How to classify ceramics for import or export: guidance to using the UK Trade Tariff and full list of exceptions.
This guide will help you classify fired and unfired ceramics correctly. It also covers certain non-ceramic items that are similar - or related to traditional ceramic articles.
There are some ceramic items that are specifically excluded from these chapters and covered elsewhere in the Tariff instead. These include ceramic electrical insulators, jewellery and collectable ceramic items of historic interest.
Chapter 69 of the Integrated Tariff of the United Kingdom (the Tariff) covers fired ceramic articles including house-wares such as plates and bowls, ornaments such as figurines, and tiles. It also covers items such as building bricks, roof tiles and drainage pipes.
Chapter 68 covers articles made of stone and other mineral materials. These include certain types of unfired ceramics, as well as items such as natural stone tiles.
Ceramic items that are fired after they have been shaped are covered in Chapter 69. Unfired ceramic items - and items made of stone - are covered in Chapter 68. Collectable ceramics of historic interest - for example certain works by Clarice Cliff - are covered in Chapter 97, mainly under heading code 9705. Ceramic and similar articles covered in Chapter 68 and Chapter 69 of the Integrated Tariff of the United Kingdom (the Tariff) may be classified according to:
- whether or not they have been fired
- the type of material from which they’re made - for example terracotta, stoneware or porcelain
- whether or not they’re glazed
- their type and purpose
- whether they’re ornamental or functional
Quick reference table for heading codes
|Items with a mixed combination of crushed stone and resin were previously classified according to the material of the highest %, there’s now been a change as stated within the amended notes to the Combined Nomenclature 2016/C 427/03. When the resin provides the essential character they are classified as articles of Chapter 39. Artificial stone items (except those made of crushed stone mixed with resin, these are only classified under 6810 when the resin is not the essential character)||6810|
|Bidets - ceramic||6910|
|Bowls - all kinds, functional tableware or kitchenware, made of porcelain or china||6911|
|Bowls - all kinds, functional tableware or kitchenware, made of ceramic other than porcelain or china||6912|
|Bricks - made of siliceous fossil meals or similar earths (such as kieselguhr, tripolite or diatomite)||6901 00 00|
|Bricks - made of ceramic materials other than specified above||6904 10 00|
|Chimney pots - ceramic||6905|
|Cisterns - ceramic||6910|
|Flower pots - plain non-decorative, unglazed ceramic||6914|
|Kitchenware - functional, made of porcelain or china||6911|
|Kitchenware - functional, made of ceramic other than porcelain or china||6912|
|Ornamental ceramics - for example statuettes, ornaments and so on||6913|
|Pipes - for drainage and so on, ceramic||6906 00 00|
|Plant pots - plain non-decorative, unglazed ceramic||6914|
|Plates - functional tableware, made of porcelain or china||6911|
|Plates - functional tableware, made of ceramic other than porcelain or china||6912|
|Refractory bricks and tiles - ceramic||6902|
|Sinks and washbasins, including pedestals - bathroom and kitchen, ceramic||6910|
|Tableware - functional, made of porcelain or china||6911|
|Tableware - functional, made of ceramic other than porcelain or china||6912|
|Tiles - wall and floor, ceramic||6907|
|Tiles - wall and floor, stone (but not slate)||6802|
|Tiles - roofing, ceramic||6905 10 00|
|Toilets (water closets or WCs, including urinals) - ceramic||6910|
|Toilet articles - soap dishes, toothbrush holders and so on, made of porcelain or china||6911|
|Toilet articles - soap dishes, toothbrush holders and so on, made of ceramic other than porcelain or china||6912|
Useful definitions for Chapter 68 of the UK Trade Tariff
Chapter 68 of the Integrated Tariff of the United Kingdom (the Tariff) includes articles made of stone and other minerals such as mica. Some of the terms and phrases commonly used to describe stone and stone articles are listed below.
Bossed stone is stone that’s been given a ‘rock-faced’ finish. It’s smoothed along its edges but has rough, uneven faces.
Bushed stone has a surface that’s been dressed - or smoothed - using a special hammer. A bushing hammer has several rows of pyramid-shaped studs or spikes on its striking face (or faces).
