Heraeus, the precious metals and technology group headquartered in Hanau, Germany, is a global, private company active in the businesses of precious metals, sensors, dental health, quartz glass, and specialty lighting sources. With revenues exceeding EUR 12 billion and more than 11,000 employees in more than 100 companies worldwide, Heraeus has stood out for over 155 years as a globally recognized precious metals and materials specialist.


From a Pharmacy in Hanau in 1851 to a Global Precious Metals and Technology Group

The name Heraeus stands for a global, private company that is rich in tradition and success – a rare combination in today's business world. Precious metals, materials competence, leading edge technologies, and internationalization: Heraeus has been creating the conditions for its success since 1851 by itself. Through know-how and innovative strength, through visionary concepts and the courage to be entrepreneurial, Heraeus has consistently pursued its strategy of financial stability and profitable growth from its beginnings to this day. And Heraeus has done so successfully: In 2006 revenues exceeded EUR 12 billion and around 11,000 employees worked in more than 100 companies worldwide. The Heraeus Group commands a leading position in many of its five core business segments on international markets.

As different as the products and scope of activity of the individual Heraeus companies may be, they can all be traced back to common roots, from extensive expertise in dealing with precious metals and the mastery of high-temperature processes to comprehensive innovative strength in materials technology. The diversified product portfolio evolved over years of experience, often accompanied by fundamental discoveries in research and in technical implementation.

A Pharmacist and Platinum

The origins of today’s global company were on the one hand the innovative vision and entrepreneurial spirit of Wilhelm Carl Heraeus, a pharmacist and chemist who took over his father's pharmacy in 1851. It was called the Einhorn-Apotheke or Unicorn Pharmacy in Hanau, a town in the German state of Hesse east of Frankfurt. The other impulse came from the goldsmith's guild that in those days was already established in Hanau. Platinum was used in jewelry production as early as the late 18th century, but especially in the arts of the sophisticated 19th century, the precious metal was in high demand because of its refined appearance.

But platinum posed a tremendous challenge for goldsmiths. It was hard to process because of its toughness and its high melting point of 1,769 degrees Celsius. Until a melting process was developed, platinum was forged in a white-hot state – an art that in the mid-19th century was only understood in London and Paris. Thanks to a technological breakthrough, Wilhelm Carl Heraeus changed this situation from the ground up in 1856. After extensive attempts, he had succeeded in melting two kilograms of platinum in an oxyhydrogen gas flame. The "First German Platinum Melting House" W. C. Heraeus was born. And success was not too 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.

Joy in Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Wilhelm Carl Heraeus quickly expanded the lab and started other experiments that led to many groundbreaking inventions. Among them was the production of pharmaceutical iron compounds, chemically pure hydrofluoric acid, rubidium, and cesium.

But the primary emphasis initially was on platinum. Due to its chemical and physical characteristics, new applications for the metal were constantly found, and W. C. Heraeus eagerly explored them. In addition to jewelry production, platinum was also used for crucibles, plates, and small scientific apparatus for chemistry and physics because of its resistance to acids and its high temperature stability. Artificial teeth were anchored with pins made of platinum, and both filaments in incandescent bulbs and non-corrosive electrical contacts in telephones were made of platinum. Wilhelm Carl Heraeus' sons, Dr. Wilhelm Heraeus and Heinrich Heraeus, inherited their father's business in 1889. Steady growth meant that the young company soon had to move to larger quarters. In 1896, the platinum melting house relocated to new facilities outside of the town of Hanau together with 40 employees. At that time, around 1,000 kilograms of platinum were melted and processed per year.

The Heraeus platinum melting house had become one of the most important undertakings of its kind. The first ceramic colors were produced and with its platinum products Heraeus became a supplier to the electrochemical and plastic industries. And there was no end in sight for the platinum demand. To the contrary, the actual boom in platinum processing did not really start until the beginning of the 20th century, when the chemical industry needed large quantities of platinum-rhodium catalysts for the production of nitric acid.

New Materials, New Technologies: Research and Development Become an Integral Part of the Company

The company reached a milestone in its development in 1890, when the physicist and chemist Dr. Richard Küch joined the scientific team of the family business run by his school friends Wilhelm and Heinrich Heraeus. Due to his groundbreaking inventions Küch played an instrumental role in the rapid development of the company, and he also forged stable contacts between Heraeus and the scientific world. Many activities pursued by Heraeus today as a global leader can be traced back to his fundamental research.

