In 1949 Ulrich Scharrer bought the small chemical company RETORTE, which at that time produced shoe creams, toothpaste and hairdressing products. Scharrer noticed the demand of regional companies such as SEL, AEG and SIEMENS for high-purity selenium as coating material in rectifiers for the transformation of alternating current into direct current. RETORTE started producing high-purity selenium. The company grew and soon delivered its high-grade selenium products worldwide. The main sales regions were Europe and North America.
In 1972 the company founder, Ulrich Scharrer, was searching for a buyer who could continue his work. The NORDDEUTSCHE AFFINERIE, which was also involved in the production of high-purity selenium, was the company he chose. Since 1974 RETORTE GmbH has been a 100% subsidiary of NORDDEUTSCHE AFFINERIE (now: Aurubis AG).
In the mid-1970s the selenium rectifiers were nearly completely replaced by a technological leap, cheaper rectifiers containing silicon. Luckily, these were also the early years of the photocopier industry. RETORTE provided support in the development of new photocopier drums based on high-purity selenium alloys.
In the mid-1980s RETORTE started producing selenium chemicals for different industries. These have been continuously expanded up to today.
In 1993 NORDDEUTSCHE AFFINERIE gave up their production of refined selenium metal, transferring it completely to RETORTE.
In the second half of the 1990s and with significant development efforts, RETORTE started supplying the x-ray and solar industries, which were new at the time, with high-purity selenium and selenium alloys. At the same time, selenium chemicals were developed for the pharmaceutical and veterinary industries and permits were issued in the European and American markets.
In 2003 RETORTE entered into the joint venture JoSeCo GmbH, which manufactures mineral premixes containing the trace elements selenium, cobalt and iodine for use in the animal nutrition.
The company name was relaunched in 2007. Until the beginning of 2007, the company was still run under its original name from 1949: RETORTE Ulrich Scharrer GmbH. The new name, RETORTE GmbH Selenium Chemicals & Metals, is a reaction to the fact that more than 90% of annual revenues are generated on the international markets in the meantime.
In 2011 the joint venture RETORTE do Brazil was founded. Because of the close cooperation with the Brazilian chemical company Incasa, which served as a raw material supplier for iodine and cobalt as well a distributor of RETORTE products in the quickly growing South American market, it was time to go one step further. The joint venture RETORTE do Brazil enabled production for the local and South American market.