Calcareous rock is sedimentary rock that contains a considerable amount of calcium carbonate. Examples include:
Carding is a process used to untangle and clean fibres. It produces a continuous web or sliver of the fibre. Mineral fibres, for example, may be carded.
A corbel is a stone, brick or block that sticks out from a wall to support a weight above it.
A stone that’s been dressed has had one or more of its surfaces smoothed.
Exfoliation is the removal of loose flakes, layers or scales from a piece of stone.
A flagstone is a flat, relatively thin slab of stone that’s used for paving or for covering a hole. Natural flagstones are cut from sedimentary rock that splits easily into layers. They’re often made of fine-grained sandstones.
A flocculent material is one that’s made up of cloud-like or fluffy tufts (flocs). Mineral wool could be described as flocculent, for example.
Igneous rock is rock that was formed as the earth’s magma cooled and solidified. Examples include basalt and granite. It is one of the three main types of rock. The other two are sedimentary and metamorphic.
Kerbstones are stones that are placed edgeways along the side of a path, road or pavement.
Metamorphic rock starts life as an existing rock that’s altered by environmental processes such as heat or pressure. Just about any rock can become metamorphic rock. Examples include slate and marble.
Porphyry is a general term for igneous rocks that have quite large individual crystals - usually feldspar or quartz - set in fine-grained material (‘groundmass’). An example would be granite-porphyry.
Sedimentary rock is formed by the accumulation of particles such as sand and shell fragments. Examples include limestone and sandstone.
A sett is a small rectangular stone block, often granite. These were once used to surface roads and are now more commonly used for domestic pathways and driveways. Typical dimensions are 15 centimetres to 23 centimetres long, 7 centimetres to 10 centimetres wide and 15 centimetres deep.
Soapstone - or steatite - is a coarse type of talc. It comes in blocks or chunks and often looks like marble. It is a soft stone that’s easy to carve, so it’s often used to make ornaments and jewellery. It can also be fired to produce a very hard material that’s often used to make electrical insulators.
Stucco is a smooth surfaced plaster or cement render that’s applied to external walls.
Touchstone is also known as lydian stone or lydite. It is a highly siliceous material, meaning it contains a lot of silica. It is normally black and evenly fine grained and does not splinter.
Identifying fired ceramics
Fired ceramic articles can be made of various different materials. To classify a fired ceramic item correctly, it’s important to identify the material that it’s made of.
Examples of different fired ceramic materials such as:
- common pottery
- fine pottery
- porcelain (or china)
Common pottery is porous and has large, clearly visible impurities in it. These impurities could include, for example, sand and other aggregates or even straw. Common pottery articles usually have a natural colour such as yellow, red, grey or beige - they’re rarely white.
It’s easy to scratch or score common pottery articles because they’re quite soft compared with other types of ceramic. Bowl-shaped articles give a dull sound when they’re tapped.
Common pottery is typically used to make things such as:
- garden pots
- drainage pipes
Earthenware items are usually glazed. Earthenware is porous and has impurities, but they’re small and invisible to the naked eye. Unglazed areas are easy to scratch - they give off a powder (‘dandruff’) when they’re scored.
Earthenware articles usually have a natural colour like grey, red, brown, yellow, cream or off-white. Sometimes the clay is dyed before it’s shaped. Bowl-shaped articles give a dull sound when they’re tapped.
Earthenware is often used to make things such as:
- tableware and kitchenware
- household articles
- sanitary articles
- tiles and paving
Typical trade names for earthenware articles include:
- Dolomite (not resin bound)
Identifying terracotta - ‘baked earth’ in Italian - can be confusing. It is a common mistake to think that any red or red-brown pottery must be terracotta, but it may not be. Most clays, including stoneware and porcelain, can be dyed or pigmented to give a terracotta colour, but they will not have the other characteristics of true terracotta.
True terracotta - including branded Terracotta - can usually be identified as earthenware and has the same characteristics. A laboratory test may be needed to be absolutely sure, but it can usually be identified correctly by looking closely at it, scratching it and tapping it.
Fine pottery is similar to earthenware, but the colour ranges from yellow to brown - or reddish brown.
