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decided: February 19, 1912.



Author: Hughes

[ 223 U.S. Page 413]

 MR. JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the court.

Bernard Citroen, on June 11, 1906, imported into the United States thirty-seven drilled pearls -- unset and unstrung -- divided into five lots, separately enclosed. The collector classified them by similitude "as pearls set or strung, or jewelry," dutiable at sixty per cent. ad valorem under par. 434 of the tariff act of 1897. 30 Stat. 151, p. 192. The Board of General Appraisers sustained the importer's protest, holding the pearls to be dutiable by similitude at ten per cent. under par. 436. The Circuit Court, on additional testimony, reversed this ruling and affirmed that of the collector, and this decision was, in turn, reversed by the Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that the board was right. 92 C.C.A. 365; 166 Fed. Rep. 693. The case comes here on certiorari.

The paragraphs of the act of 1897 (30 Stat., p. 192), which are in question, read as follows:

"434. Articles commonly known as jewelry, and parts thereof, finished or unfinished, not specially provided for in this Act, including precious stones set, pearls set or strung, and cameos in frames, sixty per centum ad valorem.

"436. Pearls in their natural state, not strung or set, ten per centum ad valorem."

The pearls had been purchased by the importer's brother and had been offered for sale, collectively and in lots, in Paris, London and Berlin, and to show that the collection was a desirable one for a necklace they had been strung from time to time on a silk cord. It appeared that Mrs. Leeds, the present owner, had seen the pearls in Paris, both loose and on a string. As she testified they were brought to her hotel "both on the string and off the string; it was strung up at odd times, then it was taken apart and other pearls were put in and others taken out, so it

[ 223 U.S. Page 414]

     was strung several times." She was permitted to wear the pearls as a necklace; and finally bought them, it being agreed that they should be delivered to her in this country. They were so delivered in the condition in which they were imported, without string or clasp, and to these the purchaser subsequently added six pearls and formed the necklace she desired.

With respect to the character of the imported collection the Board of General Appraisers found: "Pearls of greater dimensions than the average are comparatively rare; hence it frequently requires several years' search in order to secure a sufficient number to form a necklace, all accurately matched in the essential features of size, color and luster. Such a collection thus assembled would, no doubt, command a higher price than the aggregate value of the separate pearls. On the other hand, a sufficient number of pearls, although of large size, required to form a necklace, matched as to size, but not otherwise, except a mere regard for comparative color, could be assembled within a short time and at a price based upon the cost of each separate pearl. In order to dispose of thirty or more pearls to one purchaser, such a collection would usually be sold at a less price than the aggregate would amount to were each pearl sold separately. The evidence shows and we find that the pearls in question belong to the latter and not to the first class." T.D. 28,246; G.A. 6617. And as to these facts there is nothing in the evidence introduced in the Circuit Court which requires a different conclusion.

The questions presented are (1) whether the pearls fall directly within the description of the paragraph (434) relating to jewelry, and (2), if not, whether they are brought within this paragraph, through similitude, by virtue of ยง 7. 30 Stat. 205.

First. The rule is well established that "in order to produce uniformity in the imposition of duties, the dutiable

[ 223 U.S. Page 415]

     classification of articles imported must be ascertained by an examination of the imported article itself, in the condition in which it is imported." Worthington v. Robbins, 139 U.S. 337, 341; Dwight v. Merritt, 140 U.S. 213, 219; United States v. Schoverling, 146 U.S. 76, 82; United States v. Irwin, C.C.A., 2d Cir. 78 Fed. Rep. 799, 802. This, of course, does not mean that a prescribed rate of duty can be escaped by resort to disguise or artifice. When it is found that the article imported is in fact the article described in a particular paragraph of the tariff act, an effort to make it appear otherwise is simply a fraud on the revenue and cannot be permitted to succeed. Falk v. Robertson, 137 U.S. 225, 232. But when the article imported is not the article described as dutiable at a specified rate, it does not become dutiable under the description because it has been manufactured or prepared for the express purpose of being imported at a lower rate. Merritt v. Welsh, 104 U.S. 694, 704; Seeberger v. Farwell, 139 U.S. 608, 611. "So long as no deception is practiced, so long as the goods are truly invoiced and freely and honestly exposed to the officers of customs for their examination, no fraud is committed, no penalty is incurred." Merritt v. Welsh, supra. The inquiry must be -- Does the article, as imported, fall within the description sought to be applied?

In the paragraph as to jewelry (434) Congress expressly defined what pearls were to be included. The paragraph reads, "including . . . pearls set or strung." It does not say pearls that can be strung, or that are assorted or matched so as to be suitable for a necklace, but pearls "set or strung." We are not concerned with the reason for the distinction; it is enough that Congress made it. Had these pearls never been strung before importation, no one would be heard to argue that they fell ...

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