For example, Küch developed the first platinum thermoelements and platinum-rhodium heating coils for electric heat furnaces. In 1899, Küch discovered a process for obtaining high-purity and relatively bubble-free quartz glass from rock crystal by melting it using an oxyhydrogen blowpipe. Quartz glass is in high demand for many applications in industry and medicine due to its high temperature stability, its resistance towards aggressive chemicals, and its optical qualities. This created the basis for Heraeus Quarzglas GmbH that was founded in 1912.

Quartz Glass

Very soon, plates, prisms, and lenses for the optical industry were manufactured (Homosil and Ultrasil), along with an opaque type of quartz glass called Rotosil. Later, the product range was expanded with optical instruments, laboratory equipment, and infrared lamps among other things. At the end of the 1960s, Heraeus Quarzglas supplied special optical quartz glass for the retroreflectors that were placed on the moon during the Apollo missions. These retroreflectors are used to accurately measure the distance between the earth and the moon and are still in operation to this day.

At this time, the successful development of Heraeus Quarzglas was significantly marked by managing director Dr. Heinrich Mohn, among whose successes was specifically this application of isotropic homogeneous quartz glasses of highest purity in space research. He also invented a process by which high-quality synthetical quartz glass was produced out of silicon tetrachloride. Starting in the late 1960s, another sales market opened up for this latest invention with the advent of communications technology. The development work in quartz glass fiber technology for data transmission revolutionized the teleommunications industry.

The development of products for optical waveguides commenced in 1972. The first synthetic waveguide tubes were developed in 1986, and pilot production started in 1988. In 1992, production of synthetic quartz glass was set up at a facility in the town of Bitterfeld in Saxony-Anhalt that has been continuously expanded ever since. In the production of equipment and optics for the semiconductor industry, too, Heraeus Quarzglas has established itself as a worldwide leading supplier. Today, Heraeus Quarzglas is one of the world's uncontested leaders in quartz glass technology in many areas of the communications and semiconductor industries.

Special Lamps

Another fundamental discovery credited to Küch dates back to the year 1904. He had determined that mercury vapor emits an intensive greenish light when it is induced to make electrical discharges in a quartz glass tube. Together with AEG, Heraeus then founded Quarzlampengesellschaft mbH, a company that was dedicated to the exploitation of this discovery. The analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of the new lamp ultimately led to the development of the "Original Hanau" artificial sunray lamp (Höhensonne), since the new lamp had similar effects on human skin as sunrays in the mountains. Through continuous development, the Höhensonne product line controlled at last the German market with nearly no competitors since the 1930s, and in the fifties the sunray lamps even became electrical consumer goods. Additional innovative products were introduced to the line after Heraeus acquired all of the AEG stakes in 1973. Today, Heraeus Noblelight is a leading supplier of UV and infrared emitters for machinery and equipment in many branches ranging from the printing industry, water purification up to tanning beds.


Küch reached another milestone in measurement technology. He was the first person to produce thermoelements and thermometers using wires made of platinum and rhodium. This, too, had far-reaching consequences for the company, as the foundation had been laid for modern temperature measurement technology at Heraeus. After World War II, due to customer demand thin film sensors were developed. The product range was expanded into the area of analysis technology in the mid-sixties. When the Belgian Electro-Nite group was acquired in 1987, the company took on a leading position in measurement technology for the steel and aluminum industries with the introduction of immersion sensors and gas sensors. Heraeus Sensor-Nite was founded in 1997. It specializes in temperature sensors made in platinum thin film technology for applications in automobile construction, electronics and in household appliances.

Vacuum Melting Facility

One of the most outstanding technological innovations of the first half of the 20th century also stems from development efforts at Heraeus: the process of melting metal materials under vacuum. The first vacuum furnaces were already developed before World War I. They were used for making alloys that could only be produced under vacuum. The first vacuum induction furnace was developed in 1917, and in 1923 the Heraeus vacuum melting facility started operation as an independent company in newly constructed production facilities. It produced various non-precious metal alloys for a broad range of applications in electrical engineering.

The extremely favorable development of business was accompanied by numerous technological innovations in which the physicist Wilhelm Rohn played a leading role. Between 1923 and 1933, the company received a total of 84 German patents with 101 corresponding foreign patents. But because of the rising need for investments and the differences between the products and the customer structure of this undertaking and the rest of the business, Heraeus separated from the company and sold the majority of its stake to Siemens in 1933. In 1948, the remaining stakes were also sold.