Stoneware is not porous (except under laboratory testing). Often it is not glazed, although articles like kitchenware and tableware usually do have a glaze. It is difficult to scratch and common colours include off-white, grey or blue-grey, and beige. Sometimes the clay’s dyed before it’s shaped.
Bowl-shaped stoneware articles give a clear sound when they’re tapped. Stoneware is commonly used to make the same sorts of things as earthenware.
Typical trade names for stoneware articles include:
- Basalt Ware
- Cane Ware
- Crouch Ware
- Etrusian Ware
- Jasper Ware
- Oven Ware
- Salt-glazed Ware
- Yellow Ware
Dolomite is a natural mineral. It is often calcined - fired - and mixed with materials such as steatite to make things like firebricks for kilns. Sometimes it’s mixed with clay and fired to make household articles. These are similar to earthenware.
Dolomite and other stone can also be crushed and mixed with resins before being made into articles like house-wares and ornaments. Household items made of dolomite are almost always mixed with a material like clay or resin.
Porcelain or china
Porcelain - or china - includes bone china. It is non-porous and usually difficult to scratch.
Porcelain articles are usually white and shiny. Sometimes the clay is dyed before it’s shaped. Porcelain is normally translucent when it’s held up to a light.
Typical trade names for porcelain articles include:
- Bone China
- Jet Enamelled Ware
- Parian Ware
- Pythagoras Ware
- Rockingham Ware
Sometimes, pottery is made up to look like porcelain. ‘Imitation porcelain’ and ‘semi-porcelain’ items are glazed and decorated to resemble porcelain, but they’re quite different in other ways. For example, beneath their shiny white glaze they’re rough grained, dull and porous, and can easily be scratched with a steel knife (although some soft china can also be scratched like this). Articles like this are not classified as porcelain or china.
Classifying functional household ceramics
A ‘functional’ item is one that’s designed to serve a useful purpose. Functional household items are often decorated too, but the decoration does not affect their usefulness - they work just as well as similar but plain examples.
Some examples of functional household ceramic items include:
- tableware such plates, bowls and dishes
- kitchenware such as pots, pans and jugs
- toilet articles such as soap dishes
- other household items such as ashtrays
Household ceramic articles that have a clear functional purpose are classified under heading code 6911 or heading code 6912, depending on what they’re made of.
Some examples of ceramic tableware articles include:
- tea and coffee services and pots
- plates, dishes and trays
- tureens and bowls
- mugs and cups
- cruets, salt cellars and sauce boats
- egg cups and teapot stands
- table mats, knife rests and serviette rings
- tiles specially designed or adapted to be used as table mats
Functional ceramic tableware items are classified under heading code 6911 if they’re made of porcelain or china. If they’re made of other fired ceramics then they’re classified under heading code 6912.
Some examples of ceramic kitchenware articles include:
- stew pans and casseroles
- baking and roasting dishes
- pudding basins
- pastry and jelly moulds
- jugs, jars and storage bins
- funnels, ladles and measuring vessels
- rolling pins
Functional ceramic kitchenware items are classified under heading code 6911 if they’re made of porcelain or china. If they’re made of other fired ceramics then they’re classified under heading code 6912.
Examples of ceramic toilet articles - which may be intended for either domestic or non-domestic use - include:
- toilet sets - ewers, bowls and similar items
- sanitary pails
- bed pans and chamber pots
- spittoons, douche cans and eye baths
- soap dishes, towel rails, toilet paper holders and toothbrush holders
- towel hooks
Functional ceramic toilet articles also include other similar items for bathrooms, toilets and kitchens, including things designed to be fixed to a wall. They’re classified under heading code 6911 if they’re made of porcelain or china and under heading code 6912 if they’re made of other fired ceramics.
Other household articles
Other functional ceramic household articles include ashtrays, matchbox holders and so on. Once again, they’re classified under heading code 6911 if they’re made of porcelain or china and under heading code 6912 if they’re made of other fired ceramics.
Classifying ornamental ceramics
A ceramic article is classified as ‘ornamental’ if its usefulness is clearly less important than its decorative characteristics. For example, plates that are moulded in relief or teapots that have hollow handles are considered to be ornamental products.
