Briefing on Chromium

Towards the end of the 19th century chromium salt was found to be useful in the tanning process. This discovery revolutionised the tanning industry. Processes that had earlier taken six months could be shortened to six weeks!

Chromium exists in many forms and can bond with different salts. This is worth remembering, not least in the debate on chromium, which tends to be a bit simplistic.

Chromium is found in the natural state. It is an element, classified as Cr in the periodic table. Chromium salt can be green. In such compounds, it has the charge of 3+ and is hence called trivalent. (Trivalent chromium is also an essential nutrient. Lack of it may cause less effective absorption of blood sugar and result in an urge for sweet things.)

The green chromium salts are harmless

It is of course the trivalent non-toxic green chromium that is used as a tanning agent in the skin-dressing process – not to be confused with sexivalent chromium which is yellowish-red and may be carcinogenic. It is not only unfit for tanning, it is also forbidden. (It has been used in the paint-spraying industry.)

So it is the green chromium compounds that are used as tanning agents. For fur skins, this is the best, the most genuine method hitherto known, used by 85 – 95 % of the industry to achieve good washing results and soft, supple skins.