Discovered in 1803 by Tennant in the residue left when crude platinum is dissolved by aqua regia.
Osmium occurs in iridosule and in platinum-bearing river sands in the Urals, North America, and South America. It is also found in the nickel-bearing ores of Sudbury, Ontario region along with other platinum metals. While the quantity of platinum metals in these ores is very small, the large tonnages of processed nickel ores make commercial recovery possible.
The tetroxide has been used to detect fingerprints and to stain fatty tissue for microscope slides. The metal is almost entirely used to produce very hard alloys with other metals of the platinum group for fountain pen tips, instrument pivots, phonograph needles, and electrical contacts.