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HQ 952813

November 20, 1992

CLA-2 CO:R:C:M 952813 NLP


TARIFF NO.: 7103.99.10

Mr. Daniel Murphy
Murphy Brothers & Associates, Inc.
P.O. Box 185
Leominster, MA 01453

RE: Fire opals; rough semi-precious gemstones; cut and polished semi-precious gemstones; Explanatory Notes 71.02 and 71.03; Annex to the Explanatory Notes to chapter 71; subheading 9802.00.50

Dear Mr. Murphy:

This is in response to your letter dated September 28, 1992, in which you requested the tariff classification for fire opal gemstones under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS).


The merchandise at issue is a fire opal gemstone, whose chemical make up is translucent hydrous silica. According to your letter, you will send the rough fire opals to Thailand for cutting and polishing. The cut and polished fire opals will then be sent back to the U.S. to be sold to wholesalers for use in jewelry. In addition, you state that you maintain ownership of the opals throughout the entire cutting process and you do not want to be charged duty when they are returned to the U.S.


What is the tariff classification of the cut and polished fire opal gemstones under the HTSUS?


The classification of merchandise under the HTSUS is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI 1 provides that classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes.

Heading 7103, HTSUS, provides for "[p]recious stones (other than diamonds) and semi-precious stones, whether or not worked or graded but not strung, mounted or set; ungraded precious stones (other than diamonds) and semi-precious stones, temporarily strung for convenience of transport." Explanatory Note (EN) 71.03 of the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System page 953, states that "[t]he provisions of the second paragraph of the Explanatory Note to heading 71.02 apply, mutatis mutandis, to this heading." EN 71.02 states, on page 952, that heading 7102, HTSUS, "covers unworked stones, and stones worked, e.g., by cleaving, sawing, bruting, faceting, grinding, polishing, drilling, engraving (including cameos, and intaglios), preparing as doublets, provided they are neither set nor mounted."

Unworked semi-precious stones of subheading 7103.10, HTSUS, are stones that are unworked and are in the same condition as when they were mined from the earth. Otherwise worked semi- precious stones of subheading 7103.99, HTSUS, includes stones that have been, inter alia, polished and cut.

The fire opals at issue here are considered to be semi- precious gemstones pursuant to the Annex to the ENs for Chapter 71. The fire opals in their condition as imported are cut and polished. Therefore, they are considered "otherwise worked". As a result, the gemstones are classified in subheading 7103.99.10, HTSUS, which provides for "[p]recious stones (other than diamonds and semi-precious stones, whether or not worked or graded but not strung, mounted or set...: [o]therwise worked: [o]ther: [c]ut but not set, and suitable for use in the manufacture of jewelry."

Subheading 9802.00.50, HTSUS, provides for the assessment of duty on the value of repairs or alterations performed on articles sent abroad for that purpose. However, the application of this tariff provision is precluded in circumstances where the operations performed abroad destroy the identity of the articles or create new or commercially different articles. See A.F. Burstrom v. United States, 44 CCPA 27, C.A.D. 631 (1956), aff'd, C.D. 1752, 36 Cust. Ct. 46 (1956); Guardian Industries Corporation v. United States, 3 CIT 9 (1982), Slip-Op. 82-4 (Jan. 5, 1982). Subheading 9802.00.50, HTSUS, treatment is also precluded where the exported articles are incomplete for their intended use and the foreign processing operation is a necessary step in the preparation or manufacture of finished articles. Dolliff & Company, Inc. v. United States, 81 Cust. Ct. 1, C.D. 4755, 455 F. Supp. 618 (1978), aff'd, 66 CCPA 77, C.A.D. 1225, 599 F.2d 1015 (1979).

With regard to the facts in this case, we believe that the polishing and cutting of the rough fire opals in Thailand do not constitute acceptable "alterations," within the meaning of HTSUS subheading 9802.00.50. The processes that you describe appear to constitute a series of finishing operations which are necessary to the manufacture of the completed gemstone. The process of cutting and polishing a gemstone to a desired texture and configuration is a significant manufacturing operation which has the effect of changing the character of the outer surface of the gemstone. That some of the same retailers who purchase the finished gemstones may also buy the gemstones that have not been polished or otherwise finished, does not change the fact that these foreign processing operations are necessary in the preparation of the finished articles. We believe that the process of cutting and polishing the gemstones imparts significant new characteristics to the gemstone giving it a unique and specialized appeal. Accordingly, it is our opinion that the finishing operations performed in Thailand constitute a process of manufacture which exceeds an alteration within the meaning of HTSUS subheading 9802.00.50. The fact that you maintain ownership of the gemstones throughout the process is not relevant for classification purposes.


The cut and polished fire opals are classified in subheading 7103.99.10, HTSUS. Based on the facts presented to us, the gemstones would not be allowed entry free of duty on their importation into the U.S. The fire opals imported from Thailand would be subject to the 2.1% ad valorem. duty rate applicable to merchandise classified in the above subheading.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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