Nickel was first isolated by Cronstedt, in 1751, and first prepared as a pure metal, in 1804, by Richter, that also made a detailed description of its properties. In 1870, Fleitmann discovered that the addition of a small amount of magnesium would render nickel malleable.

The element percentage in the terrestrial crust does not exceed 0.01%, being the 24th more abundant element in the Earth. However, there are few natural deposits of nickel that would justify its exploration.