The Third Generation: First Steps Towards an International High-Tech Company

In 1925 and 1930 respectively, Dr. Wilhelm Heinrich Heraeus and his cousin Dr. Reinhard Heraeus were the third generation of Heraeus family members to join the company. They went on to manage the enterprise for nearly forty years. In 1927, Dr. Wilhelm Heinrich Heraeus was appointed managing director, which he remained until 1965. Dr. Reinhard Heraeus was appointed managing director in 1931 and served in that function until 1970. Dr. Wilhelm Heinrich Heraeus was responsible for technical management. He was especially interested in the use of new physical discoveries for technological innovation in the company. By establishing the Wilhelm and Else Heraeus Foundation, he and his wife became important promoters of physics in Germany.

Dr. Reinhard Heraeus was responsible for managing the business side of the company. Under his leadership, Heraeus finally developed into a multiproduct company with a revenues volume that could easily stand up to international comparison. The development of high-vacuum evaporation technologies started in 1930, and the first dental alloys were produced in 1934. But there were problems, too. Due to World War I, inflation, and the collapse of the supply markets for precious metals in Russia, platinum prices were subject to enormous fluctuations. At that time, all of the research activities at Heraeus were focused on finding recycling techniques and suitable materials to replace precious metals. Notwithstanding these external obstacles, the company grew steadily until World War II broke out. In 1939, 1,000 people worked for the company; its annual revenues had reached 20 million German marks. This development came to an abrupt end when the war started. Many employees were drafted into the military, and production was predominantly concentrated on products such as electrical contacts constructed with as little precious metal as possible, catalysts, and large rhodium mirrors. Finally, in bomb attacks in 1944 and 1945, the production facilities in Hanau were all but leveled to the ground.

Beginning in the 1950s, vacuum metallurgy took several giant steps forward with the development of light arc and electron ray furnaces. These furnaces were used to produce special metals like titanium and zirconium for the construction of airplanes or for nuclear engineering. The increasing independence of this activity led to the founding of Heraeus Hochvakuum GmbH in 1966. As of 1967, the company joined the vacuum pump manufacturer Leybold, of Cologne, under the name Leybold-Heraeus GmbH with stakes held by Heraeus, Degussa and Metallgesellschaft. Its product line ranged from vacuum pumps and measuring equipment to components for vacuum technology and electrical, chemical, and metal lurgical process technology. Vacuum coating technology soon became a special focus. This company was instrumental in developing many of the processes that make common products we take for granted today possible in the first place, and it also developed these processes to industrial maturity. When Metallgesellschaft withdrew from the group of stakeholders of Leybold Heraeus GmbH in 1987, Heraeus decided to undertake a strategic review of these activities and as a consequence sold its entire stake in the company to Degussa AG.

Heraeus Kulzer

Because of the special physical qualities of the dental material Alba – an alloy of silver, palladium and gold – Heraeus was able to assume a leading position in the market for dental technology as early as the 1930s. Heraeus later developed high-carat gold and ceramic alloys. In 1987, in the course of the sale of the Leybold-Heraeus stake to Degussa AG, Heraeus acquired Degussa's interest in Kulzer, which had been owned 50/50 by W. C. Heraeus GmbH and Degussa AG since 1939. After the acquisition of Bayer AG's dental division and of ZL Microdent in 1995, the dental unit achieved a leading position in the world market. Today, Heraeus Kulzer is as a system partner present around the globe with a versatile range of dental materials and components for dentists and dental technicians.

Heraeus Instruments

Based on the physical properties of platinum and its alloys, it was possible to develop heating conductors for high-temperature ovens. From these activities, the electro-heat unit emerged, which formed the basis for the laboratory equipment line of Heraeus. It was continuously expanded in the 1960s and 70s through the acquisition of several equipment manufacturers in Germany and other countries. In 1998, Heraeus Instruments merged with the U.S. equipment manufacturer Sorvall and formed Kendro Laboratory Products. The Heraeus Group held about 40 percent of Kendro's shares until 2001, when they were completely sold. Today, the company is one of the world's largest laboratory equipment manufacturers.

