About Those Billiards Balls

Billiards balls, at least in the US, are decorated in a solids/stripes configuration, with the cue ball being plain white.

The numbers and colors of the various balls are usually setup as follows:

billiard balls

  1. yellow
  2. blue
  3. red
  4. purple
  5. orange
  6. green
  7. maroon
  8. black
  9. white w/ yellow stripe
  10. white w/ blue stripe
  11. white w/ red stripe
  12. white w/ purple stripe
  13. white w/ orange stripe
  14. white w/ green stripe
  15. white w/ maroon stripe

The balls 1 through 7 are called "solids" or "low balls", and the balls 9 through 15 are called "stripes" or "high balls".

Billiards balls are 2 1/4 inches in diameter and may weigh between 5.5 and 6 ounces.

For a fascinating look at billiards balls manufacturing in 19th century England, check out the FREE ebook
"How Billiard Balls Are Made".

Since pool evolved from an outdooor game, the balls were originally made from stone. When the game moved indoors, pool balls were made of hard rubber or wood. In the 1600s, pool balls made of ivory began to appear among the more wealthy players. These were made of elephant tusks and, although they had a nice glossy finish, they were time-consuming and expensive to manufacture.

Ivory pool balls were also somewhat fragile to stand up to the high impact of pool play and could crack and deform over time. Manufacturing balls of the exact size, weight, and density was also a problem.

Since only 4 or 5 balls could be made from a single tusk, and elephants became more scarce, the cost of ivory pool balls skyrocketed. Finally, because of the wholesale massacre of elephants, ivory pool balls were outlawed in 1970.

Even with all these faults, ivory balls became the material of choice for pool balls by the early 1800s. Due to the limited amounts of elephant ivory available, a contest was held in 1865 by the Phelan and Collender Company of New York City to find a replacement material to make the balls from.

John Wesley Hyatt won a $10,000 prize and was granted US patent US50359 for his contribution of Celluloid as the replacement material to build billiard balls. Since the early 1990s Phenolic Resin has replaced Celluloid as the material of choice for manufacturing pool balls.

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