Ornamental ceramic products are classified under heading code 6913. This heading code covers a wide range of ceramic articles used for decorating the interiors of homes, offices, churches and other buildings. It also covers outdoor products like garden ornaments.
Ornamental articles can also be made of unfired materials such as crushed stone mixed with resin. These are classified under heading code 3926 when the resin gives the articles their essential character.
Statues and other ornaments
Products such as these are purely ornamental and have no practical use. They include:
- statues, statuettes, busts, haut or bas reliefs, and other figures for interior or exterior decoration
- ornaments such as animals and symbolic or mythical figures designed to be put on mantelpieces and shelves. These also include ornaments that form parts of clock sets
- sporting or art trophies
- wall ornaments such as tiles, plates, trays and plaques that have fittings for hanging
- fire screens
- artificial flowers, fruit, leaves and so on that are made in one piece
- wreaths and similar ornaments for tombs
- knick-knacks for shelves or domestic display cabinets
These include ceramic ornaments such as crucifixes and other church and religious ornaments.
Bowls, vases and pots
These include products such as table bowls, vases, pots and jardinières that are purely ornamental.
Tableware and domestic articles
These products are only classified under heading code 6913 if their usefulness is clearly less important than their decorative characteristics. Examples include products such as:
- trays moulded in relief, which makes them nearly useless
- ornaments incorporating an incidental tray or container that can be used as a trinket dish or ashtray
- miniatures that do not have any genuine usefulness
However, tableware and domestic utensils are generally designed to be useful. In most cases, any decoration is secondary and does not restrict their usefulness. So if a decorated ceramic household product can be used just as effectively as a plain item, it’s considered to be functional and not ornamental. Functional items are classified under heading code 6911 or heading code 6912, depending on what they’re made of.
Other ornamental items
These include ceramic articles - other than tableware and domestic utensils - that are used for interior decoration, including:
- smokers’ sets
- jewel cases, cachou boxes and cigarette boxes
- perfume burners
- ink stands
- paperweights and similar desktop items
- picture frames
Ceramic cornices, friezes and similar architectural ornaments are not classified under heading code 6913, even though they may have ornamental characteristics. They’re classified under heading code 6905 instead.
Classifying tiles and building products
Tiles and building products are covered in Chapter 68 and Chapter 69. Individual products are classified according to the materials they’re made of and whether or not they’ve been fired or glazed.
Ceramic tiles are generally classified under heading code 6907. They include:
- paving, hearth and wall tiles
- mosaic cubes and similar products, which may or may not be on a backing
However, there are some ceramic tiles that are not classified under heading codes 6907 and 6908. They are:
- refractory tiles - these are classified under heading code 6902
- support or filler tiles - these are classified under heading code 6904
- roofing tiles - these are classified under heading code 6905
- tiles that have been adapted for a specific purpose such as table mats - these are classified under heading code 6911 or heading code 6912
- ornamental tiles - these are classified under heading code 6913
- tiles that have been specially adapted for stoves - these are classified under heading code 6914
- tiles for laboratory, chemical and other technical uses - these are classified under heading code 6909
Ceramic building products
Ceramic building products are covered in Chapter 69 and are classified under heading codes 6901 to 6906. They include:
- bricks, blocks and other goods
- chimney pots, cowls and chimney liners
- architectural ornaments
- roofing tiles
- pipes and guttering
Ceramic bathroom fixtures
Ceramic bathroom fixtures are classified under heading code 6910. They include:
- washbasin pedestals
- water closet pans
- flushing cisterns
Stone and mineral based products
Many of the articles listed above - and certain other building products - can be made of stone and other natural minerals covered in Chapter 68. Examples of the types of material that may be used include:
- monumental and building stone
- agglomerated vegetable fibre, straw, shavings or similar materials
- cement, concrete or artificial stone
- asbestos-cement, cellulose fibre-cement or similar materials
Classifying other ceramic products
There are several miscellaneous ceramic articles that are all classified under heading code 6914. They include:
- stoves and other heating appliances that are mostly made of ceramics
- non-refractory firebrick cheeks
- ceramic parts of stoves or fireplaces
- ceramic linings for wood burning stoves
- non-decorative flower pots for horticulture, which are totally plain with no glazing or decoration
- fittings for doors and windows - for example handles and knobs, finger plates and so on
- parts for shop signs such as letters, numbers, sign-plates and similar motifs unless they’re for illuminated signs in which case they’re classified under heading code 9405
- spring lever stoppers that are mostly made of ceramics
- general purpose jars, containers for laboratories and display jars for pharmacies
- various other accessories such as knife handles and birdcage accessories
Ceramic millstones, grindstones, grinding wheels and similar articles are classified under heading code 6804.