Heraeus Med

Heraeus started making the first operating theater lights in 1950. After the complete acquisition of Quarzlampengesellschaft in 1973, Heraeus Med has developed into a system supplier of infrastructure systems for the operating theater and intensive care units. The company has written medical history with its ceiling mounted operating theater lighting systems. As a consequence of the strategic focus on core market segments, in which Heraeus has a leading position or where it can reach one within a reasonable period of time, Heraeus Med has been sold in early 2002 to the Swedish medical technology group Getinge.

W. C. Heraeus

Of course in all those years, the original precious metals company did not come to a standstill in its development. To the contrary – to this day it is still the business with the highest revenues volume in the Group. In the thirties, when gold, silver, and platinum became very expensive, the company explored the potentials of platinum group metals like palladium, rhodium, and ruthenium. Based on osmium, a new, especially hard and corrosion-proof material was developed for pen nibs of fountain pens that quickly captured the market because of its superiority over other materials.

After World War II, too, under the management of Dr. Konrad Ruthardt, new business opportunities were continuously tapped for all precious metals. As an example, beginning in 1950, contact rivets and springs were in high demand and enjoyed high sales since Siemens had developed rotary switches and rapid contacts using precious metals. This had laid the foundation for W. C. Heraeus to enter the promising markets of telecommunications, microelectronics, and computer technology, sectors that could not be imagined without the company's precious metals products. In the last few decades, Heraeus Metallhandelsgesellschaft became one of the world's largest industrial precious metals traders. When the new precious metal separation facility started operation in Hanau in 1976, W. C. Heraeus expanded its leading market position in precious metals recycling. Another major step forward was the acquisition of the U.S.-based PGP Industries in 2000 to form Heraeus Metals Processing.

Heraeus Becomes a Global Player

After World War II and during the period of reconstruction, Heraeus remained true to its traditional field of activity. At the same time, the manufacture of time-tested products was coupled with the introduction of new, innovative production ventures. Dr. Reinhard Heraeus strategically advanced the internationalization and expansion into foreign markets in all of the company's activities. The foundation had already been laid before the turn of the century, when contacts were forged around the world.

In the post-war period, the company was able to successfully pick up where it left off. By the early fifties, Wilhelm Heinrich Heraeus had already managed to resume relations with the Engelhard company, which had been interrupted during the war, and tapped a receptive market for optical quartz glass in the U.S.A. for Heraeus. Beginning in 1958, the first foreign sales companies were established in France and Italy, and in 1972 foreign subsidiaries and associated companies were founded in the U.S.A., Great Britain, and Japan. Other international involvements and the opening of quartz glass facilities in Japan and the U.S.A. followed. The construction of production facilities for fine bonding wires made of extremely pure gold for semiconductor components – initially in Korea and later in the Philippines – underscored the company's development into a globally active technology group. Today, every division of the company is represented with production facilities and sales offices in the important industrial regions of the world.

In 1970, five years after Dr. Wilhelm Heinrich Heraeus, Dr. Reinhard Heraeus resigned from the Board of Management and assumed the chairmanship of the Supervisory Board. Dr. Helmut Gruber, a noted physician in the area of metallurgy, assumed responsibility for the Board of Management as well as for technology throughout the Group. Dr. Gruber was instrumental in promoting the company's activities in quartz glass, in precious metal chemistry, and in special metals. This included the establishment of subsidiaries outside of Germany and the acquisition of companies and stakes in Japan and the U.S.A. Dr. Jürgen Heraeus, the son of Dr. Reinhard Heraeus, became a member of the Board of Management in 1970.

Change of Generations and 150th Company Anniversary

Dr. Jürgen Heraeus succeeded Dr. Helmut Gruber in 1983, becoming the fourth generation of the Heraeus family to head the management of the company. Under his guidance, the Group became a fully-fledged global corporation. He created the conditions for globalization among other things by reorganizing the company from the ground up, a move that subsequently proved highly advantageous. After Heraeus Holding GmbH was founded in 1985, a comprehensive decentralization was implemented in 1990, in which the core competencies precious metals, dental materials, quartz glass, sensors, and medical technology were structured into five clearly focused, independent managing companies under the management holding.

