Hanau is celebrated not only as the birthplace of the Brothers Grimm, but also for the tradition of exquisite jewelry craftsmanship brought to the city by religious refugees who migrated from the Walloon region of Belgium in the 16th century, whose numbers also included many goldsmiths and silversmiths.
And it was primarily the platinum scrap generated by these jewelry works that formed the foundation for a company that would become the first location of a predecessor company of Evonik in Hanau. In 1881, Wilhelm Siebert established the Platinschmelze G. Siebert OHG (general partnership), initially a provisional operation, in his father Gustav’s factory, which produced cigar boxes and molds. The purpose of this platinum melting company was to manufacture platinum sheets and wire. In 1885, Wilhelm Siebert started a platinum refinery, which made products that met even the high requirements of the chemical industry. Later, products for the jewelry industry were manufactured from gold and silver alloys.
In 1906, the Deutsche Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt (formerly Roessler, later Degussa), a gold and silver refinery located nearby in Frankfurt, first became a silent partner of the Platinschmelze G. Siebert OHG, increasing its operating capital by 25%. Because the company’s success continued in the following years, in 1921 Degussa became an official partner of the renamed Platinschmelze G. Siebert GmbH. In addition to platinum and rhodium wire as well as grid catalysts made of both of these metals, the company’s product range included platinum fabric and vessels, joined later by spinnerets, thermocouples, and resistance thermometers.
In 1934, Degussa become the sole owner of the Platinschmelze G. Siebert GmbH, which it converted into a branch office in 1941 in order to establish a company presence under its own name in the city. The new branch office in Hanau became a significant location for Degussa, above all because metal research was transferred out of Frankfurt, which had been destroyed by bombs.
When metal research operations moved into Degussa’s new precious metals plant in Hanau-Wolfgang at the beginning of the 1970s, the location at the center of Hanau started its slow decline. Finally, at the end of the 1990s, the expansive grounds were sold. Even though new ideas for using the property were announced in 2020, the Degussa logo is still easily visible, emblazoned across one of the facades.