Classifying collectable ceramics of historic interest
Many ceramics are collectable, but not all are of historic interest. To be considered for historic interest ceramics must meet the following conditions:
- they must have a certain rarity value
- they are not normally still being used for their original purpose
- when they are bought and sold, the transaction is of a special nature that’s significantly different from the normal trade in similar utility articles
- they are of high monetary value
- they illustrate a significant step in the evolution of human achievements or a period of that evolution. For example, this may be the use of a new ceramic production technique or the ceramic piece itself might represent a period of human history
There are certain ceramic designers and makers whose work is considered to be of historic interest. Some of these designers and makers - along with details of their most important pieces of work - are listed below.
Burleigh Ware of historical interest includes:
- the relatively common parrot and kingfisher handles
- the rarer cricketer, tennis player, golfer and soldier of the 1930s
- the 1940s toby jug depicting Sir Winston Churchill with a bulldog peeping out from between his legs
Pieces of the Art Deco period.
The Bizarre, Fantasque, Crocus and Applique pieces produced between 1928 and 1936.
All pieces from the 1930s.
John Ruskin Pottery
The Cannes design by British architect Sir Hugh Casson, who played an important part in the Festival of Britain.
Pieces designed by William Moorcroft between 1913 and 1945.
Poole pottery of particular significance includes:
- the work of Art Deco designers John Adams and Truda Carter, and Harold and Phoebe Stabler from the 1920s and 1930s
- pieces from the 1950s
- the Delphis range made in the 1960s and 1970s
- the Studio Ware range by designer and maker Robert Jefferson, who opened a branch of the pottery to produce experimental pieces
Rosenthal of Bavaria
Royal Doulton pieces of historical interest include:
- the Toucan that was produced between 1920 and 1946. Although it had a long production run, it was not a popular piece at the time and is now rare and highly sought after
- the figure designed in 1919 by sculptress Phoebe Stabler
Pieces produced in the 1930s.
Cornish Ware produced between 1928 and 1960.
The Shelley factory
Art Deco tableware pieces, in particular the ranges of children’s wares designed by Mabel Lucie Atwell.
The Goldscheider factory
Art Deco figurines produced in the 1920s and 1930s.
The three polar bears on an ice floe produced in the 1950s. This is a rare example and fetches high prices.
The pigs produced in the 1930s.
Commemorative jugs of Edward Heath and Harold Wilson from the 1970s are also considered to be of historical interest because there’s so little commemorative ware relating to these two British Prime Ministers.
Collectable pieces of historical interest are all covered in Chapter 97 and are generally classified under heading code 9705, except for the Hans Coper statues that are classified under heading code 9703.
This list of designers and makers is not exhaustive. If there’s a ceramic piece that you think is of historic interest you can email the HMRC Tariff Classification Email Advice Service at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss its merits. You’ll need all the relevant historical data to back up your request for a piece or a collection to be considered as being of historic interest.
