CLA-2 CO:R:C:M 955999 RFA

Ms. Cynthia A. Benway
Tower Group International, Inc.
24 Commerce Street
Pawtucket, RI 02862-2906

RE: soapstone kitchenware; articles of stone; precious or semiprecious stones; heading 6815; Note 1(d) to Chapter 68; Note 1(a) to Chapter 71; ejusdem generis; EN 71.16; NY 892023, affirmed

Dear Ms. Benway:

In a letter dated February 15, 1994, to the Area Director of Customs in New York, on behalf of Stone International, Inc., you requested reconsideration of NY 892023, dated November 12, 1993, in which Customs classified soapstone kitchenware under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Your letter was referred to this office for a response.


The descriptive literature submitted illustrates a set of cookware which includes pots, frying pans, saucepans, pizza plates and grills, all of which are composed of soapstone (steatite). Some of the articles are equipped with thin copper- banding/handles. The unique characteristics of the soapstone are said to include: its ability to retain and spread heat evenly; its ability to accept extremes of temperature-both freezing and high temperature; and, its non-stick surface which is unaffected by acid or alkalis in food ingredients. Further, the soapstone kitchenware is a natural product with an attractive appearance and color and which does not change its composition or affect the taste of ingredients. ISSUE:

Is the soapstone kitchenware classifiable as articles of precious or semiprecious stones or as articles of stone, not elsewhere specified, under the HTSUS? LAW AND ANALYSIS:

Classification of merchandise under the HTSUS is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's), taken in order. GRI 1 provides that classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes.

In NY 892023, dated November12, 1993, the Area Director of Customs in New York, held that the soapstone kitchenware was classifiable under subheading 7116.20.20, HTSUS, which provides for: "[a]rticles of natural or cultured pearls, precious or semiprecious stones (natural, synthetic or reconstructed): [o]f precious or semiprecious stones . . .: [o]ther: [o]f semiprecious stones (except rock crystal)."

You contend that the soapstone kitchenware should be classified under subheading 6815.99.20, HTSUS, which provides for: "[a]rticles of stone . . ., not elsewhere specified or included: [o]ther articles: [o]ther: [t]alc, steatite and soapstone, cut or sawed, or in blanks, crayons, cubes, disks or other forms. . . ." You argue that this subheading specifically provides for soapstone articles.

The doctrine of ejusdem generis is a useful aid in interpreting the construction of statutes and tariff laws of the United States. The Court of International Trade (CIT) has stated that the canon of construction ejusdem generis, which means literally, of the same class or kind, teaches that "where particular words of description are followed by general terms, the latter will be regarded as referring to things of a like class with those particularly described." Nissho-Iwai American Corp. v. United States (Nissho-Iwai), 10 CIT 154, 156 (1986). Subheading 6815.99.20, HTSUS, consists of particular items of soapstone (i.e., cut or sawed, blanks, crayons, cubes, disks), followed by general terms (i.e., other forms). Therefore, this subheading requires an ejusdem generis method of construction.

The CIT further stated that "[a]s applicable to customs classification cases, ejusdem generis requires that the imported merchandise possess the essential characteristics or purposes that unite the articles enumerated eo nomine in order to be classified under the general terms." Nissho-Iwai, p. 157.

We are of the opinion that the subject soapstone kitchenware are not ejusdem generis with the articles described within subheading 6815.99.20, HTSUS. The general terms of other forms refer to the type of simple forms which were specifically enumerated (i.e., cut or sawed, blanks, crayons, cubes, disks). The subject soapstone kitchenware are not the simple type of articles contemplated within the scope of subheading 6815.99.20, HTSUS.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the Customs Cooperation Council's official interpretation of the HTSUS. While not legally binding, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of these headings. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed.Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989). The Annex to the ENs for chapter 71, pages 966-969, lists soapstone (or steatite) as a precious or semiprecious stone. EN 71.16, pp. 963-964, states in pertinent part:

[t]his heading covers all articles (other than those excluded by Notes 2(b) and 3 to this Chapter), wholly of natural or cultured pearls, precious or semi- precious stones, or consisting partly of natural or cultured pearls or precious or semi-precious stones, but not containing precious metals or metals clad with precious metal . . . [i]t thus includes: . . . (B) [o]ther articles consisting wholly or partly of precious or semi-precious stones; . . . Subject to these conditions, the heading therefore covers. . . goblets and cups (often in garnet); statuettes and ornamental articles (e.g., of jade); mortars and pestles (e.g., in agate); knife edges or bearings of agate or other precious or semi-precious stones for weighing apparatus; . . . agate rings for fishing rods, paper-knives, ink-stands, paperweights, ashtrays (e.g., of agate or onyx).

Heading 7116, HTSUS, covers all articles of precious or semi-precious stones. This heading does not distinguish between the grade of stone but includes all types of precious or semi- precious stones not more specifically described by other parts of the tariff. Furthermore, Legal Note 1(d) to chapter 68 states that "[t]his chapter does not cover: [a]rticles of chapter 71." If an article is classifiable as semiprecious stones, it is to be classified in chapter 71. See Legal Note 1(a) to chapter 71. The tariff schedule is quite clear that classification of an article in chapter 71 takes precedence over classification of an article under chapter 68.

The subject merchandise are precious or semi-precious stone articles which are specifically shaped and designed for use as kitchenware. We find that the soapstone articles are similar to the type of articles listed in EN 71.16. Therefore, we conclude that the soapstone kitchenware are provided for in subheading 7116.20.20, HTSUS.


The soapstone kitchenware is classifiable under subheading 7116.20.20, HTSUS, which provides for articles of semiprecious stones. The general, column one rate of duty is 21 percent ad valorem.

NY 892023, dated November 12, 1993, is affirmed.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division