Sunday, July 29, 2012

Golden Tchotchkes

I am making progress on my continuing effort to catch up. Evidence of that is that I am about to do a post on a case from June: Salem Minerals Inc. v United States.

The merchandise at issue in this case is a little hard to picture. It consists of small glass vials containing a clear fluid with specks of gold leaf and topped with a small figurine. Happily, the plaintiff has a web site that includes pictures of its products, including this one:


The gold leaf fragments are "very small in weight per vial" and are not worked or formed during production. The anionic solution in the vial serves to magnify the appearance of the gold leaf. The themed caps are cast of tin alloys and may be electroplated with 18k gold. The gold leaf constitutes about 38% of the value of the imported products.  The vials are sold to tourists rather than through fine jewelry stores or other high-end outlets.

Customs and Border Protection classified these products under Heading 7114 as "Articles of goldsmiths' . . . wares . . .: Of other precious metal whether or not plated or clad with precious metal." The importer protested that classification are asserted that the goods are better classified in Heading 7115 as"Other articles of precious metal . . .: Other . . . Other: of gold, including metal clad with gold."

The Court of International Trade said that the issue boils down to the sole question of the meaning of the term "articles of goldsmiths' wares." After looking at a number of dictionary definitions for goldsmiths and smiths in general, the Court concluded goldsmiths' wares are generally articles of some utilitarian or decorative use made through the application of a skilled craft-person. Also, Chapter 71, Note 10 limits the scope of the heading to, for example, articles of household, office or religious use and jewelry. Further, in an interesting historical note, the Court pointed out that gold leaf is produced by goldbeaters, who form a distinct class of artisans from goldsmiths. Thus, the gold leaf is not a goldsmith's wares. And, as a result, the gold leaf vials do not constitute goldsmiths' wares because the gold flecks have not been worked by a goldsmith beyond the simple beaten state.

Props to Judge Aquilino for the turn of the phrase: "It is just a tchotchke, not something like creative exemplars of Explanatory Note 71.14."

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I think my question really is, “does that constitute jewelry at all?” And if so, does it apply to those laws?