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HQ 959493

APRIL 21, 1997

CLA-2 RR:TC:MM 959493 JAS


TARIFF NO.: 6802.99.00

Kenneth A. Cutshaw, Esq.
Smith, Gambrell & Russell
3343 Peachtree Road, N.E., Suite 1800
Atlanta, GA 30326-1010

RE: Wood-Burning Fireplace and Cookstove for Heating and Cooking; Unassembled Articles Including Cut Soapstone, Cast Iron Firedoor and Grate, Mortar, Metal Clips; Fireplace Kit; Articles of Building Stone, Heading 6802, Articles of Soapstone, Chapter 68, Note 1(d); Articles of Precious or Semiprecious Stones, Heading 7116, Chapter 71, Note 1; HQ 960193

Dear Mr. Cutshaw:

In your letter of July 17, 1996, on behalf of Tulikivi USA, you inquire as to the tariff classification of the Tulikivi, a natural-stone wood burning fireplace and cookstove from Finland. Descriptive literature and samples of the stone were submitted. You presented additional arguments at a meeting in our office on December 12, 1996, which were confirmed in submissions dated December 17 and 18, 1996.


The Tulikivi designates a series of wood-burning fireplaces and cookstoves of the type used in the home. They are shipped unassembled, in kit form, and weigh between 2450 and 7000 lbs. Each kit consist of individually cut blocks of natural stone, wrought iron and glass fire chamber door, grate, ashpan, gauge, metal clips, mortar and mineral wool insulation. The stone blocks are of a talc-based mineral known commercially as steatite or soapstone. The literature states that the soapstone provides a soft gray color and pleasing luster. It is luxurious to the touch and easily customized into a variety of designs. In addition, soapstone absorbs, retains and radiates heat as well or better than ordinary masonry brick.

You cite several administrative rulings in which Customs has classified articles of soapstone in a provision of Chapter 71, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), covering articles of semiprecious stones. You maintain that this is incorrect, as soapstone is a semiprecious stone only when used in jewelry, but not when used as a building material. You contend that the merchandise in issue is more appropriately provided for in HTS heading 6802, as worked building stone and articles thereof. You have also submitted rulings from other Customs administrations purporting to support this classification.

The provisions under consideration are as follows:

6802 Worked monumental or building stone...and articles thereof...:


6802.99.00 Other stone...6.5 percent ad valorem

7116.20 Articles Of precious or semiprecious stones:

Of precious or semiprecious stones (except rock crystal):

7116.20.40 Other...16.8 percent ad valorem


Whether fireplaces and cookstoves, of soapstone, base metal and glass are goods of heading 6802.


Merchandise is classifiable under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 states in part that for legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, and provided the headings or notes do not require otherwise, according to GRIs 2 through 6.

The Harmonized Commodity Description And Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System. While not legally binding on the contracting parties, and therefore not dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the Harmonized System and are thus useful in ascertaining the classification of merchandise under the System. Customs believes the ENs should always be consulted. See T.D. 89-80. 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989).

Subject to certain exceptions not relevant here, all articles consisting wholly or partly of semiprecious stones (natural, synthetic or reconstructed) are to be classified in Chapter 71. See Chapter 71, Note 1, HTSUS. Soapstone or steatite, which are commercial designations for the mineral talc, are listed in the Annex to the Explanatory Notes for Chapter 71 and, therefore, are considered semiprecious stones of that chapter. Chapter 68 does not cover articles of Chapter 71. See Chapter 68, Note 1(d), HTSUS. Therefore, Customs has been of the opinion that if soapstone (steatite) wood-burning fireplaces and cookstoves are provided for in heading 7116, or in any other heading of chapter 71, they must be classified there, and cannot be classified in heading 6802. However, we now note that the expression "worked monumental or building stone" for purposes of heading 6802 includes steatite, among other types of natural stone. See Chapter 68, Note 2, HTSUS. Thus, heading 6802 provides, among other things, for worked monumental or building stone of steatite.

In this regard, relevant ENs for heading 6802 state, in part at p. 897, that the heading covers stone which has been further processed than mere shaping into blocks, sheets or slabs by splitting, roughly cutting or squaring, or squaring by sawing. The heading thus covers stone in the forms produced by the stone-mason, sculptor, etc.; for example, stone of any shape, whether or not in the form of finished articles, which has been bossed (i.e., given a "rock faced" finish by smoothing along the edges while leaving rough protuberant faces), dressed with the pick, bushing hammer, or chisel, etc., furrowed with the drag-comb, etc., planed, sand dressed, ground, polished, chamfered, moulded, turned, ornamented, carved, etc.

It is now our opinion that if a natural stone of steatite or soapstone qualifies as a worked monumental or building stone of that mineral, it is not excluded from Chapter 68. This position is expressed in HQ 960193, dated April 21, 1997, which expressly revoked NY 811779, dated July 5, 1995, and - 4 -

HQ 958353, dated November 2, 1995, which you cite. These decisions had classified substantially similar merchandise in provisions of 7116.

In this case, the Tulikivi fireplaces and cookstoves are imported unassembled, in kit form, and consist in the main of individual pieces of soapstone of different sizes designed to be assembled together to create the exterior and interior configuration, but in any event processed as described in the cited ENs. Accordingly, the merchandise is provided for in heading 6802.


Under the authority of GRI 1, the Tulikivi fireplaces and cookstoves, imported unassembled as described, are provided for in heading 6802. They are classifiable in subheading 6802.99.00, HTSUS. The rate of duty is 6.5 percent ad valorem.


John Durant, Director
Tariff Classification

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