782, J- G. Legmann, in a letter written to the naturalist G. L. L. de Buffon, described a new Siberian mineral, known today as crocoite (lead chromate). Neither Vaquelin nor Macquart, in 1789, were able to find any new element in this ore. This test only revealed lead, iron, alumina and a great amount of oxygen. However, in 1797, Vauquelin re-examined the mineral and concluded that the lead should be merged with some other compound which he thought to be an oxide of a new metal. He called chromium (from the Greek "chromos", that means color), because its compounds were very colorful.

One year later, he was able to isolate the metal by the heating of chromium oxide (Cr2O3) and charcoal. In 1893, Moissan reduced the chromium oxide with charcoal in an electrical furnace and in 1898, Goldschmidt prepared chromium without traces of carbon by reduction of Cr2O3 with aluminum.