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Classifying ceramics for import and export

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Classifying ceramics for import and export

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Get help to classify ceramic articles for import and export.

UK Integrated Online Tariff relevant chapters

Chapter 68 covers articles made of stone and other mineral materials. These include certain types of unfired ceramics and items such as natural stone tiles.

Resin-bound artificial stone is classified in chapter 68 as an artificial stone, if materials other than resin give the essential character. If resin gives the essential character, it’s classified as a plastic article in chapter 39.

Ceramic articles are obtained by firing inorganic, non-metallic materials which have been prepared and shaped previously, usually at room temperature. Raw materials include:

  • inter alia
  • clays
  • siliceous materials including fused silica
  • materials with a high melting point, such as oxides, carbides, nitrides, graphite or other carbon, and in some cases binders such as refractory clays or phosphates

Chapter 69 covers ceramic articles that have been fired after shaping, including:

  • house-wares, such as plates and bowls
  • ornaments, such as figurines
  • tiles
  • building bricks
  • roof tiles
  • drainage pipes

Articles are not considered to be fired if they’re heated to temperatures less than 800 °C for purposes such as the following:

  • curing of resins
  • accelerating hydration reactions
  • removal of water or other volatile components

Identifying fired ceramics.

To classify a fired ceramic item, it’s necessary to identify the material it’s made of. Fired ceramic articles can be made of various materials, including:

  • common pottery
  • earthenware
  • stoneware
  • fine pottery
  • porcelain (or china)

Common pottery

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
  • bricks

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
  • ornaments

Typical trade names for earthenware articles include:

  • Terracotta
  • Creamware
  • Cistercian
  • Dolomite (not resin bound)
  • Faience
  • Majolica
  • Moilica
  • Mochaware
  • Slipware
  • Delftware
  • Gallyware
  • Galleryware
  • Queensware
  • Agateware


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 as it has the same characteristics. You may need a laboratory test to be absolutely sure. You can usually identify it correctly by looking closely at it, scratching it and tapping it.


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

Porcelain look-alikes

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.

Glazing preparations

Fired ceramics can be glazed or unglazed. The glazing process includes finishing fired ceramics using preparations such as enamels or special glazes. These preparations are classified in heading 3207.

Tiles and building products

Tiles and building products are classified in chapters 68 and 69. Individual products are classified according to the materials they’re made of and if they’ve been fired or glazed.

Ceramic tiles are generally classified in heading 6907. They include:

  • flags
  • paving, hearth and wall tiles
  • mosaic cubes and similar products (on a backing or not)

However, there are some ceramic tiles that are not classified in heading 6907, for example:

  • refractory tiles — classified in heading 6902
  • support or filler tiles — classified in heading 6904
  • roofing tiles — classified in heading 6905
  • tiles that have been adapted for a specific purpose, such as table mats — classified in heading 6911 or 6912
  • ornamental tiles — classified in heading 6913
  • tiles that have been specially adapted for stoves — classified in heading 6914
  • tiles for laboratory, chemical and other technical uses — classified in heading 6909

Building products made of ceramics are classified in headings 6901 to 6906.

Building products made of stone and other natural minerals are classified in Chapter 68. Materials that may be used include:

  • monumental and building stone — classified in heading 6802
  • agglomerated vegetable fibre, plaster, straw, shavings or similar materials — classified in heading 6808
  • cement, concrete or artificial stone — classified in heading 6810
  • asbestos-cement, cellulose fibre-cement or similar materials — classified in heading 6811

Ceramic bathroom fixtures are usually classified in heading 6910.

Ceramic tableware, kitchenware and other household articles

Articles made of porcelain or china are classified in heading 6911. If they’re made of other materials, they’re classified in heading 6912.

These articles include:

  • tea or coffee services
  • teapots or coffee-pots
  • plates
  • salad bowls
  • dishes and trays
  • mustard pots
  • table mats
  • stew pans
  • casseroles
  • baking or roasting dishes
  • preserving jars
  • bread bins
  • graduated kitchen capacity measures
  • ash trays
  • hot water bottles

Hand-held salt grinding mills made of plastic containers and ceramic grinding-plates, are classified in subheading 6912 00 89. The grinding plate gives the product its essential character.

