Behind the 8 Ball (And all the other billiards balls)

Everyone knows what they’re seeing when there’s a triangle or diamond of colorful numbered balls – a billiards game. But what’s the story behind the billiards balls?


The earliest billiards balls were made out of wood and later, clay. Starting in at least 1627, ivory became the preferred material for billiards balls but due to the impact on elephants and the environment, the billiards industry decided to look for other materials. The most common material now is phenolic resin balls, the required balls for the WPA.


The size and weight of the balls depends on the various pocket billiards games, such as eight-ball, nine-ball, snooker, etc. Four our purpose, we’ll just look at the traditional eight-ball, nine-ball and one-pocket dimensions. Weight must be from 5.5 to 6 oz. with a diameter of 2.25 inches according to WPA/BCA requirements.


The most noticeable characteristics of billiards balls (and easiest way to identify them) are the colors. In a traditional set the colors are listed below. Note: some colors are altered for TV appearances so the colors really pop as noted in the following list.

  • Yellow
  • Blue
  • Red
  • Purple (pink in some ball sets)
  • Orange
  • Green
  • Maroon (tan in some ball sets)
  • Black
  • Yellow and white
  • Blue and white
  • Red and white
  • Purple and white (pink and white in some ball sets)
  • Orange and white
  • Green and white
  • Maroon, and white (tan and white in some ball sets)

Read more about the history and requirements of billiards balls at the following links:

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