1851 – 1900: “First German platinum melting house”: a pharmacist and platinum
The father of today’s global company was Wilhelm Carl Heraeus, a pharmacist and chemist who took over his father’s pharmacy in Hanau, Germany, in 1851. At the time, platinum was in high demand for jewelry making. But platinum posed a major challenge for goldsmiths: it had to be forged in a white-hot state, because it is extremely hard and has a melting point of 1769 degrees Celsius.
Wilhelm Carl Heraeus, who worked with local goldsmiths, was familiar with the problem—and he found a solution. After extensive attempts, he succeeded in melting two kilograms of platinum in an oxyhydrogen gas flame. The “first German platinum melting house” was born, and success was not far off. The young entrepreneur's customers soon included goldsmith shops and jewelry factories around the world, as well as dental factories, chemical laboratories, and companies in numerous other industrial sectors. Wilhelm Carl Heraeus continued to experiment with platinum, and found one new application after another for the precious metal.
By the end of the 19th century, Dr. Wilhelm Heraeus and Heinrich Heraeus had inherited their father’s business, and W. C. Heraeus relocated to new facilities just outside the city gates of Hanau together with 40 employees. At that time, around 1,000 kilograms of platinum were melted and processed each year.