Exceptions and difficult classifications
The following fired ceramic items - and articles that may incorporate some fired ceramic parts - are not covered in Chapter 69:
- collectable ceramic articles of historic interest - for example certain works by Clarice Cliff and Susie Cooper - are covered in Chapter 97 under heading code 9705
- electrical insulators and fittings made of insulating material are covered in Chapter 85
- broken pottery and broken bricks are covered in Chapter 25 under heading code 2530
- clay in its raw state is covered in Chapter 25
- cermets - composite mixes of ceramic material and metals are covered in Chapter 81 under heading code 8113
- jewellery, imitation jewellery and other ornamental items that have a significant amount of precious metal in them or metal plated with precious metal are covered in Chapter 71
- lamp fittings - for example table lamp bases - and furniture items are covered in Chapter 94
- barometers and thermometers are covered in Chapter 90
- clocks and clock cases are covered in Chapter 91
- toys and games are covered in Chapter 95
- buttons are covered in Chapter 96
- artificial teeth are covered in Chapter 90 under heading code 9021
- tools and parts of tools are covered in Chapter 82
- paper and paperboard coated in china clay are covered in Chapter 48 under heading code 4810
- coated, impregnated or covered textile fabrics are covered in Chapter 56 or Chapter 59
- note that glass and glassware are covered in Chapter 70
Some of the above articles can also be made out of materials normally covered in Chapter 68 - for example natural and artificial stone - but are classified elsewhere in the Tariff as listed above. The following items are also excluded from Chapter 68:
- when the artificial stone contains resin and stone and the resin gives the essential character then they would be classified as plastics and covered in Chapter 39
- minerals in their raw state, for example unworked soapstone, are covered in Chapter 25
- slate pencils and slate drawing boards are covered in Chapter 96
- lithographic stones are covered in Chapter 84 under heading code 8442
- dental burrs are classified in Chapter 90 under heading code 9018
- worked items made of mineral carving materials such as amber, meerschaum and jet are covered in Chapter 96 under heading code 9602
Hints and tips
Chapter 68 and Chapter 69 cover between them articles made of ceramics and natural minerals. Fired ceramics are covered in Chapter 69, while unfired ceramics, natural stone and some artificial stone articles are covered in Chapter 68.
Materials that may be fired or unfired
Some materials are used both in a fired and an unfired state to make certain articles. Sometimes, their uses are different depending on whether they have been fired or not.
For example, soapstone or steatite - is soft and is commonly carved into ornaments such as statuettes. These might be fired, in which case they’re covered in Chapter 69, or unfired, in which case they’re covered in Chapter 68. Fired soapstone is also used for making electrical insulators, but these are covered in Chapter 85 as electrical equipment.
Soapstone is considered to be a ‘semi-precious’ stone, but it’s normally excluded from heading code 7103 (precious and semi-precious stones) by guidance in the Harmonised System Explanatory Note (HSEN) to Chapter 71 (Note B on page XIV-7103-2). You can buy HSENs on the World Customs Organisation website.
Soapstone jewellery is classified under heading code 7116, while raw and unworked soapstone is covered in Chapter 25 under heading code 2526.
‘Artificial stone’ is commonly made from crushed natural stone or other minerals mixed in with a poly resin binder. It is often moulded to make articles such as statuettes. Resin-bound artificial stone is classified according to whether the resin gives the articles their essential character. When the resin does not give the essential character then it is classified as an artificial of stone in Chapter 68. But if the resin gives articles their essential character then it is classified as a plastic article in Chapter 39.
When classifying fired ceramics it often makes a difference whether they’re glazed or not. Glazed ceramics are usually smooth and shiny, while unglazed ceramics are generally duller and rougher.
‘Glazing’ includes methods of finishing fired ceramics using enamels, special glazes and so on that are covered in Chapter 32 under heading code 3207. It also includes salt glazing. This involves putting sodium chloride (salt) into the kiln during firing, where it ‘volatilises’ (evaporates) and the vapour reacts with the clay to form a glaze.
Functional or ornamental
It is often necessary to decide whether a ceramic article is mainly functional or mainly ornamental (non-functional) to be able to classify it correctly.
Some items, such as bricks and bathroom fixtures, are obviously functional, so there’s no requirement to classify them according to whether they’re functional or ornamental - they have their own subheading codes. Other items are obviously only ornamental. A statuette, for example, serves no purpose other than decoration, so it’s classified as an ornamental ceramic item under heading code 6913.
However, some items - particularly house-wares - can be either functional or ornamental, often depending on their particular design. For example, a plate could be functional, but it could also be intended mainly for decoration.
To decide whether a ceramic article is mainly functional or mainly ornamental, consider whether a decorated version would work just as well as a plain undecorated one. If it would, then the decoration’s less important than the function and so it’s classified under heading code 6911 or heading code 6912, depending on what it’s made of. However, if the decoration makes it work less effectively, then the decoration is more important than the function so it’s classified under heading code 6913. Using the example of the plate, if its decoration is moulded in relief then it’s mainly ornamental.
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