Ceramic toilet articles

Toilet articles made of porcelain or china (whether for domestic or non-domestic use) are classified in heading 6911. If they’re made of any other ceramic, they’re classified in heading 6912.

These articles include:

  • toilet sets, such as ewers and bowls
  • sanitary pails
  • urinals
  • eye baths
  • soap dishes
  • towel rails and hooks
  • toothbrush holders
  • toilet roll holders

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 and are classified in heading 6913. Ornamental articles can also be made of unfired materials such as crushed stone mixed with resin. These are classified in heading 3926 when the resin gives the articles their essential character. Ornamental products have no practical use. They include:

  • statues, statuettes, busts, haut or bas reliefs, and other figures for interior or exterior decoration
  • wall ornaments such as tiles, plates, trays and plaques that have fittings for hanging
  • fire screens

Ceramic cornices, friezes and similar architectural ornaments are not classified in heading 6913, even though they may have ornamental characteristics. They’re classified in heading 6905.

Ceramic articles classified in heading 6914

Ceramic articles not classified elsewhere in Chapter 69 or in other chapters, are classified in heading 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) that are totally plain with no glazing or decoration
  • fittings for doors and windows, such as handles, knobs and finger plates
  • parts for shop signs, such as letters, numbers, sign-plates and similar motifs (if they’re for illuminated signs they’re classified in heading 9405)
  • spring lever stoppers that are mostly made of ceramics
  • general purpose jars and containers for laboratories
  • display jars for pharmacies
  • various other accessories, such as knife handles and birdcage accessories

Ceramic millstones, grindstones, grinding wheels and similar articles are classified in heading 6804.

Collector’s items of historical interest

To be considered as a collector’s item of historical interest and classified in heading 9705, ceramics must:

  • have a certain rarity value
  • not normally be used for their original purpose
  • have a special buying and selling transaction, significantly different from normal trade of similar utility articles
  • have a high monetary value
  • illustrate a significant step in the evolution of human achievements, or a period of that evolution — for example, it’s a new ceramic production technique, or its decoration represents a significant historical development

Goods not classified in chapters 68 and 69

Items not covered within these notes, but also not classified by chapters 68 and 69 include:

  • clay in its raw state — classified in chapter 25
  • broken pottery and broken bricks — classified in heading 2530
  • plaster coated fracture bandages (put up for retail sale) — classified in heading 3005
  • perfumed pumice stone (put up in blocks, tablets or similar prepared forms) — classified in heading 3304
  • friction materials not containing mineral materials or cellulose fibre, such as those containing cork — classified to their constituent material
  • articles made essentially of plastics, even if they contain asbestos as a filler — classified in chapter 39
  • expanded vermiculite — classified in heading 6806
  • fabrics, webs and similar articles of glass fibre (simply coated or impregnated with bitumen or asphalt) — classified in heading 7019
  • jewellery, imitation jewellery and other ornamental items that have a significant amount of precious metal in them, or are made of metal plated with precious metal — classified in chapter 71
  • coffee or spice mills with containers of ceramics and working parts of metal —classified in heading 8210
  • electrical insulators and fittings made of insulating material — classified in Chapter 85
  • electro-thermic apparatus (for activities such as cooking and heating), including heating elements (such as cooking plates and heating resistors) — classified in heading 8516
  • mica dielectric condensers (capacitors) — classified in heading 8532
  • panels (of slate, marble, asbestos-cement or other materials) drilled or otherwise, clearly for use as a part of a control panel — classified in heading 8538
  • mica insulators and other mica insulating parts of electrical apparatus — classified in headings 8546 to 8548
  • mounted brake linings for disc brakes — classified as parts of the machines or apparatus they’re designed for (for example, in heading 8708 or 8714)
  • mica goggles and eyepieces for use with the goggles — classified in heading 9004
  • plaster fracture appliances — classified in heading 9021
  • mica in the form of Christmas tree decorations — classified in heading 9505

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