How To Tell Ivory Pool Balls? Read This First!


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Have you ever looked at the pool ball and wondered whether it is ivory or not? Did you inherit your grandfather’s pool set and wish to find out if it’s made of real elephant tusk? So, if you wish to find out then you are not alone, so I decided to create this post to help you with how to tell ivory pool balls.

If you take a closer look, the ivory cue ball looks different than your typical acrylic cue ball. It may look discolored with several cracks and dark lines around it. When you prick an ivory ball with a hot pin, it does not melt or give out a plastic smell, confirming that it’s made of ivory.

Many people avoid the burning test because it involves the risk of damaging the ball. There are a few other ways to tell ivory balls from the present day acrylic cue ball. The ivory balls are not legally manufactured anymore as the ivory business had pushed elephants to the verge of extinction.

Even though the playing experience does not differ whether you use an ivory or acrylic ball, there is a huge gap in the price point. While you can get a good quality pool ball set for about $250, an authentic ivory set can cost more than $5000. Read on to find ways to tell ivory pool balls.

# 1. Visual inspection

This is the first and most obvious visual test you can do to tell the difference between the two materials. If you see bending spider lines in bluish-grey or pale yellow color (due to age) then the ball is most like made from ivory.

As ivory balls are not manufactured anymore, you will mostly find old ones that are not a perfect sphere anymore due to extensive usage. Depending on the part of the elephant tusk they were made from, the balls may even turn dark orange or dark brown.

The elephant tusks are similar to our teeth and balls are made of the ivory that’s present under the enamel and above nerve endings. As the tusk grows, the nerve endings get solidified and you can see them on ivory balls with your naked eye.

#2. Examine By Heat Method

This method involves heating the tip of a pin and poking it on the ball to tell if it is real ivory.  We least recommend this method because it can damage the ball. However, if you must do it, then here’s what to determine from the outcomes.

If the ball smells like burnt hairs then it is real ivory or else it may be composed of ox bones. If the smell is like that of plastic and the ball melts at that point, then it is made of resins and plastic materials.

Also, remember that the pool ball will have a brown burn mark at the point where you touched it with a red hot pin. Take it to a jeweler familiar with ivory to take a look at it and determine whether or not it’s made of elephant tusks.

#3. Look For Schreger Lines

The real ivory denture contains unique characteristics known as Schreger lines, also referred to as engine turnings, cross-hatchings, or stacked chevrons. The Schreger lines are easily visible and they are closest to the cementum. The second line or Schreger lines are faintly discernible.

Artificial plastic no matter how well made cannot duplicate these lines. If the angles make less than 90 degrees angle then it implies it is mammoth Ivory, and if it is more than 115 degrees angle then it implies an elephant’s ivory.

#4. Black Light Test

Another good way of testing ivory balls is by using a black light to identify any artificial materials used. This is a straight forward test that helps to double confirm the material after visual inspection. Acrylic balls made of plastics and resins emit a blue or blue-white color when placed in a dark room.

Real ivory, on the other hand, shines white but this varies based on whether the ivory has a patina or not. If it contains patina then the ball will shine brown or dull yellow color. You should be careful when conducting the test because sometimes it may shine yellow due to aging.

To eliminate this issue, you may use a long-wave blacklight that can easily tell whether the ivory ball is made of authentic material or mixed with artificial. In any case, if the balls give off a white or yellow light then it is real ivory.

#5. Take the ball to an expert

If you are still unable to tell whether the pool balls are made of ivory balls or not, we suggest that you take it to an expert for a quick evaluation. There are several pawn shops or jewelers that are experts in ivory crafts. Taking the opinion of an expert can help you.

Related Questions

Why did they choose the Asian elephant’s tusk to make ivory balls

The pure tusks of Asian elephants have the ideal physical size, strength, and beauty required to deliver a good performance at the billiards table. However, the Asian elephants got close to extinction in the 19th century and early 20th century due to unregulated trade. Governments imposed a legal restriction on the use of ivory and since then they have become very expensive.

How much are the ivory pool balls worth

The price of average ivory balls ranges between $100 and $250, while the authentic ones or antique ones may go as much as $5000 and beyond. The price also depends on many factors such as the shape of ivory balls, the value of balls, soft or hard consistency.

Who invented the ivory billiards balls

The Duke of Norfolk is credited for investing the Ivory billiard balls way back in 1588. The use of elephant tusks in making ivory balls was well-known and highly appreciated.

Are ivory balls illegal

Yes, after the Asian and African elephants became endangered due to excessive trading, a near-total ban on the commercial trade of ivory was passed in 2016. Although manufacturers do not make any ivory balls now, if you have a set inherited from your ancestors then it is yours.

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