The small and hard balls used for playing cue sports like pool, snooker and carom billiards are together called the billiard balls. However, the type, number, diameter, pattern and color of the balls vary depending upon the game. Different properties like the hardness, resilience and friction coefficient of the balls are very important for the different billiard gameplays.
Billiard Ball History
Earlier, wood was used for making billiard balls. Later clay balls were introduced and clay remained popular for this purpose until the 20th century. In Europe, low-cost ox-bone billiard balls were commonly used for these sports. But ivory balls were preferred for playing billiard games from the year of 1627 until the 20th century. Ivory billiard balls were mentioned in the Duke of Norfolk's inventory in 1588. This is the first written reference of ivory balls. Six balls can be manufactured from a single tusk of elephant. So, many elephants were killed for collecting their tusks to produce billiard balls for meeting the high demands. The makers of billiard balls soon realized that collecting elephant tasks is very dangerous and it is also making the animals endangered. Phelan and Collender, a billiard ball supplier company from New York offered a prize of US$10,000 to any inventor who could come up with a substitute material for making the balls.
Currently, break resistant plastic materials are used for making billiard balls. Saluc, the specialty manufacturing company from Belgium, makes phenolic resin billiard balls under two brand names the Brunswick Centennial and Aramith. Leading manufacturers such as Frenzy Sports and Elephant Balls Ltd. use other resin and plastic materials including clear acrylic and polyester for this purpose.
Billiard Ball Types
Carom Billiards: Three to four balls are used for playing different carom billiard games such as straight-rail, balkline and three-cushion. Many of these games are played on a pocketless billiards table while the English billiards is played on tables with 6 pockets. The balls used in carom billiards are not numbered. These balls are larger compared to the pool balls and are 61 mm to 61.5 mm in diameter. The three balls used in this game are differently colored. The red ball is the "object ball" while the white ball is the first player's "cue ball". There is another white (sometimes yellow) ball marked with a dot which is used as the second player's cue ball.
International pool: Pool balls are the balls used for playing different pool games like 8-ball, 9-ball and one-pocket. These balls are also known as "billiard balls" in North America. According to the WPA/BCA equipment specifications, the pool balls should ideally weigh between 156 gm and 170 gm (5.5 and 6 oz.), being 2.25 inches (±0.005 in.) in diameter. These numbered balls can be of various colors like yellow, blue, red, purple, orange, green, black, red and white as well as orange and white.
Snooker: Twenty differently colored balls are used for playing the game of snooker. Sometimes, the snooker balls are numbered in the American-style. The colors of these balls include yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black.