From the Greek word neos meaning new, and didymos, twin. In 1841, Mosander, extracted a rose-colored oxide from cerite , which he believed contained a new element. He named the element didymium, as it was an inseparable twin brother of lanthanum. In 1885 von Welsbach separated didymium into two new elemental components, neodymia and praseodymia, by repeated fractionation of ammonium didymium nitrate. While the free metal is in misch metal, long known and used as a pyrophoric alloy for light flints, the element was not isolated in relatively pure form until 1925. Neodymium is present in misch metal to the extent of about 18%. It is present in the minerals monazite and bastnasite, which are principal sources of rare-earth metals.
Didymium, of which neodymium is a component, is used for coloring glass to make welders goggles. By itself, neodymium colors glass delicate shades ranging from pure violet through wine-red and warm gray. Light transmitted through such glass shows unusually sharp absorption bands. The glass has been used in astronomical work to produce sharp bands by which spectral lines may be calibrated. Glass containing neodymium can be used as a laser material to produce coherent light. Neodymium salts are also used as a colorant for enamels.
Natural neodymium is a mixture of seven stable isotopes. Fourteen other radioactive isotopes are recognized.