Dr. Jürgen Heraeus not only brought modern management structures to the company, he also led it from internationalization to globalization. Above all in the Asian economic region, the activities were successfully expanded and strategic positions occupied early on. The Group's revenues and operating result soon reached the scope of a truly worldwide group of companies. The rapid recognition of trends and the quick realization of market opportunities, for example through the acquisition of Heraeus Electro-Nite, are accomplishments that can be credited to Dr. Jürgen Heraeus. In January 2000, Dr. Jürgen Heraeus assumed the chairmanship of the Supervisory Board of Heraeus Holding. Dr. Horst Heidsieck was appointed the new Chairman of the Board of Management. Dr. Dieter Truxius became a member of the Board as Chief Financial Officer. Dr. Klaus Goffloo continued to be on the Board as Chief Operating Officer.

In 2001, in its 150th year, the Heraeus Group was able to look back with gratification on a successful tradition full of groundbreaking inventions. At the same time, the foundations for future innovative business activities were laid. The further strengthening of business outside of Germany of the globally active group of companies was a key priority – 74 percent of product revenues in 2001 were earned abroad. Besides, core business activities were more strategically focussed in order to make better use of technologically sensible synergy potential of the managing companies. This also included the setting up of Heraeus Noblelight as an independent managing company in early 2001 and the sale of Heraeus Med in the beginning of 2002. The following core business areas emerged: precious metals, dental health, sensors, quartz glass and specialty lighting sources.

While in 2001 the shares in Kendro Laboratory Products were completely sold, the Heraeus Group was particularly active in 2002 in the precious metals business segment: W. C. Heraeus enlarged the thin film materials business through the acquisition of Unaxis Materials Deutschland GmbH, extended its bonding wire activities in China, and founded a joint venture for precious metals chemicals in South Africa, which became a 100% subsidiary in the next year after the withdrawal of the other shareholders.

In late January 2003, Dr. Horst Heidsieck and Dr. Klaus Goffloo left the company. Dr. Frank Heinricht succeeded Dr. Klaus Goffloo as the new Chief Operating and Technology Officer. On September 1, 2003, Dr. Helmut Eschwey joined Heraeus Holding as the new Chairman of the Board of Management. Since then, the Heraeus Group is managed by Dr. Helmut Eschwey, Dr. Frank Heinricht and Dr. Dieter Truxius. Despite a difficult economic climate and comprehensive consolidation efforts, the Heraeus Group continued to invest in research and development. Through the acquisition of the Swiss Metalor Medical Division, W. C. Heraeus was able to expand its activities in medical technology by focusing on advanced materials and also to realign the business. On August 1, 2007, Mr. Jan Rinnert, former Managing Director of Heraeus Kulzer GmbH, became a member of the Board of Management succeeding Dr. Dieter Truxius as Chief Financial Officer.

Group Business Segments

Heraeus is divided into five Group Business Segments:

W. C. Heraeus

A world leader in industrial precious metals and special metals. Our largest business segment processes the precious metals gold, silver, platinum, and other platinum group metals, primarily to produce industrial products for the automotive, semiconductor, electronics, and medical industries. A global network of more than 30 companies includes production facilities for all phases of precious metal production and refining. In addition, W. C. Heraeus holds a leading international position in industrial precious metal trading.....

Heraeus Kulzer

A globally positioned company in the fields of dentistry and dental technology products. The specialist for dental alloys and single-source provider of systems for the conservation and restoration of natural teeth has an extensive product program for dental laboratories and dentists and also produces bone cements and biomaterials for orthopedics and surgery. Heraeus Kulzer maintains a total of 20 companies in Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Australia to supply its customers around the world with innovative branded products.

Heraeus Electro-Nite

The world market leader in sensors for the steel industry. The expert for measurements in molten iron, steel, and aluminum operates 24 market-oriented companies on all continents for the production and distribution of high-quality sensors. Heraeus Sensor Technology rounds out the product program with platinum thin film elements for temperature sensors in household appliances and for the semiconductor, electronics, and automotive industries.

Heraeus Quarzglas

The technology leader in high-purity quartz glass. With comprehensive know-how and more than 13 production facilities in Europe, Asia, and North America, this business segment produces and processes high-purity fused silica for the optical, chemical, and semiconductor industries. The product portfolio also includes synthetic silica glass for the manufacture of microchips and for optical fibers for the telecommunications industry.

Heraeus Noblelight

The technology leader in specialty lighting sources. The company develops, manufactures, and markets infrared heaters and ultraviolet lamps for applications in manufacturing, industrial process technology, environmental protection, medicine and cosmetics, research, development, and analytics....

Search another word or see metal'lurgicalon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature