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What Are Pool Balls Made Of? (Are They Made Of Ivory?)

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Have you ever been playing pool and you wondered what the pool balls were made out of? Maybe you accidentally hit one off the table and you chipped it and it looked white inside. Many people believe they are made of ivory, but in this article we will answer all your questions about pool balls and what they are made of. 

So are Pool balls made of Ivory?

Although pool balls were originally made of Ivory, today they are made up of a chemical compound called Bakelite, as well as some today are made up of a combination of plastics, Bakelite, acrylics, and resin, or any one of these individually.  

If you want to know more about Pool balls and what they are made of and where it all started, you will want to keep reading. You can also watch this short video showing you exactly what the inside of a pool ball looks like when they cun it open. 

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If you have a pool table then you need to get this accessory kit. It includes pool cues, extra pool balls, and all the gear you need to keep your pool table in tip-top shape.

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What is Ivory?

Whether you play pool or billiards or you have only seen it on TV, one thing you probably thought to yourself was what are the balls made of? Several materials in the past have been used from time to time therefore, there are many varieties available in the market right now.

Since the balls bear a lot of hard strikes from the cue stick, it must be made of very tough material. Ivory is one of them. In the past, Pool balls were made of Ivory, but that is not true today. 

Ivory is a substance that is taken from the tusks part of an Elephant. Because of its toughness, color, and quality, it has been a material of choice for many things to be made with. Because of this reason, pool and other billiard game balls were made of Ivory. The ivory piece was crushed into a circular shape. It was then scratched and polished to give it the final look. 

These balls were used in many big games. But there was a big problem with them. Since they were made of Ivory, which is a costly material, only rich people could afford to purchase them. Another issue was that the colors faded over time and the balls became yellow.  

Therefore In this ivory ball period, pool, billiard, and other cue games were only played if you were rich, or well to do. 

Billiard started in the 18th century. In these earliest stages, there was no better solid material than wood to make balls for snooker and pool. But these balls were not reliable as they were temperature-sensitive, not durable, and they changed shape over time. So Ivory was used instead of wood for ball development. It was obtained from an elephant; therefore, it was a very precious and scarce material. Each elephant’s ivory tusks were used to make at a maximum of four balls. Consequently, it was a costly process.

There were a lot of other problems related to Ivory as well. Since Ivory turns yellow with time, the balls made with it turned into a very dull color. It looked as if they were dirty. They were also prone to splinter into fragments. They were easily breakable when struck, and that made them a big problem for big tournaments and other major games. 

As the game began to grow in popularity and go commercial, people began to think about how to improve the balls. There had to be a better way to make the balls on a larger scale. A lot of materials such as plastic, leftover material, etc. were used to make balls, but since they were not hard enough, they cracked or bent with time. The engineering in plastic was not too advanced at that time, but as time passed, better chemicals and compounds were developed to make these balls. 

Who invented the new pool balls of today?

For the development on a vast scale, the abandonment of Ivory was necessary. Therefore, a monetized challenge was placed in the market. This challenge was accepted by John Wesley Hyatt, who was an inventor. 

Wesley Hyatt used several techniques, formulated many compounds, and combined several chemicals to make a material that is hard enough and can bear the pressure of cue sticks for its lifetime. His effort was not able to meet up the challenge but gave rise to the development of industrial plastic. 

Following in Wesley Hyatt’s footsteps, an American chemist named Leo Baekeland developed a new type of plastic chemical material. He called it Bakelite. He used it for making billiard balls. It was a commercial success because of its durability and sustainability. So, Ivory was replaced all in the production pool balls.

Today, there is no one technique to make billiard and pool balls. They are made up of several materials. They are chemically produced; therefore, their production is all based on chemistry. 

Plastic compounds such as cast phenolic resin, Bakelite, acrylic, and other synthetic resins are used to make these balls now. There are tons of companies who develop these balls. They used the method of their choice and what suits them. Therefore, different quality balls are available in the market. The best pool balls are available here

Since these materials are not dependent on the environment, they are durable, not flammable, and long-lasting. Because of these properties, they are ideal.

If you have ever grabbed a pool or billiard ball, you can feel its toughness and solidness because of its emotional weight. Many people have cut it into halves to see what is inside. Well, the inside is just completely filled with a hard resin. 

There are many qualities of hard plastic resin balls available. A few have the ball number printed on it while the others have the name engraved as an excellent synthetic resin. 

The billiard or pool balls are not made easily though. There are many steps involved in the process of making the balls from Bakelite, cast phenolic resin, etc. 

How are pool balls made?

First, the chemical components are heated to turn into the resin liquid. 

Second, it goes through other complex processes to make sure that the finished product does not result in embarrassment. The liquid material is filled in the circular frame to give it a ball shape.

Thirdly, these are then cooled down and the final balls are given the quality check and polish.  

Although billiard balls made today are made of excellent quality plastic and chemically synthetic material, the ivory balls had the best experience when you played with them. 

It has been a choice for many people to continue to play with them, but since the mass production of ivory balls gave rise to the extinction of the elephant, it has been discontinued. Companies try their best to develop pool balls that provide the people with the same kind of experience they enjoyed in the early stages of the game.


Now that you know about pool balls and how they are made as well as what they are made of, you can play your game with the knowledge that most people do not have. You can also now make your decision on what pool balls you are wanting to purchase if this is your first pool table and want to get the best of the best. No matter what ones you get, you are bound to have fun playing pool for many years to come with them.